AI Criticises Hungary’s Migration Policy

  • 8 Oct 2015 6:00 AM
AI Criticises Hungary’s Migration Policy
Amnesty International (AI) has criticised the Hungarian government’s migration policies and made proposals on measures in its latest report released in London. Hungary’s attempts to insulate itself against a regional and wider global refugee crisis can only be achieved at the expense of its respect for international human rights and refugee law obligations.

Hungary’s policies also represent a structural threat to the rule of law and respect for human rights that other member states and EU institutions cannot afford to ignore, the world’s leading human rights organisation said.

The country’s determination to avoid its responsibilities towards refugees is not just a Hungarian problem but a problem of the European Union as a whole, the human rights watchdog said, adding that the EU should initiate talks with Hungary on the basis of Article 7 to ensure that its migration and asylum policies are in line with EU and international law.

AI said that although the number of asylum applications registered in 2015 is a significant increase over the number of requests submitted in 2014, the challenges Hungary now faces were “not entirely unforeseeable”. They acknowledged that Hungary bears much of the burden stemming from the EU’s “structurally unbalanced asylum regime”, but added that Hungary is still unwilling to engage in collective EU efforts to address these shortcomings.

AI concluded from its interviews with migrants and other research carried out in September that Hungary’s reception conditions were inadequate and that it had attempted to shift the responsibility of processing migrants’ asylum requests onto other countries, namely Serbia. Hungary’s application of the concepts of “safe country of origin” and “safe third country” were not in line with EU law, AI said.

The watchdog’s case studies based on interviews with refugees include the case of a family—among them a woman who was 7 months pregnant—who were kept in police custody for 16 hours. A 32-year-old Iraqi woman told AI that after refusing to be fingerprinted, a policewoman pushed her against a wall, leaving her with a fractured thigh.

She said police kept her and her husband in custody from 7am to midnight without food or water. AI said it was “concerned” about the law passed on Sept. 21 authorising the deployment of troops to assist police in protecting the border and the use of force when necessary.

The rights watchdog said the law leaves the door open for excessive use of force. The report recommends that the Hungarian government repeal the amendments criminalising illegal entry and that it instruct police and soldiers patrolling the borders to “use non-violent means before resorting to the use of force”.

Among its recommendations to the European Commission, AI advises the executive body to use any means necessary, including the launch of infringement proceedings if it must, to ensure that Hungary fully complies with EU law. AI also recommends the activation of the “preventive mechanism” under Article 7 if there is a “clear risk” of Hungary breaching EU values.

AI asks EU member states to refrain from sending refugees back to Hungary under the Dublin rules, arguing that reception conditions there are inadequate.

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