Hungary’s New Restrictions “Look like…a contravention of law” says IOM

The controversial crackdown on migrants crossing Hungary’s southern frontier appears to be a contravention of EU and UN convention on refugee asylum, the Organisation for Migration (IOM) said today.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has declared a state of emergency in two southern counties bordering Serbia. Under new Hungarian restrictions, a “transit zone” is being designated along the Serbian border in which only those crossing from Serbia who have already applied for asylum will be allowed to enter. A spokesman for Orban announced that overnight 60 migrants had been detained. In addition, the NY Times reports that Hungarian authorities continued overnight to charter trains, “carrying about 1,000 migrants at a time” from the border with Serbia to the border with Austria in a further move to expel those trying to enter.

Magdalena Majkowska-Tomkin, head of IOM’s Hungarian offices said in a statement today that Hungary

“has obligations to follow which it looks like this new legislation would be a contravention of…Both the international U.N. conventions on the status of refugees, but also EU legislation regarding asylum and also regarding criminal procedures.”

The UNHCR reports that at least 200,000 migrants have crossed Hungary so far this year. In a controversial attempt to stop migrants and refugees from entering through alternative routes, the Hungarian government has erected a fence along the EU’s external border with Serbia. The new 3.5-metre high razor–wire fence is facing further criticism as Hungary plans to extend it eastward along the border with Romania.

Majkowska-Tomkin concluded,

“From my perspective Hungary needs to respect its international obligations and allow people to claim asylum and provide facilities for them that are adequate for their condition.”

This statement comes just a day after EU ministers met in Brussels and failed to come to any concrete agreement about sharing the responsibility for asylum seekers. The plan to distribute 120,000 asylum-seekers across the European bloc came to a deadlock as many vocalized their opposition to a mandated migration policy. Austria, Slovakia, and the Netherlands followed Germany in re-establishing border controls, with Austria saying it would dispatch 2,200 armed forces to guard its eastern frontier with Hungary.

The disappointing conclusion to the meeting may forecast the anticipated high-profile summit coming up in October, but many still remain optimistic. However, the harsh measures in Hungary are proving to be a further impediment to the global response of the continuing refugee crisis. As the IOM has emphasized, such moves are a step backwards in the process of shared responsibility and security. The OWP shares in a concern for the prospect of a long wait at the Hungarian border, possible imprisonment or expulsion back to Serbia, which may force many to seek alternative routes.