HRW blasts Hungary for treatment of asylum seekers

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Wikimedia Commons/Délmagyarország/Schmidt Andrea

NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims in a report published early yesterday that Hungary keeps “many of the most vulnerable asylum seekers stranded” on the Serbian border in poor conditions after they have filed their claims and are waiting to enter the country. Hungary’s Ministry of Interior rejected the NGO’s claims late yesterday.

The border fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Délmagyarország/Andrea Schmidt)

In a report entitled “Hungary: Failing to Protect Vulnerable Refugees”, the organization alleges that Hungarian admission laws and procedures for asylum seekers are so strict that “especially vulnerable people are being sent back to the Serbian border and spending weeks in poor conditions there as they wait to enter.”

Since the border fence was erected last year and Hungary declared Serbia as a safe third country, it has been reported that a tiny fraction of asylum seekers are admitted to Hungary, and the majority of the requests are rejected.

“It is particularly cruel to force vulnerable asylum seekers who are already inside Hungary back to the Serbian border to line up for weeks in awful conditions,” the organization cited one of its researchers, Lydia Gall, as saying. “Hungary should provide timely access to the asylum system for all refugees, and take special measures to treat vulnerable groups humanely,” Gall said in the report.

Based on interviews HRW conducted with asylum seekers at the border, the organization claims it has documented 12 cases of violence against refugees, “including four unaccompanied children and a family with young children, who crossed irregularly into Hungary after July 5. 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’.”

Interior Ministry rejects claims

Hungary’s Ministry of Interior late yesterday sent a press statement to news agency MTI, rejecting the claims made by the NGO. The ministry said in the statement that it was “not the first time that the pro-immigration organization attacked Hungary,” noting that the NGO had opposed Hungary’s efforts to erect a fence on the border, as well as to counter “illegal immigration.”

The ministry said it believes the organization is trying to discredit Hungarian police forces and immigration authorities, MTI reported. The ministry stressed that Hungarian police and army forces are defending the Hungarian and EU borders legally, following Schengen rules.

According to the ministry, while defending the border, officials “do not harass migrants, and children who arrive unaccompanied receive protection, and are provided healthcare and education.” The announcement added that those who “really need it” are treated in a humane manner.

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