ECJ rules against Hungary over restrictive Covid-19 asylum law News
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ECJ rules against Hungary over restrictive Covid-19 asylum law

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Thursday that Hungary’s restrictive asylum laws passed during the COVID-19 pandemic violated European Union (EU) law.

The law requires that foreign nationals seeking international protection in Hungary first submit declarations of intent at the Hungarian embassies in Belgrade, Serbia or Kyiv, Ukraine. The Court found that the condition violated the EU directive on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, and “is contrary to its objective of ensuring effective, easy and rapid access to the procedure for granting international protection.”

The Court also held that the legislation “deprives the third-country nationals or stateless persons concerned of the effective enjoyment of their right to seek asylum from Hungary, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.” It stated that the procedure implemented by Hungary, justified by the country as a means of protecting public health, constitutes a “manifestly disproportionate interference” with asylum seekers’ rights. The Court further reasoned that the measure, which ostensibly aimed to limit the spread of COVID-19, would increase the virus’ transmission by requiring individuals to travel first to an embassy in another country and then back into Hungary.

Hungary’s minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás, stated, “We regret that the Court has made such a decision, but we also regret that the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union have forced us to create this legislation in the first place.”

The ECJ decision marks a continuation of tensions between Hungary and the rest of the EU over Hungary’s repeated crackdown on migrants entering the country and the controversial policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The EU has declared the country a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy.”

Following the ECJ ruling, the European Commission (EC) may either attempt to persuade Hungary to amend or withdraw the legislation or request that the Court impose fines on Hungary.