UNHCR urges Hungary to withdraw draft law impacting refugees

By agency reporter
May 31, 2018

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on the Government of Hungary to withdraw a package of laws set to be introduced in the Hungarian Parliament that would significantly restrict the ability of NGOs and individuals to support asylum-seekers and refugees. UNHCR is seriously concerned that these proposals, if passed, would deprive people who are forced to flee their homes of critical aid and services, and further inflame tense public discourse and rising xenophobic attitudes.

“Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right, it is not a crime,” said Pascale Moreau, Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau. “We are particularly concerned that the Government is targeting those who, in a purely humanitarian role, help people who are seeking asylum. We are calling upon the Government to halt any measures that would further increase the vulnerability of people who are simply looking for a safe haven.”

The Government of Hungary has announced its intention to add further concerning restrictions to a package of laws first introduced to Parliament in February.

“UNHCR appeals to Hungary to remain committed to protecting refugees and asylum-seekers, including by facilitating the essential role and efforts of qualified civil society organisations,” Moreau said. “Without their work, many refugees and asylum-seekers will inevitably suffer serious hardship as they would be deprived of important services such as medical and psycho-social care, housing, education, employment, access to information and legal aid. This will also ultimately negatively impact on the host communities.”

Since January, Hungary has effectively closed its borders to almost all people wishing to seek international protection. On average, only two asylum-seekers a day are allowed to enter the country through the two 'transit zones' at the border with Serbia and any asylum-seeker who attempt to cross the razor-wire border fences is automatically removed.

“Through border restrictions and limiting access to the asylum system, Hungary has made it almost impossible for people to file a claim for asylum or obtain refugee status”, said Moreau. “However, there is still time, and we would urge Hungary to reconsider these measures and ensure asylum-seekers and refugees have access to the asylum system and critical support services.”

Last year Hungary, with a population of just under ten million, granted refugee status to just 1,216 people.

* UNHCR http://www.unhcr.org/uk/

[Ekk/6]

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