Hungary should repeal tightened asylum rules: U.N. agency

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a news conference

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to repeal a recent tightening of the Hungarian asylum system, provisions of which it says could violate international laws.

A Hungarian government spokesman could not comment immediately.

Last month Hungary shut so-called migrant transit zones on its borders, freeing some 300 refugees from prison-like conditions while at the same time hardening rules, effectively barring future asylum applicants.

The new rules by Orban, one of the fiercest opponents of mass immigration to Europe from the Middle East and Africa, require asylum seekers to submit applications at consulates in neighbouring countries rather than at the Hungarian border.

“This may expose asylum-seekers to the risk of refoulement and ill-treatment which would amount to a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and other international and regional human rights instruments to which Hungary is a State Party,” the UNHCR said in a statement late on Monday.

“Effective access to territory is an essential pre-condition to be able to exercise the right to seek asylum.”

The rights body urged Orban’s government to withdraw the act and bring its asylum system in line with international human rights laws as well as European Union law.

During the peak of Europe’s 2015 migration crisis, Orban ordered Hungary’s southern border to be sealed, blocking a route for hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Hungary moved to dismantle the migrant transit zones at its southern border after a European court ruling. However, human rights groups have said the newly tightened rules would make it even harder for refugees to gain asylum in the EU via Hungary.

Orban’s hard line on immigration has exposed him to criticism from abroad but went down well with voters at home, helping him stay in power.

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