15 April 2016

According to statistics made available to ECRE member, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, since the closure of the Western Balkans route, there has been a sharp increase in asylum claims in Hungary, with 4, 574 claims in March 2016, over ten times the figure for January. Many of these people are trapped outside transit zones on the Hungarian-Serbian border and denied access to the asylum procedure. 

The Hungarian authorities set up transit zones in September and October 2015, made up of a narrow strip of container rooms at border crossing points between Serbia and Croatia, following the construction of barbed wire fences to seal these borders. This is described as a ‘no man’s land’ by Hungary, aimed at processing and detaining asylum seekers before they are officially admitted to its territory. When ECRE visited the newly created transit zone at Röszke last year, it described this as a legal fiction, untenable in international law.

Asylum seekers must register their claims at these transit zones, however, Human Rights Watch have reported that many people are denied access and have been waiting outside the zones for days without provision for their basic needs of shelter, food, water and medical care.  This includes pregnant women, young children and those with medical problems who are forced to sleep outside in the cold, in uncertainty with no information from the Hungarian authorities on when and how to register their asylum claims. The procedures are described as arbitrary and random, with no measures in place to identify and meet the particular needs of vulnerable people, although this is required both by national and EU law.

“There’s no such thing as a no-man’s land where human rights can be disregarded and where access to seeking asylum can be delayed. The Hungarian authorities must ensure identification of people who are in need and provide services to them. This situation is simply heartless and unlawful.” said Márta Pardavi, Hungarian Helsinki Committee co-chair.

Although this build-up of people at the border is much lower than in September last year, it is leading to a similar situation of denial of respect for basic human rights, with people stranded in abysmal conditions, unable to access their right to asylum. 

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 15 April 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.