Hungary’s new asylum crackdown will put thousands of desperate refugees at risk in neighbouring countries, it’s been claimed.
Amnesty International says a new law, which comes into force on Saturday (August 1), is likely to see migrants arriving in Hungary sent back to Serbia, FYR Macedonia and Greece, where they face “violence and indifference from authorities”.
It says the new legislation is Hungary’s “thinly-veiled attempt to dodge its asylum obligations under international law”.
Amnesty says Hungary has had around 86,000 asylum applications so far this year, with up to 70 percent of them refugees fleeing conflict in Syria.
But not all stay. Firstly Budapest has a history of rejecting asylum applications, last year it turned down 90 percent of initial claims, according to Eurostat. Secondly, say Amnesty, many claimants move on to other parts of the EU before they know the outcome.
Hungary has, nevertheless, cracked down on migrants. A new fence on its border with Serbia is expected to be ready in August, while a new law on Saturday will allow Budapest to reject asylum seekers if they have passed through so-called safe countries en route, like Serbia and FYR Macedonia.
Amnesty says migrants in such countries face exploitation, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment.
Sian Jones, a researcher on the Balkans at Amnesty, said: “I think people are going to be stuck in Macedonia and Serbia and then be sent back to Greece, which in its current situation is unable to cope.
“The situation at the moment is that significant numbers of migrants and refugees have travelled from Turkey-to-Greece-to-Macedonia-to-Serbia-to-Hungary and that number continues to rise.
“I don’t think they are specifically rushing [before the fence is put up]. There’s just more people coming through. There’s more refugees coming out of Iraq, so they will find their way into Turkey. Fewer people are using the central Mediterranean route because of the dangers in terms of the numbers of people who have drowned.”
Dr Jones, who said a new migratory route could be opened up to Croatia and Slovenia, added: “We have seen elsewhere where people have build fences on Turkey’s borders with Greece and Turkey and it just shifts the problem somewhere else.”
John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia director at Amnesty International said: “This situation is simply untenable – countries in Europe’s borderlands are facing an unprecedented flow of migrants and asylum-seekers, but passing them from pillar to post is not a solution and does not absolve countries like Hungary and Serbia of their legal obligations.”
Babar Baloch, Budapest spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency, said: “Building a fence is not the answer.
“Seeking asylum is not a crime, they should be allowed in, fence or no fence.
“Europe is the torchbearer over human rights and has high standards. Europe should wake up in that sense, claiming asylum is not a crime.
“Europe after World War II went through this experience, so did Hungary and the Balkans so you’d expect an understanding from the countries of Europe – that when your life is in danger you will seek safety.”
Hungary was one of the signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a set of guidelines, laws and conventions to ensure the adequate treatment of refugees and protect their human rights.