Hungary’s asylum restrictions violated European law, says the EU’s best legal adviser

The lawyer for the European Union’s Supreme Court called on the court on Thursday to rule that Hungary is violating the bloc’s asylum laws when it adopted legislation limiting the opportunities for asylum seekers to obtain international protection.

The non-binding opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, Athanasios Rantos, states that the 2018 amendments to Hungary’s asylum laws – which prohibited asylum seekers passing through safe countries on their way to Hungary from receiving international protection – were contrary to EU law.

“By introducing that ground of inadmissibility, Hungary has failed to fulfill its obligations under the Procedural Directive,” Rantos wrote, referring to the EU Asylum Protocol.

Opinions of Advocates General are often but not always followed by the Court of Justice, which will take a final decision in the case at a later stage.

The European Commission, the group’s executive authority, brought the case before the court as part of an infringement procedure it initiated against Hungary in 2018 due to the country’s non-compliance with asylum legislation.

Rantos also called on the court to rule that a Hungarian law cracking down on organizations and individuals providing legal aid to asylum seekers violates EU law. The legislation, known as the “Stop Soros” law, was an amendment to Hungary’s penal code that threatened aid workers and human rights defenders who worked with asylum seekers with up to one year in prison. It was approved by the Hungarian Parliament in 2018.

The law was named after the Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, an advocate of democracy that has long been a goal of the Hungarian government.

Hungary’s right – wing government has been a strong opponent of immigration, and its treatment of migrants has brought it into frequent conflict with the rest of the EU of 27 countries. Last year, the country closed its transit zones – closed areas along the southern border with Serbia used to hold asylum seekers while their asylum applications were decided – after the European Court of Justice ruled that they were detained and thus violated EU law.

Last month, the EU border control agency, Frontex, suspended its activities in Hungary after the Budapest government did not comply with a European court ruling in December ordering Hungary to grant protection to asylum seekers by law and to stop returning them to Serbia.

The country’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, claims he is trying to protect Hungary’s conservative Christian identity and defend Europe from immigration from the Middle East and Africa.