April 9, 2020 (Farvardin 21, 1399) an interview was published by ISNA with the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the issue of 16 Iranian students being expelled from Hungary. I agree with Mr Mousavi that expelling citizens of another country is always a regrettable act. However, I need to point out that the statement of the spokesperson contains numerous omissions and misunderstandings which may easily mislead the reader.

First of all, during my meetings with the Iranian officials so far, not one of them questioned that the procedure we employed on the students in question was justified in terms of legal grounds.  These students, while in “opposing the hospital conditions” were so aggressive towards the hospital staff and also threatening the health and safety of their surroundings, that police forces had to be called. To my knowledge, there were altogether 19 foreigners in quarantine. Only the aforementioned 16 students broke the rules – among the remaining 3 foreign nationals, one was also Iranian. The perception that the Hungarian authorities may charge someone “unjustifiably”, i.e. for no good reason is completely unacceptable.

During my meetings with MFA officials it was stated several times that these students did not understand the seriousness of the situation as they are “youngsters”. However, these are medical students – who else should at least have an idea on the seriousness of a pandemic situation, since we are talking about doctors, pharmacists, dentists? Prior to the quarantine it had already created a public outcry when one of them had not followed the guidance of the medical university not to attend classes where he/she could infect thus endanger fellow students. The group was taken to the hospital for being quarantined only after 2 of them tested positive for COVID-19 and the Hungarian authorities carefully examined the circle of people with whom they were in close contact.

One should also understand that this is an extraordinary situation when governments take extraordinary measures to protect all those who reside on the territory of their country. An example for the readers to understand: presently in Hungary if anyone under such circumstances does not follow the health rules and infects another person commits a crime, in an extreme case the charge could even be involuntary manslaughter.

Following the incident, the Embassy of Iran in Budapest was immediately informed and involved in handling the situation. The Embassy had direct contact with all the competent Hungarian authorities who provided access for the Ambassador to the students, and even made a visit possible to the group despite the quarantine.

During my meetings with the Iranian officials, I have emphasised numerous times that this case is NOT political, but a LEGAL case. The immigration authorities made a decision about expelling the students. The administrative court examined and confirmed that the procedure was within reasonable legal grounds. However, it does not mean that the students would have been deprived of their right to appeal against the ruling.

I was delighted to hear that the spokesperson mentioned another 2500 Iranian students who  are studying in Hungary even today,  without encountering any legal problem. Hungary appreciates their presence, will respect their rights to study and reside in Hungary and this incident should not affect their future. They are important for both of our countries as they could be future ambassadors in our bilateral relations.

 

Zoltán Varga-Haszonits

Ambassador of Hungary

 

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