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Hungary: Declared migrant ‘crisis’ not based in reality

BUDAPEST (17 July 2019) – “Politicisation of the issue of migration in Hungary has scapegoated migrants,” a UN expert said today, calling on the Government to re-evaluate its stance and immediately stop proclaiming it is confronting a “crisis situation”.

Felipe González Morales, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, urged the Government to “reassess its security-oriented narrative in migration governance and move towards a human rights based approach”. He said security concerns could not justify human rights violations.

At the end of an official visit to Hungary, González Morales thanked the Hungarian authorities for the invitation and acknowledged he had been allowed access to all immigration facilities he had asked to visit.

The independent expert said that following the mass arrival of migrants in Hungary, an anti-migration discourse has become pervasive in both official and public spheres. In campaigns run by the Government, migrants have been associated with security threats, including terrorism, he said.

The Government’s security-oriented approach was presented and implemented with little consideration for human rights. “This is reflected in a series of very restrictive measures, many of them based on the declaration of a nationwide ‘crisis situation due to mass immigration’, which has been renewed every six months since March 2016 and is expiring on 7 September 2019,” González Morales said.

“Migrants are portrayed as dangerous enemies in both official and public discourses in this country, but what I saw during my visit was a group of desperate, traumatised and helpless men, women, boys and girls confined behind razor wire fence in the transit zones.”

In 2015, two transit zones (Röszke and Tompa) on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia became operational. Since March 2017, asylum applications from anyone who irregularly enters Hungary can only be submitted in these two transit zones, according to legislative amendments applicable during the “crisis situation due to mass immigration”.

“I was at Röszke and Tompa. The border areas were quiet. I did not see a single migrant approaching Hungary from the Serbian side of the border. Instead, I met with asylum seekers, among them were pregnant women, children as young as 8 months and unaccompanied minors between 14 and 18 years old.

“The severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of asylum seekers, as well as the prison-like environment in the transit zones, qualify as detention in nature,” the Special Rapporteur said.

González Morales expressed deep concern that “asylum seekers in the transit zones are automatically detained until their procedures are completed.” Limited access to legal aid and the lack of substantive judicial review on the lawfulness of the detention and the asylum decision also were disturbing.

The expert urged Hungary to end the administrative detention of children, whether with families or unaccompanied, and to explore alternatives to detention for families with children and unaccompanied children. “Detention is never in the best interests of the child,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur raised his concern about the increasing obstacles civil society organisations faced while working on the human rights of migrants. He stressed the important role of civil society in maintaining democracy.

“Hungary is facing challenges caused by a shortage of labour. I welcome the efforts of the Government in sponsoring foreign students in pursuing higher education in the country and granting work permits to an increasing number of migrant workers. I encourage the Government to recognise the potential of migrants in filling the labour gaps in the market.”

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