Monday

13th Jul 2020

Hungary faces EU court for starving migrants

The European Commission has ratcheted up its threat to sue Hungary for not feeding migrants and rejected asylum seekers held in transit zones at its border with Serbia.

On Thursday (10 October) the commission said denying people food was a violation of fundamental rights. Forcing those rejected to remain in the zone also "amounts to de facto detention", it added.

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The latest threat comes after the Brussels-executive in late July asked Budapest to explain itself, which it never did. Hungary now has a month to respond before the commission takes them to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The stand-off came after reports by the Budapest-based Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which had documented cases of at least 25 people who had been denied food in the zones.

Hungarian authorities had began withholding food in August 2018 but then promised to start feeding everyone after the European Court of Human Rights intervened in five cases.

But the following month, early September, Hungary's chief government spokesperson, Zoltan Kovacs, claimed denying them food was within their rights.

Kovacs had told reporters in Brussels that Hungary was only required to feed people who submitted a request for asylum or had some other form of protection.

"Before that, beyond that, the case is closed, there is no such obligation and indeed we are not providing a free meal, free food for any illegal migrants," he said.

A few months later, on 8 February 2019, an Iraqi family of five was informed that the parents would not be given food while detained in the transit zone, according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

The commission had also over the summer taken Hungary to court for its 'Stop Soros' law, after a lengthy back and forth with Budapest over its asylum laws.

That law, and a constitutional amendment, had also restricted the right to asylum only to people arriving in Hungary directly from a place where their life or freedom are at risk.

EU targets Hungary for denying food to migrants

At least 25 people stuck in Hungary's transit zones along the Serb border have been denied food, with one case lasting eight days. On Thursday, the European Commission threatened the risks of sanctions against Hungary over the issue.

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The Hungarian government of Viktor Orban has said it will not wait until Friday, to hear a verdict of European legal experts on human rights, before going ahead with its bill curtailing NGOs who work with migrants.

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Budapest joins Istanbul and Warsaw by having an opposition mayor to a strongman illiberal leader, after a united opposition serves a shock blow across several towns in local elections in Hungary.

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