Amnesty International blasts Hungary for abuse of refugees

By bne IntelliNews September 27, 2016

Asylum-seekers are suffering violent abuse, illegal push backs and unlawful detention by the Hungarian authorities at the country's southern border with Serbia, a report published by Amnesty International (AI) on September 27 claims. Human Rights Watch repeatedly warned of similar abuses during the summer.

The report, just the latest of many international voices accusing Hungary of failing to comply with international standards, appears as Budapest is busy running a virulent campaign demonising refugees ahead of a national referendum on the EU’s migrant quota system on October 2. The poll is widely viewed as a tool to maintain support for the populist Fidesz government, with Brussels having essentially admitted that the quota system is all but dead.

Tighter border controls introduced by Hungary on July 5 have left hundreds of refugees stuck in "no man’s land” in deteriorating conditions at the razor-wire fence built last year, NGOs report. At the time of AI’s visit to the border, more than 600 people were staying in makeshift camps, many of them for months on end, the report notes.

According to the new regulations, migrants - including vulnerable asylum seekers, such as unaccompanied children - apprehended within 8km of the border can now be returned to Serbia without any legal procedure. Migrants told Amnesty International that excessive force was used during these push backs, with asylum seekers being beaten, kicked and chased by dogs.

Those that do pass through the “transit zones” – metal containers at the border in which asylum claims are processed - are taken to refugee centres in Hungary. Conditions are dire, according to AI. “The centres lack basic services [and] barely provide education and activities for children or healthcare,” the report states.

In December, the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Hungary's asylum legislation, stating that “in some instances, [it is] incompatible with EU law.” No further information about the proceedings has been made public.  

Earlier this month, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn sparked a diplomatic row as he argued Hungary should be kicked out of the European Union for abusing EU values in its treatment of refugees. Leaders from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have also expressed their “great concern” in a joint letter condemning Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s refusal to follow EU rules and agreements on the treatment of displaced people.

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