The derelict building with no electricity serves as a final stop for migrants in Serbia before crossing over into Hungary to seek asylum.
The complex is one of two new detention centers for asylum seekers in the Hungarian transit zone.
The next morning new regulations from Prime Minister Victor Orbán’s government were to come into effect under which migrants-including families fleeing war like the Surchis, and unaccompanied minors between the age of 14 and 18-will be automatically detained in the transit zone while their claims are investigated.
Hungary only took in 400 out of the 30,000 who claimed asylum in 2016.
The new law institutes blanket detention for all asylum seekers without differentiating between people who have suffered trauma or need special care and those who might on an exceptional basis warrant being detained.
“People who are effectively held in a barbed wire encampment which is guarded by armed guards are not getting a decision on detention that they could then challenge before a court,” says Marta Pardavi, co-director of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a prominent human-rights organization in Budapest.
“That’s very clearly a violation of the EU asylum law and human rights standards.”
For the Surchis, who paid smugglers to get from Dohuk to Turkey to Bulgaria, and then Serbia, where they’ve already been stuck for five months, the new law presents them with two bad options: stay in Serbia, where conditions are very poor, or enter the prison-like camp and wait in hopes they will be granted asylum.
The two new detention camps and the construction of a second fence along Hungary’s 108-mile border with Serbia are the latest in a series of anti-migration measures enacted by Orbán’s populist right-wing government, which is also in the process of deploying a new “Border hunter” police force.
Calling migration “a poison” threatening European culture, Orbán refused last year to take in Hungary’s quota of 1,294 refugees under an EU program to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy among all member states.
Orbán’s government vociferously defends the new detention centers, calling them “Physical and legal barriers to protect Europe’s borders.” It argues that the camps in the transit zones do not constitute detention because asylum seekers can leave anytime to Serbia, which it considers a safe third country.
A recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights found that Serbia could not automatically be considered safe and that detention in the transit zone is, legally speaking, detention.
Hungary today hosts only about 400 asylum seekers, a striking example of how strong anti-immigrant views often flourish in places with few actual migrants.
“These are people that Hungary has the capacity to deal with.”
Like the Surchi family, they were all living in one room of the former store, waiting for their turn to get into Hungary.
Standing on a crate I could look out over the top of the new detention center next door.
Very reluctantly, when their turn comes they plan to try their luck with the Hungarian asylum process-even though they’ve heard that their cell phones will be confiscated and they could be pushed back to Serbia even after waiting for months in detention.
Original story: Hungary Is Forcing All Asylum Seekers into Detention Camps