(CN) - The European Commission said Thursday it has opened infringement procedures against Hungary over recent legislation apparently designed to block refugees from seeking asylum there.
Hungarian lawmakers passed bills this past July and September that the commission says run contrary to EU asylum laws, in an effort to stem the flow of Syrian refugees flooding into Hungary.
Specifically, the commission said it is concerned that the new laws essentially deny asylum seekers the opportunity to appeal when their applications are inevitably turned down.
The laws bar asylum seekers from presenting new facts and circumstances on appeal. Futhermore, Hungary is not automatically suspending decisions when appeals are filed - effectively forcing asylum seekers to leave Hungarian territory before their appeals are heard in violation of EU asylum law, the commission said.
Hungary has also fast-tracked criminal proceedings in cases where refugees have crossed its borders illegally, which the commission believes makes it impossible for Hungary to comply with the EU's rights to translation and interpretation in such cases. Under EU law, suspects in criminal proceedings have the right to a translator when they don't understand the language of the proceedings and all documents filed in their cases must also be translated into the language of their choice.
The commission also believes Hungary has breached EU law by delegating the hearing of asylum seekers' appeals to court secretaries, who also render judgments on the appeals, and by making personal hearings on appeal optional.
While the commission has already sent a preliminary letter to Hungarian authorities outlining its case, it said the Hungarian response did not sufficiently address its concerns - hence the filing of Thursday's formal notice.
The formal notice is the first step in infringement proceedings, and Hungary has 60 days to respond.
If Hungary chooses not to respond or the commission finds the response inadequate, a reasoned opinion will be issued as the second step in the proceedings. After that, the commission said it will refer Hungary to the European Court of Justice if necessary.
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