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Hungary dismisses asylum requests within minutes, say refugees
A Syrian whose request for asylum in Hungary was rejected within minutes has claimed officials made little attempt to investigate his background or gauge his level of risk, raising questions about Hungary's commitment to protecting refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.
Zahir Habbal, a 29-year-old Syrian electrician, was one of the first refugees to try to navigate Hungary's asylum system after the closure of the country's southern border, and the prosecution of anyone trying to cross it through unofficial routes. Until this week, more than 170,000 people this year had been able to walk freely into Hungary, and on to northern Europe.
But that changed on Tuesday, when Hungary finished building a fence along its border with Serbia. Now refugees must knock on a small door in the fence to gain admission in order to claim asylum. Habbal said officials were not giving each application the attention needed to properly assess its merits.
Habbal was one of at least 16 applicants to be rejected on Tuesday, and he claimed that each person was turned down in a maximum 20 minutes, after a series of perfunctory questions about their country of origin and route to Hungary. "They didn't ask about my life," said Habbal, who claims he is a wanted man in Syria because of his involvement in anti-regime protests several years ago. "It wasn't interesting to them. They said directly that I was rejected, and that I had to go back to Serbia. It took 10 to 20 minutes for everyone [to be rejected]."
A second applicant, a 61-year-old Bangladeshi, Shiraz Hawladea, also claimed he had not been asked why he wanted to claim asylum, suggesting that the Hungarian government did not have enough information to be able to adequately assess his life. "They just asked me my name, my country, and the route I came from," said Hawladea. "Then they took my fingerprints and said: go back to Serbia."
A third rejected person, a 22-year-old Bangladeshi called Abdallah Mohamed Arman, admitted that he told officials he simply wanted to go to Austria, rather than apply for asylum - a comment that would have given Hungary ample reason to return him to Serbia.
Asked about Habbal's case, Hungary's government spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said he would have to consult colleagues about the specifics of his rejection. But, speaking generally, he said: "Every case is being investigated on an individual basis."
In an earlier interview, Kovács denied that Hungary had infringed anyone's rights by returning them to Serbia. He said that, since Serbia was a safe country, refugees should apply there, rather than any other European country.
"If someone has already claimed asylum in Greece but moved on, it is possible that Hungary, within the confines of European solidarity, will handle their case," Kovács said. "Also minors travelling without adults." But others will probably have their applications denied - a decision criticised by the UN and Amnesty International, who argue that tens of thousands of refugees cannot logically claim asylum in a country that has such a dysfunctional asylum system.
Todor Gardos, an Amnesty researcher based on the Hungarian border, who was interviewing rejected applicants as they returned from Hungary, said: "Research shows there's no effective access to protection in Serbia. Some refugees have been waiting there for a year [for an interview], and we're really talking about only a handful of people who have been granted asylum this year."
Gardos also criticised Hungarian authorities for having only provided written information to asylum seekers in Hungarian, a language barely spoken outside Europe. He called the absence of an effective appeals system "a travesty of justice" and questioned how Hungarian officials were able to judge each applicant after such a limited investigation.
"There would be no problem if they were considering each case on an individual basis," said Gardos. "But there are no detailed questioned about people's backgrounds. The questions are, as far as we know, about where people are from, and how they have got here."
Following the closure of the Hungarian border, increasing numbers of refugees have made for Croatia.
[Source: By Patrick Kingsley in Horgo, The Guardian, London, 16Sep15]
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|This document has been published on 17Sep15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|