Hungary to Keep Migrants in Shipping Containers

Hungary announced plans to begin detaining migrants in shipping containers on February 9. The refugees will be held in these containers as they wait for decisions on their asylum applications. János Lázár, head of the Prime Minister’s Office, reported that containers "suitable for accommodating 200 to 300 people will be erected. Migrants will have to wait there for a legally binding decision on their claims," and that "people's freedom of movement will be removed, they will be able to stay only in a place designated for them." This means that asylum-seekers in Hungary will be kept in shipping containers until they are either accepted into the country on asylum claims or sent back over the border. Hungary is in conflict with the European Union because right-wing President Viktor Orban has refused to adhere to the EU refugee quota and has built a fence on the Serbian border. Migrants that make it to the shipping containers will still require that their claims for asylum be approved. However, Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, reports that Hungary rejects more than 80 percent of the claims they receive—one of the lowest acceptance rates in the EU. An EU directive states that asylum seekers cannot be “held in detention for the sole reason that he or she is seeking international protection.” This will come into conflict with Hungary's plan to house the refugees in shipping containers.

The border between Hungary and Serbia is used by refugees seeking entrance to Europe through the Balkans. Almost six months ago, the government announced the country would close its borders, and a four-meter-high, 175-kilometer-long razor-wire fence was constructed. Since then, the police have established constant patrols using dogs, drones, and other surveillance equipment to prevent migrants from entering through the Hungary-Serbia border. A second wall is being planned as well. These measures have caused migrant levels to drop dramatically, but police in Hungary report that many are still getting through. Last year, more than 2,200 people were arrested climbing the wall or attempting to cross the border by other means.