On May 14 the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered a judgement in a case concerning the placement in the transit zone on the border between Hungary and Serbia declaring it unlawful detention. On May 21, Hungarian authorities moved 300 people to semi-open facilities and declared that the transit zones will be abolished.

In two joint cases requested by Hungarian judges concerning asylum seeking families represented by ECRE member, Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) held in the Röszke transit zone at the Hungarian-Serbian border, CJEU ruled that placement in the transit zone constitutes unlawful detention. The transit zones have been in place since 2015 and thousands of people have been arbitrarily detained.

Following the judgement Hungarian authorities released approximately 300 people, including families with minor children, held in the transit zones on the Hungarian Serbian border and transferred them to open or semi-open facilities. In a statement on the judgement HHC stated: “the CJEU’s judgment will put an end to the automatic and unlawful detention of asylum-seekers in Hungary. The two families concerned by the judgment have been detained unlawfully for 464 and 526 days. Their suffering and injustice must now come to an end after this court judgment. This is a significant victory for everyone who is locked up in metal containers behind barbed wires in Hungary”. The organisation further notes that: “This judgment will also have a significant impact in the coming discussions on the future of the European asylum system as it reinforces essential human rights and asylum safeguards”.

According to Hungarian media the governments position remains unchanged and minister (of the Prime minister’s Office), Gergely Gulyás states that it “disagreed with the ECJ’s judgment and considers it a risk to Europe’s security”. However, the Hungarian government confirms that it is: “obliged to comply with the rulings” and will abolish the transit zone.

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Photo: (CC) Rebecca Harms, May 2016

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.