Hungary says Donald Trump inspired its latest policy to detain all asylum seekers

No rest for the weary.
No rest for the weary.
Image: Reuters/Marko Djurica
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US President Donald Trump’s executive orders to crack down on immigration, which have so far revoked an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 visas to the country, sparked protest across the world. But at least one European country is gloating.

Hungary, which was heavily criticized (paywall) for building fences and arresting asylum seekers during the height of Europe’s refugee crisis, has cited Trump’s election as the impetus for stepping up its resistance to open borders. The government’s chief spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said at a briefing in London this week that the US election had contributed to “a change of mood in Europe” and vindicated Hungary’s hard-line attitude on migration.

The government plans to ratchet up its already draconian policy on refugees. The country submitted proposals to the EU to automatically detain asylum seekers while their asylum application is being processed. Anyone seeking asylum through Hungary would be housed in “shelters,” (the government refused to describe it as ”detention”) while being permitted at any time to return to their own country.

“No migrants—not even those who have already issued their request for asylum—will be able move freely until there is a primary legal decision whether they are entitled for political asylum, refugee status or anything else, so they are not entitled to move freely in the country,” Kovács said, adding that applications would likely take months to process.

As it stands, asylum seekers who enter Hungary are free to roam while they wait for a legal decision on their application.

Human rights groups have previously criticized the “poor conditions” of Hungary’s detention centers, where rejected asylum seekers and people convicted by Hungarian courts of entering the country illegally are held before being deported. Hungary has insisted the shelters it plans to provide will meet EU standards, though Kovács admitted he expected disagreements over the policy with Brussels. The country continues to spar with the EU over the fence Hungary put up along its Serbian border and its refusal of EU-wide asylum quotas.

Joining Hungary in its hardline thrust is Australia, which used the US election to talk up its own controversial refugee policy of barring all refugees arriving by boat from entering Australia. Instead they are sent to detention centers on remote Pacific islands, raising concerns about documented human rights violations.