On 10 October 2019, the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion to Hungary concerning the failure to provide food for individuals held in transit zones at the Hungarian-Serbian border. This next step of the infringement procedure comes after the European Court of Human Rights had to issue interim measures in numerous cases.

The Commission notes that failure to provide food to persons held in transit zones is in direct contradiction to Hungary’s obligations under European law. The persons affected are primarily those who have had applications for international protection rejected and are therefore waiting to be returned to their country of origin. Indeed, the statement adds that compelling persons to stay in the transit zones while they await orders to be returned to their country of origin is effectively equal to detention.

The Commission has encouraged the Hungarian authorities to promptly comply with European law, setting a one month deadline for the State to respond. If this deadline is not met, the Commission may refer the issue to the Court of Justice, where a similar case concerning the detention of asylum seekers in Hungarian transit zones is currently pending. Moreover, the Commission notes that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has intervened in several cases obliging Hungarian authorities to provide food for those detained and awaits a response from the Hungarian authorities on this matter.

ECRE member the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has challenged the practices of the Hungarian Immigration and Asylum Office (IAO) on a case by case basis at the ECtHR to stop the starvation of detainees. Since August 2018, the ECtHR issued 16 cases of interim measures under Rule 39 to the Government of Hungary, to ensure that people detained in the Hungarian transit zones are not deprived of food, according to HHC.

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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.