European rights official denounces new Hungarian asylum law

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Europe's top human rights official said Wednesday he was "deeply concerned" about a new law in Hungary that allows authorities to detain all asylum-seekers in closed border camps, including families with children and unaccompanied minors over 14 years old.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said that the measure, planned to be implemented in the coming weeks, would breach Hungary's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Rather than resorting to detention, Hungary should invest in effective, accessible alternatives to detention. In particular, Hungary should refrain from the detention of children," Muiznieks said in a statement. "I am deeply concerned (that the new legislation) is likely to exacerbate the already highly problematic situation of asylum-seekers in Hungary."

The legislation adopted Tuesday by the governing Fidesz party and the far-right Jobbik party continues the severe anti-migrant policies instituted by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has said that "dreamy human rights gibberish" cannot override Hungarian laws.

Hungary's treatment of refugee children has been a target of criticism by rights groups before, including the Council of Europe, which on Monday called on Hungary to comply with age verification procedures it subscribed to.

According to the council's report Hungary was the only country surveyed which did not follow the principle that in case of doubt about a person's age, they are treated as minors and given protection until verification is completed.

Doris Fiala, the general rapporteur on ending immigration detention of children for the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, also criticized the new Hungarian rules. She said minors "should not be detained at all under the standards acknowledged by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Hungary is a signatory to."