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Threat of EU sanctions for Hungary – stern warning for Poland

On 17 May, the European Commission decided to take another step under the procedure carried out in the case of violation of EU provisions by Hungary. The EC referred to measured introduced to Hungarian asylum law. Human rights organisations warn in the joint statement that this is a clear message for the Polish government that current draft amendments to the act governing international protection may, should they be adopted, result in EU sanctions.

The measures adopted in Hungary allow for a forced return of refugees to Serbia without any prior relevant proceedings. Applications for a refugee status may be filed only with separated “transit zones” at the border with Serbia and Croatia, where transport containers designed for the temporary accommodation of migrants and refugees have been placed. Every person seeking an asylum is subject to an automatic detention.

As indicated by the European Commission in its letter of formal notice, border procedures introduced in Hungary does not comply with EU law and special guarantees for vulnerable individuals. The EC stated that new measures adopted in Hungary grossly infringed fundamental EU standards and values and the introduced package was another step aimed to create a hostile policy towards refugees. The EU decided to move forward with the infringement procedure against Hungary.

Closing its borders and refusing the right of entry to persons seeking protection, Poland applies the same standard-violating measures that are used by the Hungarian government. In January 2017, the Minister of the Interior and Administration presented a draft amendment to the law on granting international protection to foreigners. It provides for, among other things, a development of a list of safe countries of origin and nearly automatic detention of persons seeking international protection who have filed their application for granting international protection at a border crossing.

Stigmatising statements of politicians, an unfavourable practice of applying the law and the proposed legislative changes have an actual impact on the life of people seeking protection. Poland has to abandon this policy and take a step towards developing a policy complying with international regulations and respecting rights of persons fleeing danger. Otherwise, the Polish government must consider consequences, warn the organisations in the joint statement.

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