The European Commission voted Friday to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union, alleging that Hungary failed to comply with a 2020 Court of Justice judgment ordering reform of Hungary’s exclusionary asylum laws. The Commission has alleged that Hungary’s laws regarding asylum procedure are contrary to EU law and is requesting that a lump sum fine and daily penalty payment be imposed until the laws are amended.
The dispute originated in 2015, when Hungary enacted legislation that mandated denial to asylum procedure for non-EU asylum-seekers who arrived in Hungary after traveling through “safe countries of origin” and “safe third countries”, which included Serbia and several other Balkans nations. The Hungarian government also built a border fence along the Serbian border and used riot police to repulse asylum seekers trying to cross closed border points. Following the passage of this law, Hungary began summarily denying asylum applications from individuals who arrived on its southern border, which frequently included Syrian refugees fleeing conflict, under the guise of a “crisis situation caused by mass immigration”.
This policy violated Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that the right to asylum will be guaranteed for asylum-seekers in all EU member states. By preventing some arrivals in Hungary from seeking asylum, and by creating certain “transit zones” at the Serbian-Hungarian border where arrivals were detained until they were deported to Serbia, the 2020 Court of Justice ruling found Hungary in violation of European law and ordered Hungary’s compliance with EU law. Hungary has brought the matter to the Hungarian Constitutional Court and stated that it cannot comply with the European ruling until its own court rules on the issue.
Stating that European law takes primacy over Member state law in immigration matters, the Commission seeks punitive measures until Hungary changes its policies towards refugees. In March, the UN estimated that Hungarian authorities had removed more than 71,000 asylum-seekers under its exclusionary asylum laws.