Amnesty slams Hungary’s migrant ‘abuse’ ahead of vote
Hundreds of migrants and refugees have suffered physical abuse, illegal border pushbacks and unlawful detention at the hands of Hungarian authorities
Amnesty International on Tuesday denounced Hungary’s right-wing government for “deliberately” mistreating asylum seekers and whipping up anti-migrant fears ahead of a national vote on the EU’s troubled refugee relocation plan.
“Against the backdrop of a toxic referendum campaign, poisonous anti-refugee rhetoric is reaching fever pitch,” the international rights group said in a report.
Hundreds of migrants and refugees have suffered physical abuse, illegal border pushbacks and unlawful detention at the hands of Hungarian authorities in recent months, Amnesty said.
The study is based on research conducted last month in Serbia, Hungary and Austria -- three key countries along the Balkan migrant trail -- and includes interviews with 129 migrants.
People stuck in so-called “transit zones” on the Hungarian-Serbian border told Amnesty they had been “beaten, kicked and chased by dogs” before Hungarian guards forcefully pushed them back into Serbia.
The group said the “appalling treatment” of migrants and the denial of effective asylum procedures were a “deliberate populist ploy” to deter refugees from entering the country.
“The toxic rhetoric of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, calling asylum-seekers ‘poison’, has trickled down to the level of local government and often permeates the context, in which police and local asylum centres operate,” Amnesty said.
In July, Human Rights Watch had already slammed Budapest for its “cruel and violent treatment” of migrants.
Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly fleeing war in Syria, trekked through Hungary in 2015 on their way to western Europe, before Orban sealed off the southern borders with razor wire fences in the autumn.
Hungary’s increasingly hardline stance, which also saw the introduction of tough anti-migrant laws, prompted the European Commission to open an infringement procedure in December.
Amnesty said Orban had replaced “the rule of law with the rule of fear” to encourage voters to reject the EU proposal in the October 2 vote.
The referendum will ask Hungarians whether they support the EU’s plan to relocate migrants among the bloc’s 28 member states without the approval of national parliaments.
So far Hungary has not taken in a single migrant under the scheme, which fierce Brussels critic Orban sees as an attack on national sovereignty.
In the lead-up to the referendum, his government has plastered lamp-posts and billboards nationwide with posters linking immigration with terrorism and crime.
Nearly two dozen Hungarian NGOs have urged voters to boycott what they have termed the “inhumane” referendum.