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15th Apr 2024

Hungary violated EU asylum law, rules top court

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Budapest violated EU asylum laws by forcing people to first go to Hungarian embassies in Serbia and Ukraine before initiating a claim for international protection, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday (22 June).

The Luxembourg-based court announced the verdict following a lengthy dispute first initiated by the European Commission against Hungary.

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The court said Hungary failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law by requiring people seeking international protection to first file a "declaration of intent" at its embassies in Belgrade and Kyiv.

The court said that this requirement ran counter to Hungary's obligations for "ensuring effective, easy and rapid access to the procedure for granting international protection."

Hungary had claimed the provision was a security measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Hungary under the leadership of its prime minister Viktor Orban has historically framed migration as a national security threat and one partly driven by philanthropist billionaire George Soros.

In 2015, they erected a 175km barbed-wire fence along the border section with Serbia.

But the issue also plays into rightwing, Christian conservative identity politics espoused by Orban, who has in the past described refugees as "Muslim invaders."

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an NGO based out of Budapest, says asylum in Hungary has essentially halted since May 2020.

It says that only four families had been granted permission to enter Hungary to apply for asylum since the establishment of the embassy procedure.

It is also not the first time Budapest has lost a court battle on migration. In May, Hungary lost three cases in one day at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The cases included a 14-year-old asylum-seeking child, who was assaulted by field guards and thrown back into Serbia by Hungarian police.

The string of losses can be traced back several years, including a 2020 Luxembourg-court ruling that faulted Hungary for legalising pushbacks from zones along its border with Serbia.

Although Hungary has since closed those transit zones, the pushbacks into Serbia continue unabated, says the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. Citing government data, the NGO said there had been almost 160,000 pushbacks last year.

Over half of those were Syrians, it said.

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