UNHCR condemns Hungary over return of Afghan refugees

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is deeply shocked by Hungary’s actions to force two asylum-seeking Afghan families to leave the country under duress, condemning the move as a flagrant violation of international and EU law.

The two families, four adults and seven children, who had been detained since January in a transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border, were escorted to a border crossing point with Serbia and presented with the choice of entering Serbia or being flown back to Afghanistan on a flight organised by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

“The treatment of these families, including their removal from Hungarian territory with no serious effort to look at their claims to refugee status, is deeply regrettable,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Their case highlights our deep concerns about what is happening in Hungary, where asylum-seekers are rejected not on the merits of their claim, but because under Hungary’s legislation, their claims are automatically considered inadmissible.”

Under this legislation, Hungary rejects without the safeguards required under EU law any asylum seeker who has previously been in a country that Hungary deems safe.

The UN Refugee Agency had appealed to the Hungarian authorities to prevent the return of the two families. It has now reiterated its appeal not to send people back to their country of origin or otherwise remove them from Hungarian territory without proper assessment of their claim to asylum.