Hungary reverses decision to suspend EU asylum rules

Afghan and Pakistani people sit in front of Hungarian police officers at the Hungarian-Serbian border on June 18, 2015
Afghan and Pakistani people sit in front of Hungarian police officers at the Hungarian-Serbian border on June 18, 2015 Csaba Segesvari, AFP

Hungary on Wednesday reversed its decision to suspend a key EU rule on the processing of asylum claims, a day after it said it would no longer abide by the regulation because the country had become “overburdened” by migrants.


"(Foreign) Minister Peter Szijjarto has informed his Austrian counterpart that Hungary was not suspending any rule of the European Union," the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban had caught Brussels by surprise on Tuesday when it announced it was indefinitely opting out of the so-called Dublin Regulation.

The provision requires a migrant's claim to be processed in the EU country they first arrive in. It means that EU countries are obliged to take back migrants that arrive in their state but then travel on elsewhere.

Budapest’s announcement thus caused consternation in neighbouring Austria, the next destination for many asylum seekers arriving in Hungary.

The move to suspend the Dublin Regulation, which came ahead of a key EU summit on the immigration crisis on Thursday, had prompted Brussels to demand "immediate clarification".

A statement by the EU Commission said Hungary had told other EU states that the suspension was due to a “technical failure”.

However, a Hungarian government spokesperson said the decision was made because the country’s asylum system could no longer cope with the flood of migrants arriving in the country.

“Hungary has used up the capacities at its disposal,” the spokesperson said in a prepared statement. “The situation requires fast action; in this escalated situation Hungary needs to take a move ahead of EU decisions.”

So far this year, more than 60,000 immigrants have crossed into Hungary illegally, the government said.

‘Clear problems’ with EU asylum rule

A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Austria said Wednesday that Hungary’s ambassador had been summoned for a meeting about the suspension of the asylum rules.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz also told his Hungarian counterpart in a phone conversation Austria would not tolerate the suspension, and the government asked the European Commission to look into whether Hungary had violated treaty obligations, the spokesman said.

A number of countries on the EU's periphery say the system for tackling migration is broken and that the Dublin Regulation places an unfair burden on them as they are usually the first destination for asylum seekers arriving in the EU.

Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, told FRANCE 24 on Tuesday that the Dublin Regulation had “clear problems” in that it places an “unfair share of responsibility … on frontline states like Hungary”.

However, she added that Hungary’s unilateral suspension of the Dublin Regulation “smacks more of demagoguery”.

Orban’s government has frequently provoked the ire of rights groups and migrant charities with its anti-immigration policies. Most recently, the country announced it plans to build a 175-kilometre-long “anti-migration” fence on its border with Serbia.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning