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Hungary Must Stop Letting Asylum Seekers Starve: European Court

  • Migrants after crossing the border at Zakany, Hungary, October 16, 2015.

    Migrants after crossing the border at Zakany, Hungary, October 16, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 August 2018

Human rights groups said authorities refused food to some asylum seekers in border camps, which open toward Serbia, while they await the outcome of their appeals.

Hungary must provide food to rejected asylum seekers held in detention camps on its border while they appeal the decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said on Thursday.

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The Helsinki Committee, a rights group, said in an August 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.

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 centers.

Late on Thursday, the Helsinki Committee said in a fresh statement posted on its website that all asylum seekers in the border camps had been provided with food: “Today... all of the rejected asylum seekers were given meals. We welcome the positive change in the authorities’ practice, but without legislative changes, asylum seekers can still be deprived of food any time.”

Hungary’s parliament in June passed laws that criminalized giving certain 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.

Because 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.

Right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been one of the most openly racist opponents of the EU’s migration policy. Most migrants entering Hungary move on to other western European countries, but Orban views them as a threat to what he calls Europe’s Christian civilization and his anti-immigrant stance helped get him re-elected with a landslide in an April election.

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 centers. 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.

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