Europe’s Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) announced on Wednesday it had suspended all operations in Hungary over the government’s treatment of asylum seekers.
The move followed a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in December, which found that Hungary “was in breach of EU law” by restricting access to asylum seekers and migrants and by pushing them back over the Hungarian-Serbian border into Serbia.
Reacting to the announcement, the Commission’s migration chief, Ylva Johansson tweeted that “After December’s European Court of Justice ruling demanding Hungary stop pushbacks into Serbia, the suspension of Frontex border operations in Hungary is welcome.”
Earlier in January, the human rights watchdog, namely the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) had accused Frontex of “turning a blind eye towards well-documented systemic human rights violations at Hungary’s Schengen borders” for four years, while it also found that the border agency remained in Hungary after ECJ’s ruling.
HHC supported that since the ruling, 2,000 migrants and asylum seekers have been pushed back out of the country while Frontex was not only still present there but also helping Hungary carry out some documented deportations and expulsion decisions.
“The legalisation of push-backs only exacerbated the violence,” reads the note released by HHC on January 8. Reacting to the reports, in a statement released on Thursday, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) urged countries to conduct “urgent inquiries into alleged violations and mistreatment.”
“UNHCR has received a continuous stream of reports of some European states restricting access to asylum, returning people after they have reached territory or territorial waters, and using violence against them at borders,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs.
“Respecting human lives and refugee rights is not a choice, it’s a legal and moral obligation. While countries have the legitimate right to manage their borders in accordance with international law, they must also respect human rights. Pushbacks are simply illegal,” Triggs added.