UNHCR calls on Hungary to ensure access for people seeking asylum

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is encouraged by Hungary’s decision to release asylum-seekers detained in the two border transit zones, and transfer them to regular reception facilities in the country, following last week’s judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

At the same time, UNHCR calls on the Government to ensure that people who wish to seek international protection, many of whom are fleeing war, violence and persecution have access to territory and asylum in Hungary, in line with the country’s accepted international obligations.

“This is an opportunity for Hungary to bring its asylum policies and practices in line with international and EU law”, Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR Regional Representative for Central Europe said.

Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right guaranteed by international law, including the 1951 Refugee Convention. No one should be detained or otherwise sanctioned for exercising this right, even if arrived irregularly.

UNHCR has consistently reiterated the legitimate right of States to manage their borders. However, States also have an obligation under international law to protect those who seek asylum by permitting them access to territory and safe reception.

Before their release, almost 300 asylum-seekers, including children, were detained in Hungary’s transit zones, with many of them held there for over a year and some even close to two years during the asylum procedure. Many of them fled war, violence and persecution and are in need of international protection originating from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

UNHCR considers that the detention of asylum-seekers should be a last resort and timebound in specific cases. Children should never be detained. UNHCR remains ready to support Hungary to ensure access to territory and asylum procedures in a responsible, efficient yet fair way.

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