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Friday, May 22, 2020

The E.U. Court Says No to Hungarian Asylum Detention Camps: A Test for E.U. Federalism

On May 11, 2020, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the E.U.’s highest court, ruled against the state of Hungary on its detention camp near the Serbian border. The state had denied the asylum requests because the immigrants had come through Serbia, and the latter refused to allow them to reverse course. The immigrants were thus stuck, essentially detained in “prison-like conditions.”[1] The high court ruled that the “conditions prevailing in the Roszke transit zone amount to a deprivation of liberty.”[2] ECJ Advocate General Priit Pikamae had argued that the “unlawful detention” was due to the “high degree of restriction of the freedom of movement.”[3] The state of Hungary had argued that the immigrants could have stayed in Servia, as it was a safe-country of transit, and thus were not eligible for asylum in Hungary. Unlike Hungary, Serbia was not an E.U. state, which may be why the asylum-seekers did not want to remain in Serbia. Hence being a border state added to Hungary’s woes. Therefore, the E.U. had some responsibility to alleviate the pressure on Hungary. Yet the Union did not do so, showing its weakness, and yet the state government bowed to the ECJ’s ruling. To the extent that the E.U. relies on such self-subordination in the want of federal help, the E.U. could be said to be on borrowed time during which basic adjustments to the federal system could be made.

1. Deutsche Welle, “Hungary Illegally Held Asylum-Seekers, ECJ Rules,” DW.com, May 14, 2020 (accessed May 22, 2020).
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.