UNHCR calls on Hungary to protect refugees

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The UN Refugee Agency raised concerns over what it says are efforts by the Hungarian government to regard refugees as a threat to the country in leading questions being asked during a so-called national consultation, the organization said in a press release.

“We are deeply concerned by the way the government increasingly vilifies people who have fled from war zones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and who desperately need safety and protection in Hungary,” said Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR Regional Representative for Central Europe based in Budapest.

While UNHCR respects the right of every country to consult its citizens in any way it chooses, the refugee agency is concerned about the wording of a questionnaire that is being sent out to eight million Hungarians over the age of 18 in a process announced in late April, the statement added. UNHCR believes the questions intentionally attempt to confuse refugees and asylum-seekers with so-called “economic migrants” and wrongly blames refugees for a number of purported threats to Hungary and Europe.

“We call on Hungary, as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to respect the international laws it voluntarily pledged to honor,” Feixas Vihé stated. “Hungary simply cannot return refugees to countries where they would face threats to their lives,” the representative added.

“Refugees seldom have time to get passports or visas when their lives are in danger, or when they are facing persecution,” Feixas Vihé added. “This in no way invalidates their asylum claims and should never stand in the way of their access to a fair and efficient asylum procedure.”

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