Firstly, as a recent Hungarian Helsinki Committee report notes, detention of asylum seekers has become a routine practice to regulate migration. Far from being used only in exceptional cases, as it was initially conceived, detention in Hungary is a deliberate, arbitrary, and frequently employed measure of ‘containing’ first-time asylum-seekers. It crassly targets males, and blatantly disregards the diverse vulnerabilities of asylum-seekers.
Secondly, history has shown that imprisonment has been a preferred measure of the powerful to silence the voices of the weak. By detaining asylum-seekers and migrants in general, the Immigration Office (OIN) and the Hungarian government deny them the right of self-determination, and the basic freedom to shape their daily well-being. How can people be treated so indiscriminately and unapologetically bad by their fellow humans, and afterwards persuaded to become democratically involved in the affairs of the Hungarian polity? How can people be asked to integrate and learn the language in Hungary, if their first welcome to the country is through the doors of a jail? To any outside observer this feels like a fundamental betrayal of the ideals of justice and liberty from tyranny championed so publicly by Prime Minister Orbán himself in the 1989 Revolution.
Thirdly, as civil wars, climate disasters and abject poverty leave their bloody scars on the skin of history, the first words of the Preamble to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights echo ever more loudly today : “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world...”. Considering that the same document’s ninth article forbids “arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”, how can one reconcile the bitter reality with the high ideals that democratic countries such as Hungary have sworn to uphold, not only for themselves but for the common good of the “human family”?
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