Tuesday

16th Oct 2018

Hungary to detain asylum seekers in shipping containers

  • Asylum seekers would only be able to leave the container camps if they received permission (Photo: Andreas Nilsson)

Hungary's parliament passed a bill on Tuesday (7 March) to detain all asylum seekers in converted shipping containers amid allegations that some were beaten by border guards.

The new law lets authorities detain everyone in the camps along so-called transit zones near the border with Serbia.

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

  • Hungary's Viktor Orban has described migration as “a Trojan horse for terrorism” (Photo: Reuters)

It expands on legislation from last July that allowed authorities to apprehend and return anyone to Serbia caught within 8km of the Hungarian border.

Tuesday’s decision meant that anyone, regardless of their asylum status, would be locked up no matter where they were found in Hungary.

Some 19,000 people last year were sent back to Serbia or blocked from entering the country amid reports of beatings and abuse at the hands of Hungarian border guards.

A Hungarian spokeswoman told EUobserver by email that asylum seekers would only be able to leave the container camps if they received permission or if they volunteered to leave the country and return to Serbia.

"Illegal immigrants apprehended within the country’s territory will be escorted by police back through the nearest border gate, meaning that immigrants will be able to submit their asylum requests in the transit zone under controlled conditions," she said.

She said people would receive medical and other required care for the full length of their asylum proceedings.

De facto detention

The move was seen by Amnesty International, a British NGO, as a violation of people's right to claim asylum after having fled wars in places such as Syria and Iraq.

"This is de facto detention ordered without individual assessment, ordered without the necessary safeguards," Amnesty’s Todor Gardos said.

"It’s a punitive measure. People are being punished simply because they want to enter an asylum process," he said.

Hungary set up the transit zones near the borders in September 2015.

People detained there were in the past released after four weeks and then sent to reception centres.

"Now the Hungarian authorities have removed that four-week deadline and they have made this detention in this transit zone, in the blue containers, as the default option," said Gardos.

Two container sites are already operational along the border with Serbia.

Another two have been erected near Croatia with plans to build more. Each site will house up to 300 asylum seekers.

Only 50 people per week or so are being allowed to enter from Serbia to seek asylum.

The latest law follows recent pressure by the European Commission for EU states to lock up more people, including children, and for longer periods,.

Leaders at an EU summit in Brussels this week are to endorse the Commission's plans to fast-track migrant detentions and expulsions.

Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary's top spokesman, also told reporters in late February that the country had spent over €500 million on a border fence with Serbia.

He said that another €122 million had been earmarked for a second “smart fence” equipped with motion detection sensors.

Beatings, abuse and police selfies

Amnesty International says some 3,000 people managed to cross Hungary's border fence with Serbia in January alone despite the measures.

Many were sent back to Serbia with reports emerging that Hungarian border guards were taking "selfies" with beaten-up asylum seekers.

On Tuesday, the humanitarian NGO, Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF), posted images on Twitter of bruised people who had allegedly been battered by Hungarian border police.

"Hungary's new law won't protect Hungarians. It will endanger the lives of those seeking protection by pushing them to take even bigger risks," MSF said on Tuesday's decision.

Amnesty International said Hungary had opened eight investigations into the alleged border guard abuses but has yet to find anyone guilty.

Letter

Europe must defend everyone's rights

In a letter, 157 prominent civil society organisations call for strong European leadership to fight against the current challenges facing human rights.

Opinion

Big changes in EU migration governance

Despite public debate sometimes being on the wrong side of the fence, there have been a number of developments in tackling asylum and migration in Europe.

EU stands aside as Hungary detains migrants

Commission is withholding action on Hungary's detention of asylum seekers, even as the Hungarian government tries to "stop Brussels" on immigration policy.

Austria EU presidency seeks 'mandatory solidarity' on Dublin

EU interior ministers are meeting in Luxembourg this Friday to discuss migration. The Austrian EU presidency is hoping to reach a consensus on Dublin reforms and a concept of 'mandatory solidarity' after briefing 27 EU states bilaterally over the summer.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. EU ministers struggle to deal with Poland and Hungary
  2. Commission tried to hide details of 'WiFi4EU' glitch
  3. Brexit standoff continues before EU summit
  4. ASEM: Global Partners for Global Challenges
  5. How Juncker's 'do less' group concluded EU should not do less
  6. Cyprus and Russia: Association of Cyprus Banks responds
  7. Orthodox church split just tip of Putin's crumbling 'soft power' in Ukraine
  8. Daily reality in Western Sahara - and how EU can protect it

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us