Hungary passed a law on Monday that permits police to send back illegal migrants detained within eight kilometers (five miles) of its southern frontier to the Serbian side of the border fence, which was condemned by the U.N. refugee agency.
The numbers of migrants who moved up from the Balkans towards northern Europe dropped severely because of the razor-wire fence built along Hungary’s southern border with Serbia and Croatia.
However, number of migrants is still arriving at Hungary’s border with Serbia. Budapest has set up two transit zones there where migrants can submit a request for asylum.
“The aim … is to allow (the authorities) to escort back across the gates of the border defence facility third-country nationals who are in Hungary illegally and who were detained within eight km of the border,” the reasoning of the law said.
The U.N. refugee agency said the new law approved by Hungary’s parliament would only exacerbate the situation of those waiting to be able to submit an asylum application.
Erno Simon, a UNHCR spokesman in Budapest, said it would force migrants to wait outside the transit zones and could prompt many to turn to human traffickers.
“Obviously, this will only exacerbate the inhumane conditions at the two transit zones,” Simon said.
Another rights group, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, accused the government of wanting to keep the number of migrants as low as possible.
Helsinki Committee co-chair Marta Pardavi said that, based on the new legislation, police would escort migrants back to the other side of the fence to the transit zones where they would have to queue without basic amenities. This way migrants would basically be “booted out” of the country, she said.
“Instead of providing proper treatment and procedures prescribed by law, the aim is to have … no asylum seekers arriving in Hungary,” Pardavi added.