27 October 2015

An ECRE delegation, as part of the Asylum Information Database (AIDA) project, undertook a fact-finding visit to Hungary at the end of September in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the new border procedure applied at the Hungarian border and the conditions facing asylum seekers in the new transit zones. ECRE concluded that by shutting off access to protection through physical and legal barriers, the Hungarian asylum system contravenes international refugee law and EU asylum law.

Although ECRE acknowledges that Hungary has faced important challenges in 2015 as a result of the dramatic increase of the number of arrivals of asylum seekers at its borders and on its territory, the mission concluded that the authorities’ main response has criminalised persons seeking international protection and has shifted responsibility for refugee protection to other countries in the region. This has been the result of swiftly adopting a series of measures that have primarily undermined access to the territory.

The new Hungarian border procedure brought in on 15 September was found to be particularly problematic, as asylum applications are examined in an extremely fast procedure, in a state of detention and with little access to quality legal assistance, and in practice denies applicants the right to rebut the safety presumption in their individual circumstances.

Further, the report also found that, although the use of asylum detention had been used less in recent months, it is increasingly being used again. Key reasons for concern relate to the lack of adequate systems for identifying vulnerable applicants in asylum detention centres and the deficiencies in the judicial review of the lawfulness of detention, including the questionable practice of organising court hearings on the premises of asylum detention centres.

ECRE’s report makes several recommendations to the Hungarian authorities, including urging them to take the necessary steps to ensure full compliance with their obligations under international refugee law, to end the detention of asylum seekers on the basis of the “safe third country” concept, as well as recommending that European Union Member States do not transfer applicants for international protection to Hungary under the Dublin Regulation.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.