Hungary toughens laws on asylum seekers again

Last year, Hungary registered almost 30,000 asylum claims but accepted just 425 asylum seekers. Source: AAP

SBS World News Radio:Hungary has adopted tough new rules allowing authorities to detain all asylum seekers, including women and children, in border camps built from shipping containers.

Hungary has approved new measures allowing all asylum seekers either entering or already in the country to be kept in camps of shipping containers while their applications are assessed.

Appeals against rejected applications will be fast-tracked, and those denied entry may have to cover their own detention costs.

Speaking at a swearing in ceremony for 450 new border police, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban says migrants are putting his country under siege.

"We are still, at this moment, under siege. The migration flow has only slowed down, but it is not over."

Last year, Hungary registered almost 30,000 asylum claims but accepted just 425 asylum seekers.

It already has razor wire fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia.

Mr Orban, a supporter of United States president Donald Trump, says he considers the migrants - many of them Muslim - a threat to Europe's Christian identity and culture.

"Migration is the Trojan Wooden Horse of terrorism. The people that come to us don't want to live according to our culture and customs but according to their own - at European standards of living."

The latest developments have alarmed human rights advocates.

UNHCR spokeswoman Cécile Pouilly says it would condemn asylum seekers, including children, to prolonged detention in shipping containers surrounded by barbed wire.

"In practice, it means that every asylum seeker, including children, will be detained in shipping containers surrounded by high, razor wire fence at the border for extended periods of time. This new law violates Hungary's international obligations under international and EU law and will have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who have already greatly suffered."

Amnesty International Hungary director Julia Ivan says the new rules will inflict extraordinary pain.

"It is terribly outrageous and really pathetic that the Hungarian parliament is working as a law factory. They've not taken into consideration that we are breaking numerous Hungarian laws, as well as our European Union and other international obligations."

The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres says border officers in Hungary are systematically beating and abusing migrants and refugees trying to enter from Serbia.

The general director of the group's Belgian operations, Christopher Stokes, has denounced the alleged abuse.

"They have a kind of 'Welcome to the European Union' package of abuse that they provide, which involves, nearly in all cases, beatings, use of pepper spray at quite close range in the eyes and - according to what we heard from the migrants and, also, what we saw in terms of the consequences on them in our medical consultations - also practices that involve using the cold. So, removing part of their clothes, having people stand in water, walk back without one shoe or without both shoes in the snow. It's very cold for the moment at the border."

Mr Stokes says Hungary's migration policy will be discussed at a summit at the end of the week.

"We have a summit at the end of this week, a high-level summit, where we know that migration is going to be one of the topics that was going to be addressed. And we're calling on the EU leaders to put this issue of abuse at European borders, notably in Hungary, really high on the agenda, and to address this issue seriously and make sure that it doesn't happen anymore, that the Hungarian authorities get the message and that they, themselves, stop these practices."

Meanwhile, Europe's top court has ruled EU member states are not obliged to issue humanitarian visas to asylum seekers.

The decision goes against a ruling by a Belgium court in October that ordered the government to grant visas to a Syrian family.

The European Court of Justice says allowing people to choose where to get asylum would undermine the EU system for deciding which countries should handle the applications.



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