Access to asylum further at stake in Hungary, says UNHCR

By agency reporter
July 1, 2020

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about a legislative development in Hungary, which further undermines the effective access to territory and asylum for those fleeing wars and persecution, which had been already seriously constrained before. The development is the adoption on 17 June 2020 of the Act LVIII on Transitional Rules and Epidemiological Preparedness related to the Cessation of the State of Danger in response to the COVID-19 situation. 

Based on the new act, people arriving at the border of Hungary with the wish to seek asylum will be turned away and directed to declare such intent at a designated Hungarian Embassy. This may expose asylum-seekers to the risk of refoulement 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.

When presented with an asylum request at its borders, a State is required under international and EU law to provide admission at least on a temporary basis to examine the claim, as the right to seek asylum and the non-refoulement principle are otherwise rendered meaningless. Effective access to territory is an essential pre-condition to be able to exercise the right to seek asylum.

“Due to these fundamental concerns, we urge the Government of Hungary to initiate the withdrawal of the act and to review its asylum system to bring it into conformity with international refugee and human rights law as well as EU law”, said the UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs.

While UNHCR understands the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it  observes that good practices across Europe and globally demonstrate that public health can be protected while ensuring access to territory and asylum, including through quarantines and health checks. UNHCR has compiled examples of such good practices and issued them together with further practical recommendations to States.

* UNHCR Position on Hungarian Act LVIII of 2020 on the Transitional Rules and Epidemiological Preparedness related to the Cessation of the State of Danger is available here

* UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency https://www.unhcr.org/uk/

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