BUDAPEST, Hungary -- The European Union's border control agency, Frontex, is suspending operations in Hungary after the government in Budapest did not comply with a December ruling by Europe's highest court, an agency spokesperson said Wednesday.
Frontex spokesperson Chris Borowski told The Associated Press that the decision followed Hungary’s failure to honor the European Court of Justice ruling, which said the government had not fulfilled its obligations under EU law to provide international protection to asylum-seekers.
The court also found that Hungarian officers had continued to push migrants apprehended within its borders into neighboring Serbia, violating EU rules requiring member nations to accept and evaluate asylum applications.
“We evaluated the situation and had little choice but to go ahead and suspend the operation,” Borowski said.
A Budapest-based nongovernmental organization, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, had urged Frontex to pull its border forces from the country, arguing a continued presence made it complicit in Hungary's unlawful immigration policies.
The NGO has documented cases of pushbacks by Hungary's border forces, and found more than 4,400 such instances since the European court's ruling in December, and 50,000 pushbacks since the country began the practice in July 2016.
A spokesperson for the Hungarian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
How long Frontex operations will remain suspended depends on Hungary's implementation of the court's ruling, the Warsaw-based agency's Borowski said.
The European Commission, which in 2018 launched an infringement proceeding against Hungary for its non-compliance with asylum law, will need to find that Hungary has implemented the court's ruling before Frontex forces may return, he said.
Compliance would include accepting asylum applications and allowing applicants to remain in Hungary while their petitions are evaluated, as well as ceasing the practice of pushing migrants back across the border into Serbia.
Orban has often argued that Brussels tries to force Hungary to accept mass immigration, and he has portrayed himself as a bulwark protecting European civilization and Christian culture with his anti-immigration policies.