Sunday

15th Sep 2019

UN concerned by Hungary's migrant push-backs

  • Hungary's fence with Serbia has managed to keep migrants out (Photo: Freedom House)

The UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, said Friday (15 July) it was "deeply concerned" by the further restrictions to Hungary's asylum rules, leading to push-backs of people seeking help, and over reports of violence and abuse.

The UN agency said 1,400 migrants and refugees are now stranded on the Hungarian-Serbian border.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

They are waiting to enter one of the two transit zones into Hungary along the 175-kilometre long Serbian border, with Hungarian authorities letting through just 30 people per day.

According to the UNHCR, the majority of them are women and children, as well as people with special needs, who are "particularly affected by the deteriorating humanitarian situation."

New rules introduced earlier this month extended border controls to an 8-kilometre stretch within Hungary. It allows police to intercept people in these areas and send them back to the other side of the fence.

Since the new legislation came into force, a total of 664 people were sent back, the UNHCR said.

Hungary erected a fence along its Serbian and Croatian frontiers last year to stop the uncontrolled flow of migrants.

The government has also beefed up border security ,with 10,000 soldiers and police officers, as well as drone and helicopter surveillance.

Violence at the transit zones

The UN agency said it is continuing to receive reports of violence when people were apprehended within the transit zones, or in police detention facilities, including beatings, dog bites and use of pepper spray.

The UN agency has urged Hungary to investigate the reports.

“These restrictions are at variance with EU and international law, and reports of abuse need to be investigated,” William Spindler, a UNHCR spokesman told press Geneva.

Hungary rebuffed claims of violence.

Janos Lazar, the minister in charge of prime minister Viktor Orban’s office, denied on Thursday that Hungarian police or soldiers had mistreated asylum seekers.

The UNHCR described the situation in the transit zones as "dire", with families sleeping in the open or in makeshift tents next to the fence in poor hygiene conditions.

Last week a 10-year old Afghan boy drowned while trying to wash in a nearby pond, the BBC reported. The UNHCR is mediating with the Serbian and Hungarian authorities about where to bury the dead child.

The UN agency warned that the conditions could make people turn to smugglers to get across, putting them at risk.

Earlier this week, US-based NGO Human Rights Watch also rang the alarm bell, saying Hungary forced back migrants, which is against international law and EU law, and in some cases uses "cruel and violent treatment."

Hungary's interior ministry denounced the NGO's accusations.

Hungary rejects accusations

It said in a statement that HRW is "misconstruing the rules relating to the asylum proceedings out of obvious ignorance of the situation."

"Hungary observes the Schengen rules relating to border controls as well as the Geneva Convention," the statement added, saying Hungary guarantees legal entry and filing of asylum requests.

Last year, some 400,000 people crossed Hungary on their way to Western and Northern Europe, until Hungary raised the razor wire fence.

Hungary has also been reluctant to take in refugees through EU-wide schemes.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban called for a referendum on 2 October on whether to allow the EU to set mandatory quotas for Hungary to take in asylum seekers.

Stakes grow in Hungary's migration referendum

Orban's referendum on migration in October is designed to alter EU policy and boost his popularity. But in the post-Brexit climate it could mark a bigger anti-EU swerve.

Hungary to hold referendum on EU migration plan

Hungary's government has initiated a referendum on the EU's migrants quota plan, PM Viktor Orban said Wednesday. Hungary, along with Slovakia, has already challenged the plan at the EU's top court.

Hungary steps up campaign on migration referendum

Hungary's government has unveiled six billboards linking the migration crisis to terrorism and crime in an effort to win backing for its referendum on the EU's migration policy.

'Migration' is now 'protecting European way of life'

The upcoming European Commission has shuffled migration policy into a euphemistic new "Protecting our European Way of Life" European commissioner portfolio, headed by former spokesman Margartis Schinas. Some MEPs are not happy.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us