BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary must provide food to asylum seekers held in detention camps on its border with Serbia whose applications have been rejected by Budapest but who are appealing the decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said on Thursday.
Human rights groups say that Hungarian authorities have refused food to some asylum seekers held in the two detention camps on the border, which are open towards Serbia, while they await the outcome of their court appeal.
Hungary's parliament in June passed laws that criminalise giving some kinds of help to illegal immigrants. Hungary also said it would not accept asylum applications from migrants arriving via a country where they are deemed safe from persecution or harm, or where an adequate level of protection is provided.
As all the asylum seekers have come via Serbia, which is classed by Hungary as a safe country, their applications can now be rejected. The European Commission says the changes do not comply with EU law and has launched a procedure against Hungary.
Rightwing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been one of the strongest opponents of the EU's migration policy.
Most migrants entering Hungary moved on to wealthier western European countries anyway. But Orban views them as a threat to Europe's Christian civilisation and his anti-immigrant stance helped get him re-elected with a landslide in an April election.
The Helsinki Committee, a rights group, said in an Aug. 17 statement it had asked the Strasbourg-based ECHR to intervene over what it described as "inhuman" treatment on the border.
It said Hungary's Immigration and Asylum Office had refused to provide food to migrants in the camps in order to dissuade them from pursuing court appeals and to return to Serbia.
"This amounts to inhuman treatment and an absurd legal situation," it said.
The ECHR, responding to emailed questions from Reuters, said it had asked Hungary to provide food for applicants in four cases during their stay in the detention centres.
The Immigration Office did not respond to emailed questions from Reuters. It was not immediately clear how many people were currently staying in the two detention centres.
Asked about the matter, the Hungarian government spokesman said the law stated that migrants whose asylum application has been rejected must leave the camps on the border.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Gareth Jones)