On October 9, 2017, the Hungarian government mailed a national consultation to all eight million eligible Hungarian voters purporting to solicit their opinions about a so-called “Soros Plan.” The statements in the national consultation contain distortions and outright lies that deliberately mislead Hungarians about George Soros’s views on migrants and refugees. Hungarian government officials also falsely claim that George Soros is somehow controlling the European Union decision-making process. In fact, decisions on how to address the migration crisis are made by EU member states and institutions, including the Hungarian government.
I have been thinking about the topic of today’s post for a long time, but it was only in the last couple of days that the threads came together to form a unified whole. 444.hu published an article yesterday with the title “Viktor Orbán’s 100 lies,” which prompted me add one of my own about the Hungarian refugees of 1956. That particular Orbán lie has been bothering me for ages, but I had no time to search for the necessary statistical data to prove that, as usual, Viktor Orbán is either purposely lying or is simply ignorant. Today, however, I got my proof. Népszava published a detailed article about the Hungarian Statistical Office’s originally secret compilation of data on people who left the country after the October 1956 revolution. I should also note that the hysteria over the sighting of alleged migrants that erupted in a village provided an added impetus for me to make some observations about the “good Hungarian refugees” as opposed to the “evil migrants,” a contrast that is often drawn by Fidesz leaders as well as the general population. Finally, there are a couple of telling sentences in a new poll about “the Hungarian dream” that may have some relevance here.
Civil society groups funded by billionaire George Soros denounced Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban on Sunday, for calling on his country’s security services to investigate the liberal philanthropist’s “network” and people associated with it. Mr Orban accuses Budapest-born Mr Soros of buying influence in the European Union and pressing it to admit millions of mostly Muslim immigrants, whom the Hungarian leader describes as a deadly danger to the bloc’s security and identity. “The Soros network has an extensive sphere of influence within the European Parliament and other EU bodies, and its aim is to build a Europe of mixed population and to condemn the Hungarian government for opposing their view on migration,” Mr Orban said on Friday.
The Secretary General’s Special Representative on Migration and Refugees carried out a fact-finding mission to Serbia and two transit zones in Hungary from 12 to 16 June 2017. In Serbia he visited asylum and reception centres in Adaševci, Principovac, Krnjača, Subotica, Sombor, Bogovađa and Obrenovac and met with representatives of the government, the authorities responsible for asylum and migration-related matters, intergovernmental organisations, the European Union as well as civil society. In Hungary he visited the transit zones of Röszke and Tompa and met with the regional representatives of the asylum authority, as well as with the UNHCR and one NGO.
Hungary, being also a transit country for migrants and refugees travelling along the Western Balkans route, has also faced enormous challenges after the massive arrivals of migrants and refugees during 2015 and 2016. In response to these challenges Hungary has enacted a series of legislative amendments to the legal framework on asylum and immigration. Following those introduced in March 2017, all asylum-seekers, including families with children and unaccompanied children between 14 and 18 years old, are kept within specifically designated areas of transit zones located in Hungarian territory, while their asylum applications are processed. This situation raises concerns about de facto deprivation of asylum-seekers’ liberty under Article 5 of the ECHR. In particular, the confinement of children needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The primary consideration should be the best interest of the child. Every effort should be made to avoid resorting to the deprivation of liberty of migrant and refugee children on the sole ground of their migration status.
Violent pushbacks of migrants and refugees from Hungary to Serbia raise concerns under Articles 2 (the right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture) of the ECHR. The restrictive practices of admission of asylum-seekers into the transit zones of Röszke and Tompa often make asylum-seekers look for illegal ways of crossing the border, having to resort to smugglers and traffickers with all the risks that this entails. The asylum procedures, which are conducted in the transit zones, lack adequate safeguards to protect asylum-seekers against refoulement to countries where they run the risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to Articles 2 and 3 of the ECHR. The mechanism for the judicial review of decisions of the asylum authority raises concerns in respect of the right to an effective remedy under Article 13 of the ECHR. The Council of Europe is ready to assist the Hungarian authorities, with expert advice, to safeguard the essence of the right to seek asylum in Hungary, while ensuring respect for asylum-seekers’ right not to be subjected to unjustified deprivation of liberty or unacceptable living conditions.
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children between 14 and 18 years old who are in the transit zones are exempted from the scope of application of the legal provisions on guardianship. The assistance provided to these children from local social workers appears rather limited, which leaves unaccompanied children without adequate protection and support. As the stay of unaccompanied children in transit zones is intended for a short period of time there is no educational provision. The Council of Europe can provide assistance in developing a guardianship system that effectively protects the rights of the child and ensures compliance with the principle that the best interest of the child is the primary consideration in all processes affecting him/her.
In conclusion, it is necessary that the Hungarian legislation and practices are brought into line with the requirements of the ECHR. Should the Hungarian authorities decide to engage in this process, the Council of Europe is best placed to assist them by providing expert advice on the basis of the ECHR and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.