On 15 June, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee released an update on the legislative changes in Hungary, stating that due to changes adopted on 13 June whereby people who are arrested within 8 km of either the Serbian-Hungarian or the Croatian-Hungarian border will be “escorted” to the external side of the border fence by the police, without having their protection needs assessed or being registered. “Hungary has authorised the automatic push-back of persons potentially in need of international protection from the territory of Hungary to the border area of Hungary and Serbia, where they will have to queue for several days or even weeks in order to be admitted to one of the few “transit zones” established as part of the border fence,” states the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

UNHCR has recently released a statement on the dire conditions of refugees stranded outside the transit zones Röszke and Tompa. Hungary’s restrictive policy of only allowing 15-17 asylum seekers per day in the two transit zones is resulting in hundreds of refugees and migrants outside the camps, suffering day and night, without any proper support at the EU border.

In the fields outside both zones some 600 refugees are waiting for the possibility to enter, in places where the conditions are not fit for people to stay, according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. The conditions on both sites are broadly the same: a single tap, no toilets and handouts of cold snacks. In addition to this hardship, there does not seem to be a system to select those eligible to enter the transit zone, which leads to desperation and tension amongst the refugees.

UNHCR has stated that these conditions and this restrictive system are forcing people outside the transit zones to resort to smugglers, who use increasingly dangerous routes thereby risking the lives of refugees and migrants with often tragic consequences.

In addition to this, UNHCR is also very concerned over the use of excessive violence by the Hungarian authorities as people try to cross the border. Since May 2016, UNHCR staff has gathered information on over 100 cases where there was excessive use of force. A worrying example is that of 3 June, when the Hungarian police reported the death of a 22 year old man in the Tisza River. The group with whom he was travelling to Serbia have said they were pushed back by the Hungarian authorities. UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Central Europe has called for a swift and thorough investigation into the circumstances of his tragic death.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 June 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.