49. The Government were of the view that since the applicants had been free to leave the territory of the transit zone in the direction of Serbia, they in fact had not been deprived of their personal liberty. Article 5 of the Convention was therefore inapplicable.
52. It must be determined in the first place whether the placing of the applicants in the transit zone constituted a deprivation of liberty within the meaning of Article 5 of the Convention. The Court has already found that holding aliens in an international zone involves a restriction upon liberty which is not in every respect comparable to that obtained in detention centres. However, such confinement is acceptable only if it is accompanied by safeguards for the persons concerned and is not prolonged excessively. Otherwise, a mere restriction on liberty is turned into a deprivation of liberty (see Amuur v. France, 25 June 1996, § 43, Reports of Judgments and
Decisions 1996-III, and Riad and Idiab v. Belgium, nos. 29787/03 and 29810/03, § 68, 24 January 2008).
68. The motives underlying the applicants’ detention may well be those referred to by the Government in the context of Article 5 § 1 (f) of the Convention, that is to counter abuses of the asylum procedure. However, for the Court the fact remains that the applicants were deprived of their liberty without any formal decision of the authorities and solely by virtue of an elastically interpreted general provision of the law – a procedure which in
the Court’s view falls short of the requirements enounced in the Court’s case-law. The conditions of Article 31/A of the Asylum Act were not met and no formal decision was taken; furthermore no special grounds for detention in the transit zone were provided for in Article 71/A. In this connection the Court would reiterate that it has considered the absence of any grounds given by the judicial authorities in their decisions authorising
detention for a prolonged period of time, as in the present case to be incompatible with the principle of the protection from arbitrariness enshrined in Article 5 § 1 (see Stašaitis v. Lithuania, no. 47679/99, § 67, 21 March 2002; Nakhmanovich v. Russia, no. 55669/00, § 70, 2 March 2006; Belevitskiy v. Russia, no. 72967/01, § 91, 1 March 2007, and
Mooren v. Germany [GC], no 11364/03, § 79, 9 July 2009).
69. It follows that the applicants’ detention cannot be considered “lawful” for the purposes of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention. Consequently, there has been a violation of that provision.
75. The Court observes that the applicants’ detention consisted in a de facto measure, not supported by any decision specifically addressing the issue of deprivation of liberty (see paragraph 67 above). Moreover, the proceedings suggested by the Government concerned the applicants’ asylum applications rather than the question of personal liberty. In these circumstances, it is quite inconceivable how the applicants could have pursued any judicial review of their committal to, and detention in, the
transit zone – which itself had not been ordered in any formal proceedings or taken the shape of a decision.
76. The Court therefore must conclude that the applicants did not have at their disposal any “proceedings by which the lawfulness of [their] detention [could have been] decided speedily by a court”.
77. It follows that there has been a violation of Article 5 § 4 of the Convention.
89. In view of the satisfactory material conditions and the relatively short time involved, the Court concludes that the treatment complained of did not reach the minimum level of severity necessary to constitute inhuman treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention.
90. Having regard to the foregoing considerations, it finds that there has been no violation of Article 3 of the Convention.
100. The Court further observes that the Government have not indicated any remedies by which the applicants could have complained about the conditions in which they were held in the transit zone.
101. It follows that there has been a violation of Article 13 taken together with Article 3 of the Convention.
118. The Court observes that the applicants were removed from
Hungary on the strength of the Government Decree listing Serbia as a safe third country and establishing a presumption in this respect. The individualised assessment of their situation with regard to any risk they ran if returned to Serbia took place in these legal circumstances. Indeed, it involved a reversal of the burden of proof to the applicants’ detriment including the burden to prove the real risk of inhuman and degrading
treatment in a chain-refoulement situation to Serbia and then the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, eventually driving them to Greece. However, it is incumbent on the domestic authorities to carry out an assessment of that risk of their own motion when information about such a risk is ascertainable from a wide number of sources. Not only that the Hungarian authorities did not perform this assessment in the determination
of the individual risks but they refused even to consider the merits of the information provided by the counsel, limiting their argument to the position of the Government Decree 191/2015.
125. Having regard to the above considerations, the Court finds that the applicants did not have the benefit of effective guarantees which would have protected them from exposure to a real risk of being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 of the Convention. There has accordingly been a violation of that provision in this regard.
Zusammenfassung des Berichts:
In the O.M. v. Hungary judgment of 5 October 2016, the ECtHR found that detention was not assessed in a sufficiently individ ualised manner and that the authorities did not exercise particular care in order to avoid situations facing an asylum seeker on account of his sexual orientation, which risked reproducing the plight that forced him to flee. Further on, detention for the purpose of establishing the asylum seeker’s identity does not fall under the scope of Article 5(1)(b) of ECHR, when asylum seeker makes reasonable efforts to clear his/her identity, because there is no legal obligation for asylum seekers in Hungary to provide documentary evidence of their identity.
Integration support: As a result of legislative changes in April and June 2016, all forms of integration support were eliminated. Since the entry into effect of Decrees 113/2016 and 62/2016 and the June 2016 amendment to the Asylum Act, beneficiaries of international protection are no longer eligible to any state support such as housing support, additional assistance and others.There is no specific code of conduct for interpreters in the context of asylum procedures. Many interpreters are not professionally trained on asylum issues. There is no quality assessment performed on their work, nor are thereany requirements in order to become an interpreter forthe IAO. The IAO is obliged to select the cheapest interpret from the list, even though his quality would not be the best.For example, in the Vámosszabadi refugee camp, the HHC lawyer reported that in all his cases regarding Nigerian clients, none of the English interpreters understood fully what the clients said; the lawyer had to help the interpreter. The same happened at the court. There was another case, where the interpreter did not speak English well enough to be able to translate; for example, he did not know the word„asylum“. In another case before the Budapest court, the interpreter was from Djibouti, and the client from Somalia did not understand her. The interpreter said the client was lying and the judge decided that there would be no interview.In another case the client claimed that he converted to Christianity and the interpreter was Muslim. He did not know the expressions needed for the interview, not even in Farsi,not to mention Hungarian; for example: disciples, Easter, Christmas and so on. The lawyer had to help him.
A decision must be communicated orally to the person seeking asylum in his or her mother tongue or in another language he or she understands. Together with this oral communication, the decision shall alsobe made available to the applicant in writing, but only in Hungarian. The HHC’s attorneys working at the transit zones and Kiskunhalas observe that most of decisions are not translated to the clients by interpreters. Instead the IAO uses case officers or even other clients to announce the main points of the decision. The justification for a decision reached is never explained to the asylum seeker.
The following situations are applicable to Dublin returnees:
(a) Persons who had not previously applied in Hungary and persons whose applications are still pending are both treated as first-time asylum applicants.
(b) For persons whose applications are considered to have been tacitly withdrawn (i.e. they left Hungary and moved on to another EU Member State) and the asylum procedure had been terminated, the asylum procedure may be continued if the person requests such a continuation within 9 months of the withdrawal of the original application. Where that time-limit has expired, the person is considered to be a subsequent applicant (see section on Subsequent Applications). However, imposing a deadline in order for the procedure to be continued is contrary to the Dublin III Regulation, as the second paragraph of Article 18(2) states that when the Member State responsible had discontinued the examination of an application following its withdrawal by the applicant before a decision on the substance has been taken at first instance, that Member State shall ensure that the applicant is entitled to request that the examination of his or her application be completed or to lodge a new application for international protection, which shall not be treated as a subsequent application as provided for in the recast Asylum Procedures Directive. This is also recalled in Article 28(3) of the Recast Asylum Procedures Directive, which explicitly provides that the aforementioned 9-month rule on withdrawn applications “shall be without prejudice to [the Dublin III Regulation].”
(c) Persons who withdraw their application in writing cannot request the continuation of their asylum procedure upon return to Hungary; therefore they will have to submit a subsequent application and present new facts or circumstances (see section on Subsequent Applications). This is also
not in line with above-described second paragraph of Article 18(2) of the Dublin III Regulation, which should be applied also in cases of explicit withdrawal in writing and not only in cases of tacit withdrawal. This is problematic in the view of recent practices in Hungary when detained asylum seekers withdraw their applications in order to be released from asylum detention. By imposing detention on asylum seekers returned under the Dublin III Regulation, in practice the IAO promotes the option of withdrawal amongst them. This practice can be interpreted as a disciplinary use of detention against those who lodge an asylum claim in Hungary.
(d) The asylum procedure would also not continue, when the returned foreigner had previously received a negative decision and did not seek judicial review. This is problematic when the IAO issued a decision in someone’s absence. The asylum seeker who is later returned under the Dublin procedure to Hungary will have to submit a subsequent application and present new facts and evidence in support of the application (see section on Subsequent Applications). According to Article 18(2) of the Dublin III Regulation, the responsible Member State that takes back the applicant whose applicat
ion has been rejected only at the first instance shall ensure that the applicant has or has had the opportunity to seek an effective remedy against the rejection. According to the IAO, the applicant only has a right to request a judicial review in case the decision has not yet become legally binding. Since a decision rejecting the application becomes binding once the deadline for seeking judicial review has passed without such a request being submitted, the HHC believes that the Hungarian practice is in breach of the Dublin III Regulation because in such cases Dublin returnee applicants are not afforded an opportunity to seek judicial review after their return to Hungary.
Especially problematic will be the case of returned asylum seekers who have crossed Serbia before arriving in Hungary. In case they will have to submit a subsequent application, their application will be likely declared inadmissible based on an application of the “safe third country” notion, without the possibility for these persons to be heard beforehand. Since there is no effective remedy against the unlawful decision of the IAO, such transfers to Hungary are exposing applicants to a real risk of chain deportation to Serbia, which may trigger a practice of indirect refoulement.
Since the enactment of legislative amendments to the Asylum Act in 2015 and ensuing practice, administrative authorities and courts in at least 15 countries have ruled against Dublin transfers to Hungary. At least 6 countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, United Kingdom) have suspended transfers to Hungary as a matter of policy.
The fact is that since 15 September 2015, Serbia is not taking back third-country nationals under the readmission agreement except for those who hold valid travel/identity documents and are exempted from Serbian visa requirements. Therefore actual returns to Serbia are not possible. Between January and November 2016, only 182 irregular migrants were officially returned to Serbia. Neither the refusal of the asylum applications in the transit zones, nor the “legalised” push-backs since 5 July 2016 result in such official readmissions. Among the readmitted persons, there were 84 Serbian, 35 Kosovar and 27 Albanian citizens. None of the returnees were Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi or Somali citizens. Despite this fact, the IAO still issues inadmissiblity decisions based on safe third country grounds.
Where the safe third country fails to take back the applicant, the refugee authority shall withdraw its decision and continue the procedure. This provision is not respected in practice. Even though it is clear that Serbia will not accept back asylum seekers from Hungary, the IAO does not automaticaly withdraw the inadmissiblity decision, but the person needs to apply for asylum again. According to the HHC’s experience asylum seekers have to go through the admissibility assessment for two or even three times and only after submitting the third or fourth asylum application would their case not be declared inadmissible. This results in extremely lenghty procedures which leave people in great depair. Sometimes asylum seekers would be even detained after receiving a final rejection based on Serbia being a safe third country, despite the fact that deportations to Serbia are not taking place.
A request for judicial review against the IAO decision declaring an application inadmissible has no suspensive effect, except for judicial review regarding inadmissible applications based on safe third country grounds. The court may not alter the decision of the refugee authority; it shall annul any administrative decision found to be against the law, with the exception of the breach of a procedural rule not affecting the merits of the case, and it shall oblige the refugee authority to conduct a new procedure.
In practice, asylum seekers may face obstacles to lodging a request for judicial review against inadmissibility decisions for the following reasons:
– The 7-day deadline for applying for judicial review appears to be too short for an applicant to be able to benefit from qualified and professional legal assistance, and does not appear to satisfy the requirements of Article 13 ECHR on the right to an effective remedy. Without a functioning and professional legal aid system available for asylum seekers, the vast majority of them have no access to legal assistance when they receive a negative decision from the IAO. Many asylum seekers may fail to understand the reasons for the rejection, especially in case of complicated legal arguments, such as the safe third country concept, and also lack awareness about their right to turn to court. The excessively short deadline makes it difficult for the asylum seeker to exercise her or his right to an effective remedy.
– The procedure is in Hungarian and the decision on inadmissibility is only translated once i.e. upon its communication to the applicant, in his or her mother tongue or in a language that the applicant may reasonably understand. This prevents the asylum seeker from having a copy of his or her own decision in a language he or she understands so that later he or she could recall the specific reasons why the claim was found inadmissible. The judge has to take a decision in 8 days on a judicial review request. The 8-day deadline for the judge to deliver a decision is insufficient for “a full and ex nunc examination of both facts and points of law” as prescribed by EU law. Five or six working days are not enough for a judge to obtain crucial evidence (such as digested and translated country information, or a medical/psychological expert opinion) or to arrange a personal hearing with a suitable interpreter.
– The lack of an automatic suspensive effect on removal measures is in violation of the principle established in the consistent case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, according to which this is an indispensable condition for a remedy to be considered effective in removal cases. While rules under EU asylum law are more permissive in this respect and allow for the lack of an automatic suspensive effect in case of inadmissibility decisions and accelerated procedures, the lack of an automatic suspensive effect may still raise compatibility issues with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The lack of an automatic suspensive effect is in clear violation of EU law with regard to standard procedures, as the Asylum Procedures Directive allows for this option only in certain specific (for example accelerated) procedures. In all cases where the suspensive effect is not automatic, it is difficult to imagine how an asylum seeker will be able to submit a request for the suspension of her/his removal as she/he is typically without professional legal assistance and subject to an unreasonably short deadline to lodge the request. To make it even worse for asylum seekers, the rules allowing for a request to grant a suspensive effect to be submitted are not found in the Asylum Act itself, but they emanate from general rules concerning civil court procedures. The amended Asylum Act lacks any additional safeguards for applicants in need of
special procedural guarantees with regard to the automatic suspensive effect, although this is clearly required by EU law.
– Finally, asylum seekers often lack basic skills and do not understand the decision and the procedure to effectively represent their own case before the court, which only carries out a non-litigious procedure based on the files of the case and where an oral hearing is rather exceptional. Applicants are not informed that they have to specifically request a hearing in their appeal. The unreasonably short time limit and the lack of a personal hearing may reduce the judicial review to a mere formality, in which the judge has no other information than the documents provided by the IAO.
The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary for the violation of asylum-related EU law in December 2015, after a record fast preparatory process. Regarding the asylum procedure, the Commission is concerned that there is no possibility to refer to new facts and circumstances in the context of appeals and that Hungary is not automatically suspending decisions in case of appeals, effectively forcing applicants to leave their territory before the time limit for lodging an appeal expires, or before an appeal has been heard. Further on, the Commission is also concerned as to the fact that, under the new Hungarian law dealing with the judicial review of decisions rejecting an asylum application, a personal hearing of the applicants is optional. Judicial decisions taken by court secretaries (a sub-judicial level) lacking judicial independence also seem to be in breach of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive and Article 47 of the Charter. The infringement procedure is still not closed.
A subsequent application is considered as an application following a final termination or rejection decision on the former application. New circumstances or facts have to be submitted in order for a subsequent application to be admissible. For persons whose applications are considered to have been tacitly withdrawn (i.e. they left Hungary and moved on to another EU
Member State) and the asylum procedure had been terminated, the asylum procedure may be continued if the person requests such a continuation within 9 months of the withdrawal of the original application. Where that time-limit has expired, the person is considered to be a subsequent applicant. Persons who withdraw their application in writing cannot request the continuation of their asylum procedure upon return to Hungary; therefore they will have to submit a subsequent application and present new facts or circumstances.
According to the HHC, detention of asylum seekers in Hungary often does not comply with the requirements of ECHR. Asylum seekers in detention in Hungary receive a humanitarian permit while they are in detention, which means that they are explicitly authorised to stay in Hungary during the asylum procedure. Since this is the case, their detention cannot fall under the Article 5(1)(f) of the Convention, because their detention does not pursue the two purposes mentioned in this provision, namely detention for the purpose of deportation and detention in order to prevent unauthorised entry. Further on, detention for the purpose of establishing their identity also cannot fall under Article 5(1)(b) of the Convention since, under current legislation in Hungary, there is no obligation for asylum seekers to provide documentary evidence of their identity. Therefore detention for the purpose of establishing their identity is unlawful, when asylum seekers make reasonable efforts to clear their identity. All the above is reflected in the O.M. v. Hungary judgment of the ECtHR that became final on 5 October 2016. The judgment also finds that detention was not assessed in a sufficiently individualised manner and that in case of the applicant, who belonged to a vulnerable group, the authorities did not exercise particular care in order to avoid situations which may reproduce the plight that forced him to flee.
In Békéscsaba and Nyírbátor, when escorted from the facility to court for hearings, or on other outings (such as to visit a hospital, bank or post office), detained asylum seekers are handcuffed and escorted on leashes, which are normally used for the accused in criminal proceedings.
Recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection can stay in the reception centre for 30 days more after their recognition.
NGOs and social workers have reported extreme difficulties for refugees moving out of reception centres and integrating into local communities in practice. Accommodation free of charge
is provided exclusively by civil society organisations and churches. They run homes mostly in Budapest yet the number of places provided is not sufficient. As a result of the lack of places, many of the beneficiaries of international protection are forced to rent apartments or to become homeless. Due to the lack of apartments on the market, the rental fees are too high to be affordable for beneficiaries who have just been granted status. In addition to these difficulties, landlords prefer to let their apartments to Hungarian rather than foreign citizens.
The UNHCR criticised Hungary for doing this “despite the fact that no other EU member state applies a presumption of safety to those countries and that UNHCR has recommended that asylum-seekers should not be returned to them.” Ms Pardavi said Hungarian officials were now pushing for asylum seekers to be returned to Greece, which is already struggling to cope with 50,000 migrants stuck on its territory.
In UNHCR’s view, legislation and related Decrees adopted by Hungary in July and September 2015, and progressively implemented between July 2015 and 31 March 2016, have had the combined effect of limiting and deterring access to asylum in the country. These include, most notably, the following.
(a) the erection of a fence along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia, accompanied by the introduction of a procedure in which individuals arriving at the border who wish to submit an asylum application in Hungary must do so in special “transit zones” in which the asylum procedure and reception conditions are not in accordance with European Union (EU) and international standards, in particular concerning procedural safeguards, judicial review and freedom of movement. (See Section D below). In addition, the government plans to erect a fence along the Romanian-Hungarian border beginning at the Serbian-Hungarian-Romanian triple border.
(b) the application of the ‘safe third country’ concept to countries on the principal route followed by asylum-seekers to Hungary – namely Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia – without adequate procedural safeguards, and despite the fact that no other EU Member State applies a presumption of safety to those countries 6 and that UNHCR.
(c) the criminalization of irregular entry into Hungary through the border fence, punishable by actual or suspended terms of imprisonment of up to ten years – and/or the imposition of an expulsion border. Prison sentences, at variance with the EU Return Directive, are imposed following fast-tracked trials of questionable fairness, and are not suspended in the event that the concerned individual submits an asylum application. The proper consideration of a defence under Article 31 of the 1951 Convention that the individual had come directly from a territory where his or life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1 of that Convention is thus prevented.
There has also been a reduction of permanent open reception capacity for asylum-seekers through the closure of the centre in Debrecen, which had been the largest open asylum reception centre in the country, at the very time when substantially increased reception capacity for asylum-seekers is needed and the opening of an asylum detention centre in Kiskunhalas. These measures and development should also be considered in the context of the wider use of detention in generally inadequate conditions based on previous laws and practices adopted prior to the period covered by this paper.
In conclusion, UNHCR considers these significant aspects of Hungarian law and practice raise serious concerns as regards compatibility with international and European law, and may be at variance with the country’s international and European obligations.
Government rejects quota system
Therefore Hungary will not take back a single expelled illegal migrant, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated. János Lázár said: Western-European countries notified Hungary of the expulsion of some 40,000 people; however, they did not enter the European Union at Hungary but at Greece, and consequently, the individuals concerned must be sent back there. He added: the southern security border closure is working, and successfully prevents illegal border crossing.
As discussed in Chapter III of this report, the retroactive application of the “safe third country” concept on all applicants having transited through Serbia, against the unchanged recommendation of UNHCR not to consider Serbia as a safe third country because of the lack of access to effective protection in that country, also has further implications for the operation of the Dublin Regulation. As the asylum applications of Dublin returnees may be declared inadmissible on that basis upon return in Hungary, this presents a real risk of indirect refoulement. Consequently, EU Member States must refrain from effecting transfers to Hungary, as recommended in this report.
Aktueller Bericht von Amnesty International zu Ungarn. Titel des Berichts: Fenced Out – Hungary’s Violations Of The Rights Of Refugees And Migrants.
In dieser aktuellen, englischsprachigen Stellungnahme beschreibt und bewertet das Ungarische Helsinki Komitee die Gesetzesverschärfungen in Ungarn, welche zum 1.7.2015 in Kraft getreten sind.
Am 1.8.2015 ist Serbien zum „sicheren Drittstaat“ erklärt worden. Hierzu Amnesty International (30.7.2015):
Following the adoption of an Amendment to the Asylum Law by the National Assembly in June, the Hungarian government issued a decree on 21 July specifying the lists of the “safe countries of origin” and “safe third countries”. They include EU Member States, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Member States of the European Economic Area, states of the USA that have abolished the death penalty, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In July, the National Assembly adopted another Amendment of the Asylum Law, clarifying that the asylum applications of nationals of designated “safe countries of origin” will be decided in an expedited procedure. The applications of asylum-seekers coming through “safe third countries” will be declared inadmissible. This Amendment will enter into force on 1 August. The blanket refusal of asylum applications submitted by people who travelled through these countries can result in refoulement, the unlawful return of persons who would be at risk of serious human rights violations.
Dazu das Serbien sicherlich kein sicherer Drittstaat ist, sind bereits eine Reihe von Berichten erschienen.
The automatic detention of undocumented migrants for up to 18 months and of asylum seekers for up to 12 months is “in breach of Malta’s international human rights obligations”, human rights experts have warned. In its annual ‘State of the World’s Human Rights’ report, human rights organisation Amnesty International said that Malta’s search and rescue operations at sea, limited at disembarking refugees and migrants in its territory, is too “restrictive”.