Hungary announced on Monday that it was ready to enforce a controversial law to detain asylum-seekers in camps on its southern border with Serbia.
Hungary’s parliament approved the systematic detention of all asylum-seekers in camps on the border composed of converted shipping containers on March 7, drawing criticism from human rights groups and the UN.
It calls for a systematic detention of all asylum-seekers in camps composed of converted shipping containers.
Starting Tuesday, asylum-seekers entering the country as well those currently there will be held in camps at its southern borders while their applications are processed.
“The border protection agencies are fully prepared for the entry into force of the reinforced legal border closure on March 28. The purpose of the restrictions is to prevent migrants with an unclear status from moving freely around the territory of the country and the European Union, and to thereby reduce the security risk of migration,” said a statement by the Hungarian interior ministry.
“The police, the defense forces and the Immigration and Asylum Office have made the necessary preparations for the implementation of the required measure,” it added.
EU member 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.
According to the government, 324 shipping container homes have been installed at two separate locations called “transit zones”, built into a fence that Hungary erected along the 175-kilometer long border in 2015.
According to refugee rights group the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, some 400 asylum-seekers are currently housed in the country’s internal camp network and now face relocation to the border camps.
A second “smart fence”, complete with night cameras, heat and movement sensors, and multilingual megaphones warning against crossing the barrier is also under construction, with completion scheduled for May.
The move was part of policies by hard-line anti-immigration Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a strong admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Orban said that refugees are not being “locked up” since they can opt to leave at any time — through a gate opening on to Serbian territory.
The new measures from Hungary’s government, which says it is defending the EU’s external border from invasion, make Europe’s strictest asylum system even tougher. Advocates of refugees’ rights are horrified, saying Budapest is riding roughshod over international asylum law.
Whatever the arguments over Hungary’s new system, the vast majority of asylum seekers are likely to have their applications denied. Hungary accepted only 34 of 1,745 asylum applications in the first two months of 2017. Roughly 7,000 asylum seekers remain stuck in neighbouring Serbia and only about a dozen are allowed into Hungary’s transit zones each day.
“We are still under attack,” Mr Orban told hundreds of graduating patrol volunteers known as “border hunters” at a swearing-in ceremony this month, where he described immigration as “the Trojan horse of terrorism”.
“Millions more people are preparing to set off in the hope of a better life. The storm has not blown itself out,” he said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said that systematic detention will “have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who have already greatly suffered.”