Hungary to house asylum seekers in shipping containers

Hungary to house asylum seekers in shipping containers
Hungary has begun to accommodate asylum seekers in shipping containers despite widespread criticism from the UN and rights groups that it is failing to meet its international humanitarian obligations.
2 min read
29 March, 2017
Hungary is looking to clamp down on asylum seekers entering the country [Getty]
Hungary is set to accomodate asylum seekers in shipping containers in makeshift camps as they wait for their applications to be processed.

The measure follows a ruling from the country's parliament, made three weeks ago, approving the systematic detention of all asylum seekers in the country.

The ruling went into effect on Tuesday and has been criticised by the UN, and rights groups.

324 shipping containers have been installed at two separate locations close to the country’s southern border with Serbia, according to Hungary's interior ministry.  

"The purpose of the restrictions is to prevent migrants with an unclear status from moving freely around the territory of the country and the European Union, and to thereby reduce the security risk of migration," said the Interior Ministry in a statement.

It added that those housed in the new camps would receive three meals a day, in addition to access to beds, personal hygiene packages, lockers, continuous hot water, toilets, mass media and telecommunication equipment and religious rooms.

According to the new law, all asylum seekers over the age of 14 will be accommodated in the shipping containers.

The UN and rights groups including Amnesty International have criticised the scheme, saying it fails to meet Hungary's international obligations to asylum-seekers.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned that accommodating asylum seekers in shipping containers could have "a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who have already greatly suffered".

Hungary previously systematically detained all asylum applicants. However, the practice was suspended in 2013 in the midst of a growing wave of migration into Europe, and under pressure from the European Union, the UN refugee agency, and the European Court of Human Rights.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a national refugee rights group, says that 400 asylum seekers are currently housed in internal camps in the country, and are now facing being transferred to the border camps.

Other organisations put the number closer to 600, still a paltry figure when compared to the number of asylum seekers currently in other EU states such as Italy, Greece, Austria, or Germany.

Hungary is also scheduled to complete a new "smart fence" replete with night cameras, heat and movement sensors, and multilingual megaphones warning against crossing the border, by May.

Scores of refugees have been injured on the Hungarian-Serbian border over the past year. According to Doctors Without Borders refugees have been been attacked by Hungarian border guards, as Hungary's right-wing government seeks to clamp down on asylum seekers attempting to enter the EU via its borders.