A new report published by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), UNHCR’s Regional Representation, and the Hungarian National Police Headquarters shows that the number of unaccompanied children intercepted at Hungarian borders increased substantially throughout 2012, to a total of 875, compared to 359 cases in 2011.

Although the majority of the children came from Afghanistan -the main country of citizenship of asylum applicants in Europe– the research shows that most of them did not lodge an asylum application during the interview at the border. There is very little data as to the reason for this.

According to the report, in cases where the child informed the authorities about family members who were in the EU, the Hungarian authorities failed to verify such family ties and to initiate family reunification. The Dublin II Regulation states that if the asylum seeker is an unaccompanied child, the State where the asylum seeker’s family is lawfully present is obliged to examine the child’s asylum application provided that this serves the best interest of the child.

None of the guardians appointed to assist the unaccompanied children challenged their expulsion orders.

HHC and UNHCR strongly urged the Hungarian authorities to carry out individual and substantive examinations to determine the best interests of the child in the context of expulsion procedures. To this effect, law enforcement bodies should cooperate with special services and NGOs and make use of good practice examples in other countries regarding determining the best interests of the child, age assessment and intercultural communication with migrant children.

The research also shows that in 2012, over 4,000 foreigners were expelled to Serbia at the Serbian-Hungarian border section, including hundreds of asylum seekers whose applications were rejected without an in-merit examination. In the last few months of 2012, the Hungarian immigration authorities stopped considering Serbia as a safe third country. However, this does not affect cases where the person did not claim international protection, as in most cases involving unaccompanied children in 2012.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 21 June 2013
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