Geneva- The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR issued a statement on Monday calling on European Union states not to send Middle Eastern and African asylum seekers back to Hungary for assessment until that country amends its new law on detaining migrants at the border.
The situation for asylum seekers and other migrants has long been considered dire in Hungary but it has worsened since Budapest last month introduced a new law on the systematic detention of all asylum seekers.
“I urge states to suspend any Dublin transfer of asylum seekers to this country until the Hungarian authorities bring their practices and policies in line with European and international law,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
The so-called Dublin Regulation, which aims to stop people making asylum claims in multiple countries by requiring asylum seekers to be sent back to the first European country they arrived in, applies to EU nations as well as non-members Switzerland and Norway.
Hungary already rejects most requests from European countries for transfers under the Dublin system, arguing that most migrants who pass through the country first came through Greece.
According to the Hungarian branch of the Helsinki Committee rights group, Hungary received 26,998 requests last year but took back only 513 asylum seekers under the Dublin agreement.
Grandi said he was “encouraged” by a European Commission decision to work with Hungarian authorities in a bid to bring Budapest’s practices in line with EU law but stressed in a statement that “urgent measures are needed to improve access to asylum in Hungary.”
The UN refugee agency has repeatedly cautioned that Hungary’s use of physical barriers and restrictive policies basically deny the access to asylum guaranteed under international law.
Since Hungary’s new law came into force on March 28, all new asylum seekers, including children, have been “detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor fences at the border for the entire length of their asylum procedures,” UNHCR pointed out.
According to the government 324 shipping container homes have been installed at two separate locations called “transit zones” built into a fence that Hungary erected along the border in 2015.
According to UNHCR, as of April 7 there were 110 people held in Hungary’s border camps including four unaccompanied children and children with their families.
Grandi on Monday hailed recent efforts by Hungarian authorities to address allegations of police violence.
However, he said: “We remain very concerned about highly disturbing reports of serious incidents of ill-treatment and violence against people crossing the border into Hungary, including by state agents.”
“These unacceptable practices must be brought to an end and I urge the Hungarian authorities to further investigate any allegation of abuse and violence,” he added.