No Place for Human Rights in Fortress Europe

Hungary's new anti-migrant laws are part of a wider ambition by Prime Minister Orban to be seen as the savior of Europe, at the expense of human rights and constitutional principles.

If anybody has any doubt that this week’s events at the Hungarian border happened according to prime minister Orban's screenplay, think about the consequences: he could finally show the country and the world that these are aggressive beasts who attack Europe. This strategy is as old as human civilization: treat a minority like garbage and they will soon behave like beasts, so you can legitimize all actions against them in the eye of the public.

Orban could finally play the role of the shield of Europe he so much adores: intruders on one side, defenders on the other. He could also break the growing solidarity of the Hungarian society, which threatened his own version of reality, the clash of civilizations. Now that refugees are excluded, there is almost no way the Hungarian people can meet and help them. He can control the public image of refugees and this way it’s much easier to dehumanize them, to make people believe that these “intruders” are the public enemy number one.

Catch-22

The government claims that it allows “real” refugees to enter the EU legally. This is a cynical lie. There are some entrance points, but there were less than one hundred cases proceeded by the authorities in a day. Officials decided about the fate of a person in a few minutes, and the verdict was almost always the same: rejecting the asylum claim and expelling the asylum seeker to Serbia, and banning him or her to enter the Schengen zone for a year.

The government declared Serbia a safe third country, but in fact it is not. Serbia has not granted a refugee status to anybody yet — simply because it has no asylum system and it immediately rejects asylum claims. What’s most absurd is that the refugees can appeal against the dismissal of their asylum claim in the Hungarian city of Szeged — but they are not allowed to go there. Catch-22.

Accelerated justice

Those who try to break the fence and go to Hungary illegally are arrested and prosecuted for committing a newly codified criminal offense: illegal border crossing. You can get up to 5 years’ imprisonment for this crime. The government brought 130 judges and judicial workers to the Southern city of Szeged to adjudicate these criminal cases in accelerated procedures.

By punishing refugees for illegal border crossing before making a decision on their asylum claims, the Hungarian state violates Article 31 of the 1951 convention relating the status of refugees. What is more, the current amendments to the act on criminal procedure are clearly unconstitutional as well. Offenders are denied the right of a due process of law so prosecutors and judges must reject to enforce the amendments to law.

Unfortunately they don’t do that. The first offender has been sentenced to immediate deportation from the country yesterday, after an 80-minute trial. The man came from Iraq, where he lost his brother in the war, and it is very likely that his life would be in danger if he returns. Now he is a convicted criminal who cannot enter the EU for a year and has to pay 66 USD in criminal costs. He has no chance to get asylum. If he tries to enter Hungary again, he will be imprisoned.

Stand up for human rights

In his speech delivered to his followers a week ago, Orban declared that this refugee crisis is ending “the age of liberal bullshit” — that is, the respect of human rights and constitutional principles. The question is now whether the majority of Europeans agree with him and reject the core principles of the European Union, or stop this nightmare right here, right now.

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