Hungary criticized again for abusing refugees

By bne IntelliNews September 20, 2016

Hungarian soldiers and police continue to use excessive force against migrants on the country's southern border with Serbia, a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on September 20 claims. The organization reported similar abuses earlier this year.

The Hungarian government has repeatedly rejected claims of international organisations and NGOs that condemn the country for failing to comply with international standards regarding asylum-seekers. 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 Fdesz government, with Brussels having admitted 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, HRW reports. According to the new regulations, migrants - including vulnerable asylum seekers, such as unaccompanied children, elderly, the sick and people with disabilities - apprehended within 8km of the border can be returned to Serbia without any legal procedure. They have to await entry to Hungary under the daily quota of 15 asylum-seekers.

"Migrants and asylum seekers reported being severely beaten by people wearing uniforms consistent with those of Hungarian police, army, or local paramilitary – so-called field guards,” says the NGO.

HRW documented 12 cases of violence since the introduction of tighter border controls. A family travelling with a baby claimed the police used pepper gas pray while pushing them back to Serbia. Other asylum seekers said they were beaten with batons, pummelled with fists, and kicked. HRW also obtained photos of bruises and wounds consistent with marks from batons and dog bites. 

The Hungarian government has not commented on HRW’s newest findings, but rejected similar allegations of violence earlier this summer from HRW and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

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 that Hungary should be kicked out of the European Union for abusing EU values in its treatment of refugees.

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