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21 May, 2020 12:06

‘We consider that a risk to European security, but we obey’: Hungary closes migrant transit zones after court ruling

‘We consider that a risk to European security, but we obey’: Hungary closes migrant transit zones after court ruling

Hungary has announced that it will shutter border zone camps used to hold migrants seeking refuge in the country, after Europe’s top court ruled that the facilities amounted to unlawful detention.

The ‘transit zones’, located on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia, house hundreds of asylum seekers barred from entering the country. Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, said on Thursday that the facilities served to safeguard Hungary’s borders, but that they would be closed in adherence to a recent decision by the European Court of Justice.

“The Hungarian government disagrees with the ruling, we consider it a risk with regard to European security, but as an EU member state, we will adhere to all court rulings,” Gulyas told a press conference on Thursday.

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The court ruled last week that the transit zones amounted to unlawful detention under EU law and gave Hungary four weeks to dismantle them. The decision was made after the court reviewed the case of two Afghan and two Iranian nationals who sought refuge in Hungary after arriving from Serbia. Their applications for asylum were rejected and they were told to return to Serbia, but Belgrade refused them entry. As a result, the migrants found themselves detained in the transit zone camp. Budapest had earlier rejected the court ruling, stating that it “would not accept” the order. 

The Hungarian government had been criticized for only allowing a small number of migrants housed in the camps to apply for formal refugee status in the country. Around 280 asylum-seekers will be transferred to reception centers, Gulyas said, as part of Hungary’s compliance with the ruling. He announced that, going forward, requests for asylum will only be accepted at Hungarian embassies and consulates.

Orban’s government has repeatedly locked horns with the EU over the bloc’s open-door migrant policy. During the 2015 migration crisis, Hungary sealed its southern border to deter hundreds of thousands of refugees traveling through the Balkans to Western Europe.

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