Earlier today, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that by housing two Iranian and two Afghan nationals – whose asylum claims had previously been rejected – in the Röszke transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border, Hungarian authorities carried out a measure that should be regarded as “detention.”
And yet, in a similar case last November, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that migrants staying in Hungary’s transit zone did not qualify as “detention.”
It’s alarming to see that Europe’s top courts have come to different conclusions on a matter that’s of utmost importance to Europe’s future and the protection of our borders – not to mention the implication being made here in regard to legal certainty.
According to the ECJ ruling, “If, following judicial review of the lawfulness of such detention, it is established that the persons concerned have been detained for no valid reason, the court hearing the case must release them with immediate effect.”
But these people are no longer asylum seekers, as their claims were rejected long ago; therefore, they cannot enter Hungary legally.
The Hungarian Government’s position remains unchanged in that our regulations and legal practices are in line with EU and international law since the migrants could have left the transit zone in the direction of Serbia at any time.
“The decision that was made in the case of the Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers is disappointing,” Minister Gergely Gulyás said at today’s Kormányinfó press conference. He added that the decision clearly aims to force Hungary to take down its border fence and let migrants in.
It is “especially threatening,” Gulyás said, if the ECJ believes that the effective protection of external borders and the consideration of asylum claims outside the Schengen Area is incompatible with EU law. “If this really is the case, then Europe should either consider putting border protection under exclusive member-state authority or adopt stricter norms,” the minister said.
Precisely, and let’s take a step back from all of this and look at an essential detail: In this case – as with many other cases we see on our southern border – we have nationals from far-away countries (in this case Iran and Afghanistan) arriving at the landlocked border of Hungary, the southern border of the EU’s Schengen Area. Asylum seekers are, according to the treaties, supposed to request asylum in the first safe country they reach. Have they done so?