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Letter of Protest from legal professionals to the Hungarian Ambassador in the UK

Peter Szabadhegy,
Ambassador of Hungary to the UK,
Hungarian Embassy,
35 Eaton Place
London SW1X 8BY

23 October 2015

We, the undersigned, Lawyers and other professionals in the UK concerned with criminal, immigration and asylum Law, and with civil liberties and human rights, are writing to ask you to convey to your government our grave concern at the measures it has recently drafted into Law in response to the humanitarian crisis on Hungary’s borders.

The new offence of unauthorised entry into the territory through a closed border, which is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment (or up to five years if carried out with a weapon or as part of a riot) appears to violate Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, which prohibits penalties against unLawful entry if undertaken by refugees (including asylum seekers, who are presumptive refugees), provided they have come directly from the country of persecution and present themselves to the authorities promptly. The requirement to ‘come directly’ from the country of persecution, as the travaux préparatoires to the Convention and the UNHCR Guidelines, make clear, is designed to prevent secondary movements of refugees who have been granted asylum in third countries. It should not be used to criminalise refugees who have merely transited through third countries.

Similarly, the new offence of damaging the border closure, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment) violates the Refugee Convention insofar as damage to the fence is necessary to effect entry to the territory.

We understand that around 500 prosecutions have been brought in the first two weeks of operation of the new measures.  But criminal procedures for those arrested appear to breach human rights standards as set out in Article 6 ECHR (fair trial provisions) in several respects, such as:
Failure to provide interpreters, so as to ensure that defendants understand the charge and can participate fully in the trial process;
Deprivation of normal protections offered to juveniles facing criminal charges;
House arrest in camps where normal preparations for trial (meeting with defence Lawyers, access to trial documents, telephone calls, etc.) are denied or rendered impossible.

Measures and practices which violate equality of arms and render trials unfair have no place in any Council of Europe member state.

Other new Laws which cause grave concern include:

Authorisation of the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and ‘all available measures’ by security forces at the border, which, together with the erection of the border fence, denies access to the border by refugees, contrary to the Refugee Convention;

The criminalisation of any assistance to anyone who has entered the country unLawfully, including the offering of lifts, food and shelter for humanitarian purposes, under the rubric of a crackdown on smuggling;

The creation of ‘transit zones’ on Hungarian territory, on the border with Serbia, at which asylum seekers are routinely detained;

Impossibly fast processing of asylum claims and appeals;

Returns to unsafe third countries

We wish to add our voices to those of the more than 160 Hungarian Lawyers who have signed the declaration of Dr Sandor Esik and Dr Balazs Csire expressing their concern and anger at the violations of due process and lack of procedural safeguards for defendants in the new Laws. We urge your government to respect Hungary’s international obligations to refugee rights, human rights and the rule of Law.

Yours  sincerely,

Neena Acharya, Solicitor
Andrew Alexander, Partner, Alexander & Co Solicitors
Rebecca Amos, Assistant psychologist
Maria Aristedemou, Reader in Law, Birkbeck College, University of London
Ali Naseem Bajwa QC
Liz Barratt, Partner, Bindmans LLP Solicitors
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Jacobo Borrero, Solicitor
Mark Bowman, Solicitor
Nicola Braganza, Barrister
Dr Eddie Bruce-Jones, Senior lecturer in Law, Birkbeck
Susan Bryant, Barrister
Jonathan Butterworth, Barrister
Dr John Campbell, Reader in Anthropology and Law, SOAS
Grace Capel, Barrister
Rebecca Carr, Legal caseworker
Judith Carter, Solicitor
Kathryn Cronin, Barrister
Helen Curtis, Barrister
Liz Davies, Barrister
Tim Davies, Legal caseworker
Christopher Desira, Solicitor
Professor Costas Douzinas, School of Law, Birkbeck
Laura Dubinsky, Barrister
Annette Elder, Partner, Elder Rahimi Solicitors
Nadine El-Enany, Lecturer in Law, Birkbeck
Jane Elliott-Kelly, Barrister
Attieh Fard, Solicitor
Liz Fekete, Director, Institute of Race Relations
Dr Nuno Ferreira, Senior Law lecturer, University of Liverpool
Justine Fisher, Barrister
Professor Peter Fitzpatrick, School of Law, Birkbeck
Helen Foot, Barrister
Kay Foxall, Solicitor
Eric Fripp, Barrister
Professor Adam Gearey, School of Law, Birkbeck
Rosalyn Akar Grams, Solicitor
Celia Graves, Barrister
Jen Greenwood, Solicitor
Amy Grey, Solicitor
Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond OBE, Emerita Professor, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
Leonie Hirst, Barrister
Tod Hodson, Solicitor
Raza Husain QC
Majid Hussain
Ariston Ibarondo, Solicitor
Kim Jackson-Blott, Trainee clinical psychologist
David Jones, Barrister
Andrew Jordan, Immigration adviser
Peter Jorro, Barrister
Ian Kane, Legal services manager
Dr Sarah Keenan, Law lecturer, Birkbeck
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC
Charine Khan, Solicitor
Shazia Khan, Barrister
Stephen Knafler QC
Catrin Lewis, Barrister
Gemma Loughran, Barrister
Jacqui Lovell, Community psychologist
Stephen Lue, Barrister
Keelin McCarthy, Barrister
Ian Macdonald QC
Donatus Marcus, Solicitor
Nicole Masri, Solicitor
James Mehigan, Barrister
Elizabeth Millar, Solicitor
Terry Munyard, Barrister
Sonali Naik, Barrister
David Neale, Barrister
Greg O’Ceallaigh, Barrister
Ed O’Driscoll, Solicitor
Raphael Onyango, Solicitor
Alison Pickup, Barrister
Krisha Prathepan, Solicitor
Chris Randall, Solicitor
Raj Rayan, Immigration adviser
Fiona Ripley, Solicitor
Philippa Roffey, Solicitor
Dan Rosenberg, Solicitor
Sadat Sayeed, Barrister
Isaac Shaffer, Solicitor
Sophie Spector, Solicitor
Nikki Swan, Clinical psychologist
Mark Symes, Barrister
Leslie Thomas QC
Ronan Toal, Barrister
Hamza Tramboo, Law student
Shireen Tramboo, Law practice professional
Giulia Tranchina, Solicitor
Anthony Vaughan, Barrister
Annie Campbell Viswanathan, Supervising immigration caseworker
Frances Webber, Barrister (retired)
Mary Westcott, Barrister
Jo Wilding, Barrister
Marc Willers QC
Rebekah Wilson, Barrister
Sheona York, Solicitor

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Refugee numbers hysteria continued…

Recently I asked about why Viktor Orban had said no to having 54,000 refugees taken away from Hungary.  I saw an excellent interview with Kim Scheppele on Hungarian Spectrum explaining how this would call Orban’s bluff.

Eva Balogh’s HUNGARIAN SPECTRUM: video interview with Kim Scheppele and others

While right wing politicians keep stoking fear by hysterically citing ever greater numbers of refugees entering the country, they keep fairly quiet about the fact that they leave straight away.  This is like panicking about the number of people entering Heathrow airport over the course of the day.  There are moments when it gets crowded but by evening the only persons you will see are the cleaners.

The interview with Scheppele also addressed the point of refugees who have initially landed in Greece not being returned there. Last year the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg deemed that Greece was not a safe country which explains why migrants entering the EU first by Greece and then proceeding along the Balkan route through Hungary should be registered first in Hungary.  Scheppele does not mention the ruling but there have been cases brought before the court where the shortcomings of Greece’s asylum procedure are referred to and that in returning asylum seekers to Greece, such applicants were being exposed to risks.

So the fearmongering in Central and Eastern European countries continues unabated with the authorities liberally using the tactic of confusing people with numbers.  The Hungarian government’s latest billboard campaign chillingly says “The People Have Decided:  Hungary Must Protect Its Borders” (subtext: against the Muslim hordes).  Obviously this kind “Christian” (really?) attitude prevails over any Buddhist notion of karma.  The welcome received by those Hungarians fleeing in 1956 leaves the Magyars of today stone cold.

With Russia having entered the arena in Syria, bungled air strikes tantamount to war crimes in Afghanistan and tragic suicide bombings in Turkey, the flow of refugees is only going to increase and now that border crossing options are disappearing the next probable route will be a dangerous sea crossing into Ukraine and then Poland where the Law and Justice Party are the favourites to win the autumn parliamentary elections.  Already President Duda is showing himself to be not the president of all Poles but only of the ones subscribing to the “Christian values” of his own party.  Watch while Poland even outdoes Hungary in racist rhetoric.  It’s already happening.


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Confused about the figures?

agenda council


I was talking to the taxi driver on the way to Budapest airport today about Viktor Orban opting out of the scheme  to take 54,000 asylum seekers out of Hungary and getting a flat rate of 500 euro for the transport costs for each person. He said surely I’d got it wrong.  I said he could go to the EU Commission website and see for himself. I don’t understand why the Hungarian government rejected the measure either and anyone who can give me a sensible answer is cordially invited to post it on this blog.

At first the scheme was only for Greece and Italy, the EU border states which have most struggled with large flows of asylum seekers.  Then during the first eight months of 2015 Hungary experienced more than 145000 irregular border crossings with the so called Balkan route suddenly surging in popularity.  Because of this the Hungarian State was awarded almost 7 million euro emergency funding under the EU Asylum Migration and Integration Fund and the Internal Security Fund. So far however, only 3000 people have been registered and it is clear that the government are more intent on sealing borders to prevent more arrivals than registering and processing the people who are already there.

So this 9th September, the European Commission proposed the emergency relocation of 120,000 asylum seekers away from Greece, Italy and Hungary thereby relieving some of the pressure those countries are experiencing in registering and processing all the arrivals.  Member states receiving the asylum seekers would get 6000 Euro per person including 50% money up front so that they could act fast.  States from where the asylum seekers are relocated would get 500 euro per head for transportation costs.  The distribution of the asylum seekers would be done on the basis of a quota system.  The European Parliament had its say on the matter on the 17th September and gave the scheme its blessing.

When the  EU Justice and Home Affairs council of Ministers met to adopt the Commission proposal last week, Hungary did not wish to be included as beneficiary of the emergency relocation scheme “ The Council agreed that the 54,000 who would have been taken out of Hungary will now be relocated from other countries which suddenly find themselves under pressure following a sudden inflow of third country nationals.


Commission proposal in Hungarian

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Hungarian Spectrum Article on announced State of Emergency


The Hungarian army will soon receive its marching orders | Hungarian Spectrum


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An Utter Disgrace (video)

Rözske, Hungary:  Refugees fleeing persecution are thrown food like circus animals without a shred of dignity.  In some ways this is even more upsetting than the incident of the camerawoman tripping over the man and child as hers was the action of an individual cold blooded hater, while this is institutionalised cruelty.  Yes, psychological cruelty.  I can hardly believe my eyes but this is no Hollywood set.


click on the picture to go to the video


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