UN, rights groups urge Hungary to avoid anti-refugee policy

UN Refugee Agency together with human rights groups urge Hungary to refrain from implementing anti-refugee policies

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Refugees stand behind a fence at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgos on September 16, 2015

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a shared letter with the Council of Europe and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) on Hungary’s refugee policies on Monday.

The press release urges Hungary to “refrain from policies and practices that promote intolerance, fear and fuel xenophobia against refugees and migrants.”

They criticised the Hungarian government’s “The quota increases the terror threat” public campaign, that started in December.

The campaign portrays “those fleeing war and conflict as criminals, invaders and terrorists based on their religious beliefs and places of origin,” the release said.

Letter also said that the “refugees are coming to Europe, after having endured trauma, tragedy and loss while searching for hope and dignity to start a new life far from the upheavals of war and conflict.”

Hungary is expected “to meet its international legal commitments... under both International law and the European Convention on Human Rights” in the largest refugee crisis the continent is facing since World War II.

The transit country is known for its hard stance against refugees who are escaping from the war in Syria, also ones fleeing Iraq, Afghanistan and African countries due to similar conditions.

Hungary has closed its borders and built razor wire fences in October on its border with neighbouring countries Croatia and Serbia. It also declared it will extend the Serbian fences through to the Romanian border.

The governmental campaign against refugees came with full page “The quota increases the terror threat” messages on newspapers. 

"An illegal immigrant arrives in Europe on average every 12 seconds," "We don't know who they are, or what their intentions are" and "We don't know how many hidden terrorists are among them" were the other messages.

Almost a million refugees have crossed the Mediterranean and reached Europe so far this year, according to UNHCR data.

The European Union, which Hungary is a member since 2004, plans to distribute 160,000 refugees among its member countries.

Hungary is supposed to take in 2,300 people.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto replied to the critics by saying that Hungary “offers, as before, protection to those who really need it, but it cannot welcome tens or hundreds of thousands of economic migrants."  

"Furthermore we have never claimed that all migrants were terrorists, but with the uncontrolled flow of migrants, the terrorist threat grows in Europe," he said, according to the Hungarian news agency MTI.

Szijjarto has earlier said that the refugee crisis has “opened many opportunities for terrorists.”

Viktor Orban, the country’s prime minister, has also said that “We will protect our borders [and] Hungarian people from criminals, terrorists [and] illegal immigrants.”

TRTWorld and agencies