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A Cautionary Tale: The United States Follows Hungary’s Dangerous Path to Dismantling Asylum

Hungary is not alone in pursuing its anti-immigrant agenda and the United States is merely steps behind.

In 2015, Hungary’s anti-immigrant government responded to an influx of asylum-seekers fleeing refugee crises in regions like Syria and Afghanistan by declaring a “crisis due to mass immigration.” 

The government built a border wall  and instituted a new set of restrictive laws and practices severely limiting access to asylum in the country. Only two asylum-seekers per business day are permitted to apply for asylum in Hungary – approximately 10 per week. Once they are allowed in, almost all are held in detention throughout their asylum process. The vast majority of claims are rejected. Even those fortunate enough to receive protection find that the government has ceased all resettlement and integration services and threatens to jail civil society workers, the last bastion of legal, integration, or humanitarian support.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights organization supporting refugees in Budapest and Unitarian Universalist Service Committee partner, has identified four steps the government took to dismantle asylum there:

  1. Asylum-seekers are denied access to the country
  2. Asylum-seekers face hostile conditions when they arrive
  3. The government removes safeguards for asylum-seekers
  4. The government obstructs the integration of refugees

A Cautionary Tale: The United States Follows Hungary’s Dangerous Path to Dismantling Asylum reveals the disturbing parallels between the steps Hungary took to dismantle asylum and the United States’ increasingly restrictive and punishing asylum system. The United States criminalizes border crossing; the current administration instituted a “Muslim Ban;” more than 40,000 immigrants are held in detention; asylum-seekers are rushed into “expedited removal;” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has challenged a precedent allowing domestic violence as a basis for asylum; and humanitarian aid workers face felony charges for their work supporting migrants. These and other policies parallel Hungary’s path to dismantling asylum.

The report argues that the United States must work to rebuild its asylum system and uphold its responsibility as a place of refuge for those seeking protection. 

Read the press release.

Download the full report (pdf).

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