The recommendations contained in this report are as always made in a constructive spirit and the CPT looks forward to pursuing its dialogue with the Hungarian authorities in order to improve the situation of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty in Hungary.
The majority of detained foreign nationals interviewed by the delegation stated that they had been treated correctly by police/prison officers and/or armed guards. That said, a considerable number of foreign nationals claimed that they had been subjected to physical ill-treatment by police officers. These allegations concerned mainly slaps and punches to the face or abdomen, as well as baton blows, at the moment of apprehension (even when the persons concerned were allegedly not resisting apprehension or after they had been brought under control), during transfer to a police establishment and/or during subsequent police questioning. It is of particular concern that some of these allegations were made by foreign nationals who claimed to be unaccompanied minors. In addition, a few allegations were received of physical ill-treatment by police officers and/or armed guards working in immigration or asylum detention facilities. Moreover, some allegations were received of verbal abuse and disrespectful behaviour on the part of police officers and armed guards (such as swearing, mocking and spitting at foreign nationals); these allegations concerned all stages of deprivation of liberty.
Particular reference should be made to an incident which occurred at the Nagyfa Prison Unit on 23 October 2015, the first day of the delegation’s visit to the establishment. During the weeks preceding the visit there had apparently been a tense atmosphere, accompanied by an increasing number of instances of self-harming, suicide attempts, destruction of property and hunger-strikes. These tensions escalated on 23 October when a large number of foreign nationals staged a protest by damaging the premises and equipment of the detention unit. At the same time, several of the foreign nationals barricaded themselves in two rooms and threatened to harm themselves or commit suicide if the staff attempted to enter. At the request of the prison management, two special police intervention forces (MEKTO and Bevete’si Osztaly) were called in. The officers remained outside in black riot gear, in buses parked directly in front of the detention unit, in full view of many of the immigration detainees, during the afternoon and early evening. In the late evening, after the delegation had left the establishment, the special intervention forces entered the detention unit. When returning to the establishment the next day, the delegation was informed that, following the police intervention the night before, 29 foreign nationals involved in the protest had been transferred to various other establishments, including several police detention facilities in
Szeged. Approximately two-thirds of them had first been taken to the Detention Facility of Csongrád County Police Headquarters and then to the Detention Facility of the Border Police in Szeged (Moscow street), while the others had immediately been transferred to other places of detention and the airport (for immediate deportation). The delegation was also shown closed circuit television (CCTV) footage of the intervention, which covered certain parts of the Unit and of the outside courtyard. However, the delegation was informed that some of the CCTV cameras were not functioning properly at the time of the intervention and it also became clear that they did not cover the entire premises of the prison unit. One of the ‘blind spots’ was the area where foreign nationals entered the special police buses to be transferred to other police establishments. Subsequently, the delegation went to various police establishments in order to interview those foreign nationals who had been involved in the above-mentioned incident or had witnessed the intervention of the special police forces. In interviews carried out separately, many of the foreign nationals concerned made consistent and detailed allegations of physical ill-treatment by the special police forces. The alleged ill-treatment took the form of violently pushing the heads and faces of inmates against a wall and punching them in the abdomen and face, as well as directing baton blows to the head while the persons concerned were handcuffed behind their backs. Several allegations were also received of excessively tight handcuffing and of persons being lifted by the handcuffs from the ground. The ill-treatment allegedly took place in the yard of the facility, in areas not covered by the CCTV. In addition, many of the foreign nationals who had been transferred after the incident to various police stations (in particular, in Szeged) claimed that they had been ill-treated by local police officers upon arrival at the police establishment (for example, violently pushed against the wall and/or punched in the abdomen and kidneys). It should be noted in this context that some of the foreign nationals interviewed by the delegation displayed injuries which were consistent with the allegations of ill-treatment/excessive use of force made, such as a lacerated wound on the head, pain on palpation of the abdomen and the back of the head and parallel linear-shaped bruises on both wrists.
Zusammenfassung des Berichts:
Fences, teargas, and draconian legislation: over the last year the Hungarian authorities have baulked at little in their determination to keep refugees and migrants out of the country. The government’s programme of militarization, criminalization and isolation – that it touts as “Schengen 2.0” – has ushered in a set of measures which have resulted in violent push-backs at the border with Serbia, unlawful detentions inside the country and dire living conditions for those waiting at the border. While the Hungarian government has spent millions of Euros on a xenophobic advertising campaign, refugees are left to languish.
The Hungarian government’s anti-refugee campaign will reach a new nadir on 2 October 2016 when Hungarians will be asked to vote on the mandatory relocation of asylum-seekers in Hungary. But the real questions are bigger; is Hungary prepared to accept refugees at all? Is it prepared to work within the framework of EU rules to find shared solutions to an EU-wide challenge? The government’s intentional blurring of the lines between seeking asylum and other forms of migration goes hand in hand with its labelling refugees and migrants as “illegal” and as threats to national security. The toxic rhetoric of the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, calling asylum-seekers “poison”, has trickled down to the level of local government and often permeates the context in which police and local asylum centres operate.
Hungary has erected a series of legal and physical barriers around the country to keep refugees and migrants out. It has constructed a border fence at its southern border with Serbia and Croatia, and criminalized irregular entry across it. Within a year, close to three thousand refugees and migrants were penalized. Thousands of people have also been denied entry or returned forcibly to Serbia since the law was changed in July 2016 to allow the immediate return of those caught at the border fence or up to 8 km inside Hungarian territory.
The Hungarian government has not been content to isolate itself behind its fences. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has, instead, invested considerable energy into convincing EU colleagues of the merits of “Schengen 2.0”. He has even found some support. This briefing documents some of the pernicious consequences of Hungary’s current policies and gives a taste of what awaits refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe if other countries seek to replicate them. This briefing documents the plight of refugees and migrants as they wait in dire conditions to enter the country; as they get pushed back to Serbia, sometimes violently and without access to any procedure; as they are routinely detained in centres where they are “treated like animals” and as they make their way through an asylum procedure designed to reject them.
The only way to enter Hungary regularly and apply for asylum is through its “transit zones”, a set of metal containers set up at the border following the completion of the border fence. Only 30 people are admitted to the “transit zones” each day; others languish in substandard conditions in makeshift camps at the border area, or in overcrowded centres across Serbia waiting for their turn to arrive to enter Hungary, based on an “entering plan” submitted by asylum-seekers themselves. Hungary fails to ensure that those who can’t be admitted to the asylum procedure immediately receive humane treatment, including access to sanitation, medical care and adequate accommodation conditions.
With such heavy restrictions on regular entry to the country, many choose to cross the border irregularly after months of waiting. They are stopped and returned immediately, without any consideration of their needs for protection or particular vulnerabilities. Refugees and migrants told Amnesty International about excessive use of force, including beatings, kicking and chasing back with dogs and unlawful returns (or “push backs”) to Serbia. Inside the “transit zone” containers, authorities unlawfully detain without ground most men traveling without family for up to four weeks. Most of them have their asylum applications declared inadmissible on the grounds that they came through Serbia, a “safe third country”, where they should have applied for asylum.
As Serbia does not formally take them back and does not provide access to a fair and individualized asylum process, those pushed back out of the containers have little other option than to attempt a different route to the EU. Those who do get into the country risk a multitude of further rights violations. The detention of asylum-seekers has become routine. In early August, over half of the twelve hundred asylum-seekers residing in Hungary were in asylum detention. Despite repeated requests, Amnesty International was not allowed to visit the asylum detention centres to document the conditions asylum-seekers were kept in. However, the organization has interviewed several former detainees in the Körmend tent camp and in Austria, who reported beatings and threats of violence by the police and security guards inside the detention centre. They also spoke of the frustration and trauma among the asylum-seekers locked up without having committed a crime. Amnesty International interviewed several asylum-seekers who harmed themselves in desperation.
Families and vulnerable persons are taken from “transit zones” to open reception centres inside the country where they face a different set of challenges. They languish in conditions which are often unsuitable for long-term accommodation, and where information on and assistance with asylum applications are lacking and support to access essential services is minimal. These centres barely provide education, activities for children and healthcare. The lack of translators and a lengthy, complex asylum process create often insurmountable obstacles to their asylum cases.
Hungary is, on multiple counts, in flagrant breach of international human rights and refugee law and EU directives on asylum procedures, reception conditions, and the Dublin regulation. The Hungarian authorities continue to intentionally undermine any agreement that could protect the rights of refugees and migrants to safely and legally arrive in the European Union, be treated with dignity, and have a fair and individual opportunity to make their cases heard. This briefing makes the case for the European Commission to take the infringement proceedings it has started against Hungary further and hold Hungary accountable and bring the country’s migration and asylum policies in line with EU and international law obligations.
“Hungary is breaking all the rules for asylum seekers transiting through Serbia, summarily dismissing claims and sending them back across the border,” said Lydia Gall, Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “People who cross into Hungary without permission, including women and children, have been viciously beaten and forced back across the border.”
EU member states should refrain from returning any asylum seekers to Hungary until it ensures meaningful access to asylum, including adequate time for a substantive in-country appeal and should halt violent and other summary returns of asylum seekers to Serbia, Human Rights Watch said.
- Termination of monthly cash allowance of free use for asylum-seekers
- Termination of school-enrolment benefit previously provided to child-asylum-seekers
- Terminating theintegration support scheme for recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection introduced in 2013, without replacing it with any alternative measure
- Irregular migrants (regardless of whether or notthey claim asylum) who are arrested within 8 km (5 miles)of eitherthe Serbian-Hungarian or the Croatian-Hungarian borderwill be “escorted” by the police to the external side of theborder fence, without assessing their protection needs or even registering them
Though a number of EU Member States intend to send migrants back to Hungary, no one can be sent back here. People must be sent back to Greece, János Lázár, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office said at the press conference Governmentinfo 51 which he held jointly with Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács. The Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated at his press conference held on Thursday: a variety of Member States intend to send some 52,000 people back to Hungary, most of them from Germany. Hungary, however, informed all of its partners that these people arrived in Hungary via Greece, and even if they were not registered there, it does not mean that they should be sent back to Hungary, he said […].
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.
This fact sheet is devoted to jurisprudence preventing transfers under Regulation 604/2013 (Dublin III Regulation) to Hungary. Its scope is limited to case law from European Union Member States supported by policy and non-governmental material to illustrate the grounds on which the judiciary are suspending transfers to Hungary. In light of the substantial amount of case law on the topic, the note in no way purports to be a fully comprehensive review of Member State practice, nonetheless the jurisprudence included serves as a unique tool for practitioners to consult and use in their own respective litigation. It is to be seen against the backdrop of the Commission’s infringement proceedings against Hungary and the new systematic monitoring process outlined in the European Agenda on Migration, as well as several cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights and an urgent preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union lodged by Debrecen Administrative and Labour Court in the context of asylum law. The note therefore provides a further layer of examination and analysis, one which is jurisprudential in nature and which should be borne in mind when evaluating the adherence of Hungary to European and
international legal obligations.
Human Rights Watch encountered several asylum seekers who said they had been returned to Hungary from Austria, Germany, and Slovakia under the Dublin III Regulation, which allows an EU country to return most asylum seekers to the first EU country to which they arrived. This is despite the lack of meaningful access to asylum under Hungary’s abusive border regime and its routine detention of asylum seekers, including vulnerable people, in poor conditions.
Hungary is detaining vulnerable asylum seekers and migrants under its new border regime for weeks at a time, sometimes in poor conditions, Human Rights Watch said today.
Pregnant women, accompanied and unaccompanied children, and people with disabilities were among those detained for long periods, with women and families with young children in some cases sharing facilities with unrelated men.
Under the new border regime, asylum claims are determined through accelerated procedures, and most are rejected. Rejected asylum seekers and people convicted by Hungarian courts of irregular entry are held in immigration detention indefinitely, pending removal mainly to Serbia, though it has refused in most cases to accept such returns.
Although all three directors claimed they were holding no unaccompanied children, nine unaccompanied young people interviewed told Human Rights Watch that they were under 18 and said they had had either no age assessment or a cursory one.
Detainees in both sections of the Nyirbator detention center said the facilities were infested with bedbugs, and Human Rights Watch researchers observed rashes and bites on detainees in both parts of the facility. Staff said that eradicating the problem would be too costly.
More than 1,000 refugees, most of them from war zones in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, are detained in overcrowded Hungarian prisons or detention facilities. As of 10 November, almost 700 had been sentenced to expulsion by Hungarian courts for crossing the razor-wire fence along its southern borders. More than 200 others are detained, awaiting trial. Around 500 people are in asylum detention, a separate category under Hungarian law. The Serbian government is refusing to accept most deportees from Hungary, in protest against the fence.