A new Hungarian law on the systematic detention of all asylum seekers could expose migrant children to sexual exploitation, said Europe's top rights watchdog Friday, adding its voice to criticism of the measure from human rights groups.
In a letter addressed to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban published Friday, the Council of Europe expressed concern that, under the new law, unaccompanied children would be treated as adult asylum applicants.
"I understand that the legal implications ... will increase the already highly vulnerable situation of children on the move, exacerbating in particular the exposure of those aged 14 or more to sexual exploitation and sexual abuse," said Claude Janizzi, chairman of the Council of Europe's Lanzarote committee that deals with child protection issues.
Under the new law, adopted by a large majority in Hungary's parliament on March 7, all asylum seekers in Hungary will be confined to container camps near the borders with Croatia and Serbia while their applications are processed.
The Hungarian government says that all unaccompanied minors under 14 will be placed in care under the new law, as they are now.
The UN and Amnesty International have both criticised the legislation, which has yet to be enacted.
"The higher vulnerability of these children to sexual crimes, particularly during times of crisis, calls for more protection, not less," the Council of Europe said earlier this month.
The Hungarian government says that the migrants will be free to leave the camps only if they return back over the border, which is an external frontier of Europe's borderless Schengen zone.
The rightwing Orban, who has called immigration the "Trojan Horse of terrorism", says the measure is aimed at keeping both Hungary and the rest of the European Union safe from violent extremists.