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European Court of Justice fines Hungary 200 million euros for failing to comply with asylum rules

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Court of Justice ordered Hungary on Thursday to pay a fine of 200 million euros and a further 1 million euros per day of delay for failing to comply with the bloc’s asylum rules.

The court had ruled in December 2020 that Hungary had failed to abide by the bloc’s policies for granting international protection and returning illegal migrants. The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, launched a new judicial action seeking financial sanctions.

Hungary’s anti-immigrant government has taken a hard line on people entering the country since well over 1 million people entered Europe in 2015, most of them fleeing conflict in Syria. It erected border fences and forcefully tried to stop many from entering.

“In its judgment, the Court holds that Hungary has not taken the measures necessary to comply with the 2020 judgment,” the court said in a statement. “That failure, which consists in deliberately avoiding the application of a common EU policy as a whole, constitutes an unprecedented and extremely serious infringement of EU law.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, the government pushed through a law forcing people seeking international protection to travel to Belgrade or Kyiv to apply for a travel permit at its embassies there to enter Hungary. Only once back could they file their applications.

The European Commission took Hungary to the European Court of Justice over the law, insisting that the country had failed to fulfil its obligations under the 27-nation’s blocs rules. The rules oblige all member countries to have common procedures for granting asylum.

People have the right to apply for asylum or other forms of international protection if they fear for their safety in their home countries or face the prospect of persecution based on their race, religion, ethnic background, gender or other discrimination.

As spokesperson for the court said the additional penalty of 1 million euros per day applies starting Thursday.

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