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Hungary to detain asylum-seekers in container camps

A Hungarian police van passes by an intelligent fence post. Photograph: (Reuters)

AFP Delhi, India Mar 07, 2017, 12.21 PM (IST)

Hungary voted a new bill which will allow security forces to detain all the asylum-seekers who show up at the country's southern borders. They will be forced segregated in container camps.

The parliament agreed to the new legislation by a significant majority, showing its support for right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's anti-immigration policies. He stated that the new bill is a response to the recent terrorist attacks happened in Europe. 

The measure will apply also on all the asylum-seekers already in the country who will be tracked and moved to the container camps, where they will be forced to wait while their applications are processed.

The bill reads that "in the future, illegal immigrants must wait for the verdict on their asylum case in designated transit zones at the border." It also means the elderly and sick could also be detained.

According to government sources, 1,004 people have applied for asylum in Hungary so far this year.

The bill is a reinstatement of the country's practice to detain asylum applicants which was halted in 2013 against pressure from the European parliament, the UN refugee agency and the European court of human rights.

The only option for asylum-seekers who are not willing to end up locked in containers is to walk back from where they came. This is not at all an alternative solution given the fact that, without documents, they will anyway be considered as "illegal" immigrant in any country hence risking to be arrested.

The new bill is in line with the approach that Orbán's Hungary has had towards immigration policies in the last years. The country's prime minister has always opposed any integration policy, slamming the European Union proposal to divide among themselves and welcome quotas of immigrants.

According to him the large influx of Muslim migrants into Europe poses a security risk and endangers the continent's Christian culture and identity. 

Such statements are populist propaganda aimed at winning the right wing support. The European Union shared quota plan would have requested to Hungary, a country of nearly 10 million, to host less than 1,300 refugees.

At a joint press conference in Budapest in July 2016 Viktor Orbán went as far as to say that according to him “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk." He also said that for Hungary “migration is not a solution but a problem ... not medicine but a poison, we don’t need it and won’t swallow it.”

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In 2015 alone, the Hungary's government had handed thousands of migrants over exclusion orders, accusing them of "illegal border-crossing".

At the beginning of March Hungary started the construction of a 175-km long second ring of militarised razor wire fence on its border with Serbia and Croatia. More than 10,000 policemen were already patrolling the first ring.

All these measures will also give legitimacy to the numerous paramilitary groups who are patrolling the woods along the border. Members of this group wear balaclavas and fatigues and spend their days chasing and arresting immigrants who try to enter Europe. 

These groups are commonly known as "border-hunters," their members belong to the country's far right and incorporate many neo-Nazi elements.

Since last year, Hungary's police allowed to physically charge and push back to Serbia and Croatia anyone who is caught within eight kilometres of Hungarian territory. 

The authorisation created controversial reactions and the medical organisation Doctors Without Borders accused the country's law enforcement agencies of brutality and random use of force against immigrants.

Hungary's interior ministry has repeatedly denied the allegations. 

The NGO Amnesty International said in a statement last month that the new rules "disregard EU guiding principles that it is forbidden to detain someone on the basis that they have claimed asylum".

The bill has been presented by Hungary's government as a measure which will grant both to the country and Europe more security, preventing unregistered and unchecked people from entering its border. 

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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