Hungary has begun to scrap border transit zones where asylum seekers were held while authorities reviewed their applications after a European court ruling that deemed the practice unlawful, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.
The European Union’s top court ruled last Thursday that four asylum seekers stuck in a transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border had effectively been detained and that a local court should release them immediately.
“The Hungarian government disagrees with the ruling, we consider it a risk with regard to European security, but as an EU member state, we will adhere to all court rulings,” Gergely Gulyas told an online press briefing.
The Court of Justice was reviewing the case of two Afghan and two Iranian nationals who arrived in Hungary from Serbia in late 2018 and early 2019 and applied for asylum from the Hungarian Röszke transit zone on the Serbian-Hungarian border.
The detainees were to be transferred to new facilities on Thursday. Gulyas said four people currently in the transit zone would be detained elsewhere, while another 280 people would be moved to a centre for asylum seekers.
Once the transit zones are scrapped, asylum requests can only be submitted at Hungarian embassies and consulates, Gulyas said.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs wrote in a blog post that the applications would have to be submitted in neighbouring countries.
During the peak of the migration crisis in 2015, Orban effectively sealed Hungary’s southern border with a fence. Hungary was a transit route for hundreds of thousands of migrants heading through the Balkans to Western Europe.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a rights group that sued the government over the practice, hailed the government’s decision and said it would “lead to unforeseeable consequences if the government failed to honour the European Court’s ruling completely”.