Open letter to the Members of the Hungarian Parliament

Friday 3, July 2015

Dear Madam, Sir,

I am approaching you on behalf of the thousands of desperate, traumatized asylum-seekers and refugees who are fleeing war, who have been denied safety and protection in their homes and are on the run to save their lives. In the coming days the Hungarian Parliament is planning to discuss a number of legislative amendments in a rushed manner, the adoption of which would jeopardize the lives and safety of asylum-seekers arriving from war zones to seek safety here.

If the draft amendments to the Asylum Act, the Aliens-police Act and the Act on National Frontiers are adopted and implemented with the plans of building a fence along the Serbian-Hungarian border, and declaring Serbia a safe third country - this would make it impossible for people fleeing persecution to access international protection in Hungary.

I am sure, you agree with us, that people fleeing bombs and bullets – women, children, the old and young need to be treated with humanity and compassion in accordance with the world’s most noble traditions of providing refuge to those who are in need. Today, the world looks at Hungary as vulnerable women, children and families have no other option but to seek safety in this country. The proposed measures will bring legal and physical barriers, which could have fatal consequences.

Your verdict on this issue is a matter of life or death for thousands of desperate people. The draft amendments would limit access to the territory of the country, would undermine the right to a fair asylum procedure which as a result could lead to the denial of international protection for those in need. It is particularly worrisome that the draft amendments would continue to enable the lengthy detention of asylum-seekers and the detention of families. Seeking asylum is not a crime – and children especially don’t belong behind bars.

Apart from failing on moral and basic humanitarian standards, the proposed amendments are not in line with Hungary’s obligations under international treaties. 

Hungary has a proud history of always keeping its doors open to people fleeing history’s most severe humanitarian storms. Today, unfortunately, the situation is dramatic and the international community once again counts on the solidarity and sympathy of Hungary and its people. More than 75 percent of the asylum-seekers who arrive here come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, countries ravaged by brutal war and instability. So far the majority of these refugees has been hosted by neighbouring countries with 1.7 million people in Turkey, 1.1 million people in Lebanon and 2.5 million refugees in Pakistan and Iran.

Dear Madam/Sir, I would like to ask you to put yourself in the shoes of a Syrian refugee for a moment. What would you do if your house was bombed, the life of your family was in danger and your only glimmer of hope seemed to be a safe-looking Europe? And how would you feel if you ran into walls and towers of bureaucratic obstacles here?

We of course acknowledge the right of states to defend their borders and the security of their citizens, but we think this can be ensured in a way that does not jeopardize the safety of people in need of protection. UNHCR is ready to work with the Hungarian authorities to find solutions that correspond to both the letter and spirit of international law.

The world welcomed the refugees of Hungary in 1956. I would like to ask you to decide over the fate of refugee families similarly in the spirit of global solidarity when the proposals are debated in the Hungarian Parliament. I have no doubts that you want to stand with the weak, the victims, the persecuted not the other way around.

Yours sincerely,

Montserrat Feixas Vihé
UNHCR Regional Representative in Central Europe

Click here to download the letter in pdf. 

 

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