UNICEF alarmed by effect on children of Hungary's asylum law

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency, said Thursday it was alarmed by a new Hungarian law allowing the detention of all asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children older than 14, in border camps made of shipping containers.

The rules are part of legislation adopted on Tuesday by Hungarian lawmakers, further strengthening the anti-migration policies of populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

"Detaining refugee and migrant children fleeing violence and persecution and seeking a better life is traumatic," said Afshan Khan, UNICEF's regional director in Europe. "It effectively criminalizes children and robs them of their rights such as education. The impact of this on any child, no matter their age, can last a lifetime."

Khan appealed to Hungarian President Janos Ader "to treat all children as children first and foremost" before signing the law. Ader's press office said reaction to the UNICEF statement could be expected later. A member of Orban's governing Fidesz party, Ader is expected to be re-elected on Monday by lawmakers for a five-year term.

UNICEF also said it hoped Hungary would uphold its commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Hungary ratified in 1991, and its adherence to EU and international laws.

Numerous international agencies and human rights advocates have been very critical of Hungary's new asylum rules. They can be applied in a state of emergency due to migration, currently extended until Sept. 7.

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