This Monday (10/06), ahead of the European Parliament’s vote on Wednesday that formally adopted the recast Reception Conditions Directive, the Hungarian government amended its asylum legislation which will introduce the detention of asylum seekers for up to six months. Both UNHCR and ECRE’s Member, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) have warned that the grounds for detaining persons seeking international protection are too broad, and as a result, there is a significant risk of the widespread detention of asylum seekers.
Marta Pardavi, Co-Chair at HHC has critised the aim of the legislation: “The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has always been against the detention of asylum seekers as a general measure and strongly recommends considering alternatives to detention in each individual case. We are concerned that the sole aim of this new measure is to deter asylum seekers from entering the EU through Hungary in order to seek protection. This way, Hungary essentially shifts its responsibilities to Serbia and other countries.”
According to UNHCR, under the new Hungarian law, detention would be applied as a tool for migration control, penalising unauthorised entry and preventing unlawful onward movements, which would also run counter to the conditions in the European Convention of Human Rights (Right to Liberty and Security, Article 5) which would mean that a suit could be filed before the European Court of Human Rights.
Among other grounds, the amendments introduce the possibility to detain asylum seekers to establish their identity or nationality, and when “there are well-founded grounds for presuming that the person seeking recognition is delaying or frustrating the asylum procedure or presents a risk of absconding”.
UNHCR has noted that most asylum seekers are unable to provide identification documents and that this should not automatically result in detention or be interpreted as unwillingness to cooperate.
The legislation also allows the detention of families with children, which has been strongly opposed by UNHCR and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
Another major concern for UNHCR is the effectiveness of the judicial review which re-examines the lawfulness of the detention. According to a survey conducted by the Curia, the highest court in Hungary, out of some 5,000 court decisions made in 2011 and 2012 only three decisions discontinued immigration detention, while the rest simply prolonged the detention without any specific justification.
UNHCR has also underlined that no budgetary impact analysis has been made available documenting the costs that will be incurred by implementation of asylum detention.
Currently, asylum seekers in Hungary are detained under specific and exceptional circumstances. The new provisions will enter into force as of 1 July.