Hungary's cruel treatment of refugees has reached a new low. On Tuesday, in defiance of international law, the Parliament approved the mass detention of asylum seekers, including children, in guarded camps enclosed with razor wire. The European Union has said in a directive that "Member States shall not hold a person in detention for the sole reason that he or she is an applicant" for asylum; moreover, Hungary's treatment of refugee children defies international law.
To justify the move, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, echoing President Donald Trump's views, has called refugees the "Trojan horse of terrorism." When Mr. Orban was denounced by the United Nations and human rights organizations for the new policy, he dismissed the chorus of condemnation as "charming human rights nonsense."
Though Mr. Orban derides the European Union's values, Hungary has no trouble taking its support, having received 5.6 billion euros from the union in 2015. With calculated timing, Hungary's new plan for refugees was approved the day after it got the green light from the union for a Russian-built nuclear plant.
Clearly, Mr. Orban is playing the European Union for a patsy. At what point will the union have the courage to take action against his policies?
Hungary has treated desperate refugees with incredible cruelty since the beginning of Europe's refugee crisis. In the summer of 2015, it built a razor-wire fence along its southern border with Serbia, and directed its border patrol to kick as many people as possible back to the other side. In its annual report on human rights, released this month, America's State Department said Hungary's "most significant human rights problem remained the government's handling of migrants and asylum seekers." On Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders said their medical personnel treated 106 refugees between January 2016 and last month for injuries inflicted by Hungarian border patrols, including beating injuries and dog bites, decrying the level of abuse as a "ritual of brutality."
As if all this weren't bad enough, Hungary is recruiting and training a new cadre of "border hunters," citizens who will be armed with pistols, batons, pepper spray and handcuffs and given the mission of beating refugees back from the country's border.
The European Union is spooked by Britain's decision to leave the bloc, and wary of defiant nationalism on the rise in Central and Eastern Europe. But the bloc must ask itself at what point tolerating Hungary's repudiation of its basic values will render its union meaningless.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 March 2017 08:57