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Hungary’s new asylum law makes it harder for people to gain protection

In May 2020 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Hungary’s  measures of keeping the asylum seekers in the transit zones should be classified as a detention and were illegal.  Nevertheless, the Prime ‘Minister Viktor Orban’s government continued to follow it’s extreme anti-immigrant policies.

On 21 May, Hungary said it would close “transit zone” camps where hundreds of asylum seekers and migrants were held. From the one hand, due to the decision over 300 people, according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), were released from prison-like conditions. But, from the other hand, the authorities  used the ECJ ruling to excuse the further limitations of the right to asylum. Senior government minister Gergely Gulyas said “asylum applications can only be submitted to embassies outside the country”.

On 18 June 2020, the Hungarian Government adopted a new law, Act LVIII on Transitional Rules and Epidemiological Preparedness related to the Cessation of the State of Danger, on the lodging of asylum applications at embassies.  According to the new regulation it is impossible to apply for asylum on the territory of Hungary, neither at the border crossing points. Everyone, who intends to submit an asylum application, will be directed to the nearest embassy or consulate. The exception is provided of three categories of migrants: “people with subsidiary protection status in Hungary; recognised as a refugee or as having subsidiary protection for their family members; and anyone subject to measures restricting their liberty unless they are found to have entered the territory irregularly”. 

The novelisation is criticised by human rights, social organizations, international organizations and European institutions as a violation of the principles of the right to protection. Human rights activists highlight that new law will make it harder for people to gain asylum in the EU via Hungary. According to the UNHCR, the regulation  "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." Priit Pikamae, advocate general at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), stated that Hungary “failed to fulfil obligations arising from EU law in relation to a substantial part of its national legislation on asylum procedures and the return of illegally staying third-country nationals”. 

Court of Justice of the European Union PRESS RELEASE No 79/20, Advocate General’s Opinion in Case C-808/18 Commission v Hungary, [25.06.2020]. 
Hungary should withdraw new asylum law: UN, [30.06.2020]. 
Hungary: New Law on the Lodging of Asylum Applications at Embassies, [19.06.2020].