Detention of vulnerable applicants



Hungarian Helsinki Committee

Unaccompanied children are explicitly excluded from asylum and immigration detention by law.1 Despite that clear ban, however, unaccompanied children have been detained due to incorrect age assessment,2 as the age assessment methods employed by the police and IAO are considerably problematic (see section on Identification above). For example, CPT found during its visit one unaccompanied minor who was detained for 4 days.3

In late October 2015, Human Rights Watch interviewed nine youth in the Békéscsaba and Nyírbátor asylum detention facilities who said they were between 14 and 17 years old and whose appearance strongly suggested that they were under 18. All nine said that they had told staff they were unaccompanied children, but staff failed to take the steps necessary to properly assess their ages. Directors at both asylum detention centres denied that any unaccompanied children were detained there. In its 17 November 2015 response to Human Rights Watch, the IAO said that no unaccompanied children were currently detained in asylum detention in Hungary, and that if there is any doubt about the age of an asylum seeker, authorities send the person for a medical examination to establish their age. However, the age-disputed children Human Rights Watch interviewed either had not been seen by a medical professional at all or had received a cursory examination consisting of questions. Some said medical staff only looked at them, and in one case a staff member asked a detainee to remove his T-shirt.4

Moreover, no other categories of vulnerable asylum seekers are excluded from detention. Whereas previously families with children were not detained in practice, they are now again being detained in some cases, this continues to be the practice in 2016 as well. The detention of families has been criticised as discriminating between children based on their family status contrary to Article 2(2) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for Fundamental Rights.5

In its visit as the national prevention mechanism under OPCAT, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Fundamental Rights visited the asylum detention facility in Debrecen in January 2015. The report concludes that the conditions and the long lasting effects of detention are particularly harmful for children. The Commissioner claimed that:

“In order to temporarily ease the tension accumulated in the foreigners, in particular in the children, and to make the psychological burden of detention tolerable, the social workers should pay more attention, compared to that experienced at the time of the visit, to the organization and conduct of activities for the detainees as stipulated by the law.”6

This facility was closed in December 2015. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Fundamental Rights did not visit any other asylum detention facility since.

However, detention must be terminated if the asylum seeker requires extended hospitalisation for health reasons.7

In 2016, there were 54 families detained for an average time of 24 days.8 There were 36 families including minors kept in detention for an average time of 22 days.

  • 1. Section 56 TCN Act; Section 31/B(2) Asylum Act.
  • 2. HHC, Information Note on asylum-seekers in detention and in Dublin procedures in Hungary, May 2014, 12.
  • 3. CPT, Report to the Hungarian Government on the visit to Hungary carried out from 21 to 27 October 2015, 3 November 2016, para 60.
  • 4. Human Rights Watch, ‘Hungary: Locked Up for Seeking Asylum’, 1 December 2015, available at:
  • 5. Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Report in Case No. AJB 4019/2012, June 2012, available at:
  • 6. Fundamental Rights Commissioner, Summary of Case Report AJB-366/2015 on OPCAT Visit to the Debrecen Guarded Refugee Reception Center, 26-27 January 2015, available at:
  • 7. Section 31/A(8)(d) Asylum Act.
  • 8. Information provided by the IAO, 20 January, 2017.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti