GENEVA (Reuters) - Hungary’s tough treatment of refugees arriving at its border hoping to find asylum in the European Union has been “xenophobic and anti-Muslim” and at times violated international law, the U.N. human rights commission chief said on Thursday.
His comments followed a rebuke of Hungarian tactics from the EU’s migration chief. The asylum seekers, thwarted by a new Hungarian border fence and repelled by riot police, have begun pouring into Croatia instead.
“High Commissioner Zeid (Ra‘ad al Hussein) deplored the xenophobic and anti-Muslim views that appear to lie at the heart of current Hungarian government policy,” a statement by his Geneva-based agency said.
Images of women and children being assaulted with tear gas and water cannon at Hungary’s frontier with Serbia were ”truly shocking”, Zeid said.
“I am appalled at the callous, and in some cases illegal, actions of the Hungarian authorities in recent days, which include denying entry to, arresting, summarily rejecting and returning refugees, using disproportionate force on migrants and refugees, as well as reportedly assaulting journalists and seizing video documentation.”
New rules that Hungary brought in overnight between Monday and Tuesday, criminalizing irregular entry into Hungary, are incompatible with Budapest’s human rights commitments, he added.
”Seeking asylum is not a crime, and neither is entering a country irregularly.”
He said the refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa trying to reach the EU had no other option but to rely on people smugglers since there were no resettlement programs or regular migration channels that they could depend on.
He urged the EU to urgently agree more human rights-driven policies and said he was extremely concerned at repeated failures to take firm, principled actions to tackle the crisis.
European Council President Donald Tusk said in a tweet on Thursday he had summoned EU leaders to an extraordinary summit next Wednesday to discuss migration and a proposed scheme to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers across the 28-nation bloc.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich