Europe

Hungary to put asylum-seekers in border container camp

  • A Hungarian police officer stands guard at Serbia's border with Hungary near a makeshift camp for migrants in Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday that it is "highly urgent" for countries to live up to their pledges, with the legally binding scheme set to expire in September. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    A Hungarian police officer stands guard at Serbia's border with Hungary near a makeshift camp for migrants in Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday that it is "highly urgent" for countries to live up to their pledges, with the legally binding scheme set to expire in September. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

  • Migrants walk by an abandoned brick factory in the northern Serbian town of Subotica, near the border between Serbia and Hungary, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. European Union countries have only taken in around 12,000 refugees from overburdened Greece and Italy despite promising to share 160,000 almost 18 months ago. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Migrants walk by an abandoned brick factory in the northern Serbian town of Subotica, near the border between Serbia and Hungary, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. European Union countries have only taken in around 12,000 refugees from overburdened Greece and Italy despite promising to share 160,000 almost 18 months ago. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

  • A migrant walks through the makeshift refugee camp near the Horgos border crossing into the Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. European Union countries have only taken in around 12,000 refugees from overburdened Greece and Italy despite promising to share 160,000 almost 18 months ago. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    A migrant walks through the makeshift refugee camp near the Horgos border crossing into the Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. European Union countries have only taken in around 12,000 refugees from overburdened Greece and Italy despite promising to share 160,000 almost 18 months ago. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)  (The Associated Press)

Hungary plans to hold migrants in border camps made up of shipping containers while their asylum requests are settled, a top official said Thursday.

Janos Lazar, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, also said once new rules are in place, any migrants detained anywhere in Hungary without documents allowing them to be in the country will be returned across the border.

Human rights advocates noted that Hungary was already holding large numbers of asylum-seekers in closed camps and that the massive, indiscriminate detention of all asylum-seekers "has not been seen in decades in democratic Europe."

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee also vowed to sue Hungary at the European Court of Justice in every case where asylum-seekers are illegally kept in custody, which would likely force the country to make compensation payments.

"The government would do better instead to improve the quality of the open reception centers and spend this money on the integration of people who have found asylum in Hungary," the group said.

Presently, asylum-seekers whose claims are under appeal are placed mostly in open camps and some leave for Western Europe before their cases are decided. Migrants detained within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the border are sent back across the fences Hungary has built on its southern borders with Serbia and Croatia.

Lazar said the measures will be enacted only when, like at the present time, the government declares a state of emergency because of mass immigration.

"It is clear that the security situation in Europe has deteriorated, not improved," Lazar told reporters after a government meeting. "Turkey is presently defending the borders of Europe. We would like to strengthen the Hungarian border."

Lazar reiterated that Hungary was ready to build a second, stronger fence if needed, on its southern borders, and is building several small bases along the fence for the thousands of border police. Lazar also said the government would increase aid to charity groups working along the border.

Hungary granted asylum or some form of protection to 425 people in 2016, while receiving 29,432 applications.