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EU court rules that Hungary broke asylum law

  • Published at 02:05 pm December 17th, 2020
European Union EU flags
European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium Reuters

The court found Hungary did not allow asylum seekers to leave detention while their cases were considered


The European Union's top court ruled on Thursday that Hungary had broken the law by preventing some immigrants from seeking asylum and moving many to transit camps.

"Hungary has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law in the area of procedures for granting international protection," the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said.

In 2015, at the peak of a crisis which saw thousands of would-be migrants and refugees arriving in southeast Europe and heading north and west, Hungary stood in their way.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's nationalist anti-immigration government corralled migrants into transit zones and limited their ability to apply for asylum.

The court found Hungary did not allow asylum seekers to leave detention while their cases were considered and offered no special protection to children and the vulnerable.

Where asylum claims have been rejected, in some cases "those nationals are forcibly escorted, by the police, from the other side of a fence erected a few metres from the border with Serbia, to a strip of land devoid of any infrastructure."

This was deemed a breach of an EU directive establishing safeguards for the removal of illegal immigrants.

"Restricting access to the international protection procedure, unlawfully detaining applicants for that protection in transit zones and moving illegally staying third-country nationals to a border area, without observing the guarantees surrounding a return procedure, constitute infringements of EU law," the court said in a news release.

European Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said the commission "takes note of the ECJ's judgement, which confirms Hungary's violations of its obligations under European law".

"The Commission will write to the Hungarian authorities to ask what next steps Hungary is planning to take in order to implement the court's ruling," Jahnz added. 

Budapest is often at loggerheads with Brussels over migration and refugee policy, and Orban's government has accused the European Union of trying to force it to accept mass immigration.

In a statement on her Facebook page Justice Minister Judit Varga said the ruling was "devoid of purpose, as the circumstances at issue in the present proceedings no longer exist," adding that "transit zones have been closed but strict border control is maintained."

"We will continue to protect the borders of Hungary and Europe and will do everything we can to prevent the formation of international migrant corridors," she said.

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