Brussels against Budapest. This Friday, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary in connection with a decree providing for the release of hundreds of migrant smugglers with a view to their deportation. At the end of April, the government of Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban decided to release 700 prisoners convicted of human trafficking, most of them from surrounding countries.
The decree instructs them to “leave Hungarian territory within 72 hours”, to serve the rest of their prison sentence in their country of habitual residence or nationality. Hungarian authorities argue that prisons are facing a rise in the number of inmates convicted of human trafficking – they currently account for 13% of the total, or some 2,600 people from 73 countries. The decree published on April 27 therefore aims to limit “the cost for Hungarian taxpayers”.
This decision had in particular aroused the dissatisfaction of Austria, which had tightened its border controls with its Hungarian neighbor and summoned the ambassador of this country.
“Brussels implements policies favorable to immigration”
No provision is made for monitoring the application of the detention sentence for smugglers outside Hungary, underlines the European Commission, which considers that “such shortened penalties applied to people convicted of human smuggling are neither effective nor dissuasive”.
The EU executive has sent a letter of formal notice to Hungary, which has two months to respond to its concerns. Such a procedure can lead to the referral to European justice, and to possible financial sanctions. But Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto blasted the move. “The human trafficking model works because Brussels implements policies favorable to immigration,” he charged.