UN removes experts from Hungary after they are 'illegally denied access to migrant camp'

Budapest has accused organisation of spreading lies and harbouring pro-immigration bias

Samuel Osborne
Friday 16 November 2018 17:14 GMT
Hungary fortified its southern border with a razor wire fence in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis
Hungary fortified its southern border with a razor wire fence in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis (Reuters)

A team of United Nations experts has cut short a trip to Hungary, saying it had been illegally denied access to camps where refugees are detained.

It marks a new low in relations between Hungary and the UN, which Budapest has accused of spreading lies about the country and harbouring a pro-immigration bias.

“UN human rights experts have taken the unprecedented step of suspending an official visit to Hungary after they were denied access to the Roszke and Tompa ‘transit zones’ at the border with Serbia,” the UN said in a statement on Thursday.

The Hungarian government did not immediately comment.

Hungary, which lies on the southern edge of the European Union, has taken a staunch stand against immigration under the country’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban.

His government fortified its southern border with a razor wire fence in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis, which saw more than a million refugees arriving in Europe.

When hundreds of thousands of refugees transited through Hungary, Budapest began taking new arrivals into custody at container camps set up at two border crossings while their asylum claims were pending.

Viktor Orban re-elected as Prime Minister of Hungary

“We have received a number of credible reports concerning the lack of safeguards against arbitrary detention in these facilities which called for a visit,” said Elina Steinerte and Setondji Roland Adjovi, members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The European Court of Human Rights stepped in earlier this year when Hungary was found to have been refusing food to some asylum seekers at the two camps on the Serbian border.

“Unimpeded access to all places of deprivation of liberty including these transit zones must be guaranteed to independent international, regional and national organisations,” the experts said. “This is vital for the protection of the human rights in a country governed by rule of law.”

The UN also cited an international agreement that guarantees access to any detained persons for its experts.

Hungary rejects asylum applications from migrants arriving via safe countries.

It was also the first European country to quit a UN agreement which aims to make migration safe and orderly amid issues of national sovereignty and international cooperation, following a similar decision by the United States last year.

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