Court rules against sending asylum seekers to Hungary

Switzerland suspends the provisions of the Dublin Convention in relation to Hungary because of insecure conditions.

Hungary asylum seeker zone
Asylum seekers entering Hungary are detained or moved to the container camps [File: Sandor Ujvari/AP]

Switzerland’s highest administrative court on Friday ruled against the deportation of an asylum seeker to Hungary, citing humanitarian and legal concerns over conditions in a country that has been sharply criticised for its harsh treatment of refugees.

Judges at the Federal Administrative Court said the situation in Hungary is too insecure for asylum seekers, delivering a verdict in the case of a young male from the Democratic Republic of Congo who had filed a judicial complaint against his return to the Eastern European country, where he was officially registered.

Under the European Union’s Dublin Convention, member states can return asylum seekers to the country where they first applied for protection. Switzerland is not an EU member state, but it is a signatory to the accord.

Seeing as the court issued a so-called “pilot ruling”, its provisions automatically apply to all present asylum seekers in Switzerland who had registered a complaint against their return to Hungary. 

Local media reported that 202 people would now have their asylum requests processed in Switzerland.

The verdict does not automatically entail that all future complainants will be exempt from returning to Hungary, but the court asked Swiss federal authorities to assess whether that should be the case.

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Hungary’s immigration policies have been roundly condemned by rights groups and refugee advocates after the conservative government in Budapest tightened asylum regulations in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis.

The main cause for concern cited by the Swiss judges was a piece of legislation passed by Hungary in March that stated all asylum seekers had to stay in closed container camps on Hungarian soil or had to be brought to processing facilities in remote areas between Serbia and Hungary.

At the time, the UN’s refugee agency said the legislation violated “Hungary’s obligations under international and EU laws” and that automatic detention of all asylum seekers was unacceptable.

A month later, the United Nations urged EU members to stop returning asylum seekers to Hungary, blaming the country’s tough new policy of systematically detaining them in the high-security container camps.

In its ruling, the Swiss court said that if asylum seekers were to be returned to Hungary, there was no guarantee of them having access to a fair asylum process and adequate care.

In October last year, the majority of Hungarians voted against European Union plans to share 160,000 refugees around the 28-member bloc through mandatory quotas.

Hungary, which has built barbed wire fences along its border to Serbia to curb the influx of refugees, has since not accepted any asylum seekers allocated under the scheme.

In 2016, the country granted asylum, or some form of protection, to 425 people out of 29,432 applications in 2016.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies