Europe Court Blames Hungary For Syrian Death (Worthy News Feature)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Thursday that Hungary is responsible for the death of a young Syrian who drowned at the Hungarian-Serbian border where 150,000 migrants were “pushed back” last year by Hungarian forces, officials told Worthy News.
The 22-year-old Syrian man, who fled his war-torn nation, drowned in the Tisza river on June 1, 2016, after Hungarian police forced him to return to Serbia, noted the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which supported his case. His name wasn’t published Thursday, apparently amid security concerns for his family.
He tried to cross the river from Serbia into Hungary with his brother, cousin, and an Iraqi family with three children, according to sources familiar with the case.
When they reached the riverbank, “police officers set dogs, shot tear gas, and threw stones at them. Then they forced them back into the river, shouting ‘Go back to Serbia!’,” recalled the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
“The man was injured and drowned in the Tisza. His brother and cousin made it back to the Serbian side,” the advocacy group added. “The Iraqi family was rescued,” but “the mother and children were hospitalized for hypothermia.”
Hungarian authorities failed to effectively investigate the tragedy, according to the ECHR. The Strasbourg-based Court ordered Hungary to pay 34,000 euros ($37,100) in damages to the victim’s brother.
The ECHR said Hungarian authorities failed to protect the life of a man who was clearly in danger.
NO RESCUE SYSTEM
Additionally, the Court found that Hungarian authorities “failed to operate an adequate rescue system along a stretch of river that is known to be dangerous.” They knew that migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty often attempted to cross, the ECHR argued.
Yet Gábor Győző, the attorney of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee representing the surviving brother, had mixed feelings about the ECHR verdict. “I hope the judgment will bring some satisfaction to the victim’s brother. But he will probably never forget the horrors he has experienced and the loss of his 22-year-old brother,” Győző stressed in comments shared with Worthy News.
“It is incomprehensible why this young man, fleeing a civil war in his country, had to die instead of receiving help from the Hungarian police and army. Unfortunately [they] have put a cruel and inhumane border protection policy before protecting human life,” he added.
This wasn’t an isolated incident, suggested the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. The UNHCR said it had already recorded over 100 similar cases of violence against migrants trying to enter Hungary in 2016, a month before the fatal incident.
Hungary legalized pushbacks a month after the Syrian drowned. “This means that the police measure resulting in the death of the young Syrian man was unlawful even according to Hungarian legislation” during the tragedy, noted the Hungarian Helsinki Committee
Since the law was enforced, pushbacks by Hungarian police increased annually from 8,466 cases recorded after July 5, 2016, to over 150,000 in 2022, according to figures shared with Worthy News.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee said it had become nearly impossible for refugees from non-neighboring war-torn countries to seek asylum in Hungary.
Hungary, a European Union member state, enforced an embassy system in 2020, under which asylum seekers can only apply at the Hungarian embassy in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, or Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
However, Hungary’s anti-migration government defended its stance with officials telling Worthy News they want to help refugees in their own region “and not bring the problem to Europe.”
Prime Minister Victor Orbán said European peoples should be free to mix, but that mixing with non-Europeans created a “mixed-race world.”
He later clarified he isn’t a racist. Hungary also supports persecuted Christians, though a relative few are being given asylum, Worthy News learned.
Orbán, who critics view as increasingly authoritarian, oversaw a massive anti-migration fence along his nation’s border with Serbia.
The fence was featured on America’s Fox News Channel amid a debate on tackling the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants through the U.S.-Mexico border.
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