kosovo hungary
Kosovar children wait for their parents after they crossed the border into HungaryLaszlo Balogh/Reuters

Hungary has suspended a European Union rule that requires it to take back asylum seekers who first enter the EU through Hungary and then travel to other countries.

A government spokesman said the decision was made because the country was overburdened by illegal immigration, the BBC reported.

"Hungary has used up the capacities at its disposal. The situation requires fast action; in this escalated situation Hungary needs to take a move ahead of EU decisions," the spokesman said on 23 June.

More than 60,000 people have entered Hungary illegally this year, officials said.

The announcement comes hot in the heels after the country announced plans to build a fence along its border with Serbia to keep out would-be-refugees.

The nationalist conservative government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the four-meter-high (13-foot-high) fence was a necessary measure to stem the increasing influx of asylum-seekers reaching the country from the Middle East via the Balkans.

The European Commission asks for clarification

A spokeswoman for the European Commission has told the BBC that Hungary had informed it that the suspension was for a "technical reason."

"The Commission has asked Hungary for immediate clarification on the nature and extent of the technical failure."

The Dublin Regulation under the EU says that the first EU country that the migrant reaches is tasked with the responsibility to examine the asylum seeker's claims. If the migrant then proceeds to travel to a second EU nation, they can be sent back to the country of entry to have their asylum claim processed.

The BBC said the Dublin Regulation has been an issue within the EU and is currently under review.

Finland and Germany are among several countries that have stopped sending migrants back to Greece after the country complained that it was being inundated with asylum applications.

In January to March this year, Hungary received 32,810 new asylum applicants, second only to Germany in the EU.