An EU court condemnation of migrant detentions in Hungary has shown that the goverment’s concern for persecuted Christians is a farce.
– An illegal “deprivation of liberty”
in a binding judgment last week, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) found that Hungary’s detention of asylum seekers in transit zones on the Hungary-Serbia border amounts to an illegal “deprivation of liberty”, as the BBC reported.
Some 300 people are presently kept in their transit zones, with some 120 of them having spent more than a year in conditions Human Rights Watch characterised as “filthy” and “overcrowded”, with detainees “hungry and lacking medical care”.
But now, after the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also described Hungary’s detention of asylum seekers as “”completely unacceptable and inhuman”, the EU court ruling means that the refugees will have to be released.
– Hungarian Helsinki Committee: “Here, persecuted Christians are treated in the same inhumane way as other asylum seekers”
The ECJ ruling came after two asylum seeker families, from Afghanistan and Iran, sued the populist right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán demanding to be freed.
Hungarian authorities had argued that the migrants entered illegally from Serbia, a country Hungary considers safe and thus the place from which the refugees should have solicited asylum.
Not only does the ECJ verdict now demolish that defence, but it also leaves a poignant detail: one of the Iranian men involved in the case was a Christian, Abouzar Soltani.
In a story on the ECJ case, Vatican News said that Hungary had threatened to deport Soltani to Iran, where the man could face the death penalty for converting to Christianity from Islam.
That threat and the fact that Hungarian authorities refused to let Soltani into the country is ironic given that the Hungarian government, according to its own figures, has given over 33 million euros in aid in recent years to persecuted Christians around the world.
“Here, persecuted Christians are treated in the same inhumane way as other asylum seekers”, Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee lamented after the ECJ ruling.
Paradavi added that the verdict “can finally put an end to the unlawful practice of attempting to remove people stuck in the transit zone… without ever examining their asylum applications on their merit”.
All the Hungarian government could muster in response to the ECJ verdict was its own characterisation of the ruling as “disheartening”, and a lament that the EU “want[s] to force us not to defend Hungary’s borders and make us allow migrants in”, in the words of a government spokesperson.
In the meantime, as Vatican News reported:
Soltani “thanked God” and his friends in Hungary for supporting him throughout his ordeal.
“I am very happy that God changed my mind and heart during this time. For the past three years I have not been able to love Hungary with all my heart because I was afraid for the law. […]
“But for some time now, with all my heart, I consider Hungary as my own country [because of] your love and efforts, friends. There are people outside this camp who are hopeful and waiting for me to be free”.