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EU urges Hungary to ensure migrant holding camps comply with asylum rules

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary must ensure that its new policy of detaining migrants on its border does not break EU rules on protecting people in need of asylum, the European Commission said on Tuesday as the legislation came into force.

The European Commissioner in charge of migration issues said the government has agreed to work with EU experts regarding the legislation under which migrants will be held in camps while their asylum requests are processed.

“In a very friendly spirit of positive cooperation we decided to work together through our experts and ensure that EU rules also are complied with,” Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news conference after his meeting in Budapest.

“The European principles have been jointly and unanimously agreed by all member states and should therefore be respected and implemented by everyone too.”

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has said Hungary will be breaking international and EU law if it detains children. The law means anyone above the age of 14 will be held in shipping containers on the border.

Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that the law would force all migrants “to go through an unfair fast track procedure while detained in a transit zone.”

Avramopoulos urged Hungary to ensure asylum requests are processed fairly.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called mass migration a threat to Europe’s socioeconomic make up and a “Trojan horse for terrorism”.

Hungary has placed 324 shipping containers at the two transit zones on Hungary’s border with Serbia to house migrants while their asylum requests are processed, the Interior Ministry said, adding that they would get three meals a day and access to healthcare.

“The aim of the tightening is that migrants whose status is unclear should not freely move around in the territory of the country and thus the EU, which should reduce the security risk,” it said.

Unaccompanied children under the age 14 will be allowed to enter Hungary and will be placed in childcare institutions, the ministry said.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy