Hungary’s parliament today (7 March) approved the automatic detention of all asylum-seekers in container camps at its borders, sparking “deep concern” at the UN’s refugee agency.
The legislation, approved by a large majority of lawmakers, is in response to recent terror attacks in Europe carried out by migrants, according to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Speaking at a swearing-in of the latest contingent of some 450 new border police in Budapest on Tuesday, Orbán called immigration “the Trojan horse of terrorism”.
“If the world sees that we can defend our borders… then no one will try to come to Hungary illegally,” he added.
Under the new measures, all asylum-seekers entering Hungary as well as those currently in the country will be confined in the container camps while their applications are processed.
Migrants whose applications are not immediately approved will not be allowed to move freely around Hungary but will be detained in the camps, Lajos Kosa, the parliamentary group leader of Orbán’s Fidesz party, said last month.
Anyone who passed through a “safe third country” including Serbia will be rejected, and any appeals against rejections will be fast-tracked into a three-day procedure.
Migrants whose applications are rejected may have to cover the costs of their own detention.
Hungary previously systematically detained all asylum applicants but suspended the practice in 2013 under pressure from Brussels, the UN refugee agency and the European Court of Human Rights.
The UNHCR said the legislation “violates Hungary’s obligations under international and EU laws, and will have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who have already greatly suffered”.
The local branch of the Helsinki Committee said it was the “last stepping stone in completely disregarding (Hungary’s) asylum obligations under EU and international law and trampling the rights of asylum seekers.”
Amnesty International said in a statement last month that the new rules “disregard EU guiding principles that it is forbidden to detain someone on the basis that they have claimed asylum”.