BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister on Friday defended a new refugee law that was criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups.
The new rules allow for the detention of all asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied minors older than 14, in shipping container camps on the Serbian border.
UNHCR said the detention of asylum-seekers “will have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who have already greatly suffered.”
But Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the law was in line with European Union legal standards.
Orban disputed the idea that asylum-seekers in the border transit zones, which he compared to those at airports, were being locked up against their will.
“No one is under arrest, so anyone who believes they don’t want to wait in the transit zone for the closure of their case can leave toward Serbia,” Orban said in Brussels after an EU summit. “We are not locking anyone up anywhere.”
Orban, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, also said that while no national leaders attending the EU summit objected to the new Hungarian rules, he expected a debate on the matter with the European Commission.
The new asylum rules, including the automatic deportation to Serbia of any migrant who cannot prove his legal right to be in Hungary, can be applied during a state of emergency because of migration, which was recently extended until Sept. 7.
Regarding repeated reports, including this week from humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders, of dozens of migrants claiming to have been beaten or attacked with dogs by Hungarian border guards, Orban said Hungarian authorities had no evidence of such cases.
“The aim of these press attacks is to discourage the police and soldiers,” Orban said.
Hungary built fences protected with razor wire on the borders of Serbia and Croatia in 2015 to stop the migrant flow and expects to complete a second, sturdier fence along the Serbian border by May 1.