Hungarian government to close migrant 'transit zone' camps

Hungary on Thursday announced it would close "transit zone" camps where hundreds of asylum seekers and migrants have been held following a ruling by EU's top court against their detention, AFP reports.

"The transit zone was a solution that protected Hungary's borders, and the European Court of Justice's ruling in this case was unfortunate," minister of the prime minister's office Gergely Gulyas told a press conference. "Since Hungary is obliged to comply with the verdict, it can do nothing but eliminate the transit zones."

He said 280 people would be taken from the camps to asylum reception centres but did not specify how long they would stay there and what would happen to them.

"Asylum applications can only be submitted to embassies outside the country," he added.

Human rights organisation, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), said about 300 people had been transferred.

"Great news: Overnight, authorities released everyone -- about 300 people, many families with small kids -- unlawfully detained in the transit zones and transferred them to open or semi-open facilities!" HHC tweeted.

The committee represented Iranian and Afghan families detained for more than a year after their asylum applications were refused in a case brought before the Luxembourg-based ECJ.

The ECJ this month ruled that people could not be detained in the camps without their cases being examined individually and that they could not be held for more than four weeks.

The ruling is the latest clash between EU authorities and Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government which takes a hard line immigration.

Hungary's two "transit zone" camps, where people are held in shipping containers behind a barbed wire fence along the Serbian border, have been condemned by rights groups as inhumane.

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