Hungary begrudgingly shuts down transit zones, Orbán blames Soros

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2020.05.22. 14:55

In adherence to the ruling of the European Court of Justice, the Hungarian government will shut down the transit zones on the southern border of the country, as Minister of the Prime Minister's Office Gergely Gulyás announced at the government's weekly press conference on Thursday,  adding that the government still deems the ruling unacceptable and maintains that it contradicts other decisions made by international forums. On Friday morning, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán explained the court's decision away by saying that European officials are "sitting in the pocket of George Soros."

The Minister added that the government still maintains that the ruling is unacceptable and that it contradicts several other rulings of international forums such as the European Court of Human Rights, but as Hungary is obliged to obey the court's decision, therefore

the Hungarian government has decided to shut down the transit zones on the Southern border.

Gulyás announced that the four people who were in asylum detention will remain so, and 280 people will be taken to refugee centres, and from this point forward, asylum requests can only be submitted at foreign missions of Hungary.

Unlawful detainment in the transit zones

The 14 May decision of the European Court of Justice settles several questions posed by the Szeged Regional Court about the transit zones established by the government in 2015 on the country's southern borders, the only place where asylum seekers could lodge their requests for refugee status in Hungary. The original case concerns an Afghanistani and an Iranian family who were detained in the transit zones for 464 and 526 days, but the decision will have to be applied in all similar cases as well. In line with the ruling, 

  • Transit zone placement constitutes unlawful detention, as people held there for an indefinite period of time with no judicial review available1 could not lawfully leave the transit zones in any direction, as they were not allowed to enter Hungary, but re-entering Serbia could have resulted in penalties and losing any chance of obtaining refugee status in Hungary. The court also established that transit zone detention should not have lasted longer than four weeks in any case, and applicants should have been placed in adequate facilities inside the country after this period.
  • Asylum applications denied on grounds of Serbia being a safe third country must be examined in merit upon resubmission. A 19 March ECJ ruling already clarified that in line with EU law, asylum requests must not be denied based solely on the fact that the applicant had arrived through a country which Hungarian legislation classified as a "safe transit country." The current ECJ ruling establishes that applicants denied this way must be allowed to re-submit their asylum requests in a procedure that examines the merits of the case instead of automatic rejection.

The civic organisation representing the clients of the original case, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee welcomed the decision, writing in their statement“As a result of the consistent and persistent work of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the CJEU’s judgment will put an end to the automatic and unlawful detention of asylum-seekers in Hungary. The two families concerned by the judgment have been detained unlawfully for 464 and 526 days. Their suffering and injustice must now come to an end after this court judgment," and according to their post, by Thursday morning, the transit zone was empty:

"During the night, we received news that the approximately 300 people unlawfully detained in the transit zones, mostly families with small children, were all transported to open or partially open shelters." 

Orbán: 'They' do whatever it takes to make money

Back on 17 May, György Bakondi, the Prime Minister's chief security advisor told state news channel M1 that the Hungarian government will not accept the ruling and will examine whether or not the operation of the ECJ itself is compatible with the Hungarian Fundamental Law, adding that the transit zones are well-functioning elements of Hungarian border control, and envisioned a refugee crisis similar to 2015 if they were to be shut down.

Since then though, the Hungarian government begrudgingly complied with the judgment. In his weekly interview on public radio Kossuth, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that in his interpretation, the ruling states that there cannot be transit zones on the border, therefore the government is shutting them down, and from this point on, asylum requests will only be received at foreign missions of Hungary, where the applicants will have to wait until a decision is made, which, as Orbán predicts, is going to "lead to further clashes with Brussels."

The Prime Minister opined that the ECJ ruling is dangerous as it weakens border protection in Hungary, and therefore, in Europe as well. When asked if "European bureaucrats  do not see this or do not care," Orbán gave the following response:

"They are sitting in the pocket of a man called George Soros. There are studies being published, one after the other, saying that in a wide variety of European decisionmaking bodies, including courts, and most recently, even some censorship board or whatnot at Facebook, even there, they eat themselves in, they slither in using the cracks, people belonging to the same network keep appearing, and they have a very clear order to fulfil. They must have a migrant crisis. If there is a migrant crisis, governments get into trouble. If governments get into trouble, loans become necessary. And they have the money. They want to lend, on good interest, because that's what they like. And they will do anything for it. It doesn't matter what we're talking about, a pandemic or migration; the first thing they think about is how they could give high-interest loans to those who are in trouble. If there is no crisis, they will even help create one just so that their money bears interest. This is one of the uncomplicated ways to rob a country. George Soros is a master of this. There are very simple financial considerations even behind his migrant-supporting policies and the operation of his network."

Since then, Hungarian public media have been running this interview excerpt on social media as a sponsored post under the header "Soros, the grandmaster of robbing countries."

(Cover:  Rendőrök hajtják be a röszkei tranzitzóna kapuját 2017. június 18-án. Photo:  Kelemen Zoltán Gergely / MTI)

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