Provision on information on the procedure
The NDGAP is obliged to provide written information to the asylum seeker upon submission of the application. The information concerns the applicant’s rights and obligations in the procedure and the consequences of violating these obligations. As people submitting a statement of intent at the Embassy are not yet considered asylum seekers, there is no specific obligation to provide them with information. The only information available can be accessed on the NDGAP website, and even that information is only available in Hungarian. The website in English is outdated and does not even mention the Embassy procedure.
Asylum seekers, who want to apply for asylum in Hungary, but do not fall under the exceptions from the Embassy procedure, would receive information about the Embassy procedure.
Asylum seekers also receive information about the Dublin III Regulation. The level of understanding of the information varies a lot amongst asylum seekers, while in some instances the functioning of the Dublin III system is too complicated to comprehend. Leaflets created by the Commission are often used in practice.
The asylum seeker is informed about the fact that a Dublin procedure has started, but after that, they are not informed about the different steps in the Dublin procedure. If the Dublin procedure takes a long time, this creates frustration, especially when the majority of asylum seekers were detained in the transit zones. Asylum seekers only receive the transfer decision, which includes the grounds for application of the Dublin Regulation and against which they can appeal within 3 days. The NDGAP does not provide a written translation of the Dublin decision, but they do explain it orally in a language that the asylum seeker understands. In the past, some asylum seekers have told the HHC that they were not informed about the possibility to appeal the Dublin decision when they were given the decision. No such cases were reported in 2019. The lack of information on the procedural steps taken during a Dublin procedure still persisted in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
The main factors that render access to information difficult are: (a) untimely provision of the information enabling asylum seekers to make an informed choice; (b) language barriers; (c) illiteracy; (d) failure to address specific needs of asylum seekers, e.g. by using child- and disability-friendly communication; and (e) highly complex and technical wording of official information material. Frequently, information is not provided in user-friendly language, and written communication is the main means of information provision, although it has been shown to be less effective than video material. The HHC’s experience shows that alternative sources of information are rarely used in practice.
Access to NGOs and UNHCR
In the summer of 2017, the authorities terminated their cooperation agreements with the HHC and denied them access to police detention, prisons and immigration detention after two decades of cooperation and over 2,000 visits. The HHC can no longer monitor human rights in closed institutions, even though NGOs’ access to police, prison and immigration detention reduces the risk of torture and ill-treatment and contributes to improving detention conditions. Regarding the access of HHC lawyers for the purpose to provide legal aid, see Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance.
On 10 February 2020, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published its concluding observations on Hungary, where it found worrying that NGOs are excluded from consultation and cannot conduct activities in a free environment, including NGOs working on asylum and detention.
The case of European Commission v. Hungary (C-78/18) on the so called ‘Lex NGO’ is important because the restrictions imposed by Hungary on the financing of civil society organisations has an impact on national organisations working in the field of asylum. The CJEU held that Hungary had introduced discriminatory and unjustified restrictions on civil society organisations and on individuals providing them support by imposing obligations of registration and declarations and by publishing information on civil society organisations which directly or indirectly receive support from abroad. Hungary also provided for the possibility to issue penalties to the organisations that did not comply with the obligations. The measures do not comply with the free movement of capital laid down in the TFEU, Article 63 and the EU Charter, Article 7 (the right to private and family life), Article 8 (protection of personal data) and Article 12 (right to freedom of association).
In the summer of 2018, Hungary passed legislation criminalising otherwise legal activities aimed at assisting asylum seekers, the so-called ‘Stop Soros’ law. Preparing or distributing information materials or commissioning such activities a) in order to allow the initiating of an asylum procedure in Hungary by a person who in their country of origin or in the country of their habitual residence or another country via which they had arrived, was not subjected to persecution for reasons of race, nationality, membership of a particular social group, religion or political opinion, or their fear of indirect persecution is not well-founded, b) or in order for the person entering Hungary illegally or residing in Hungary illegally, to obtain a residence permit, became a crime, which is punished by custodial arrest or, in aggravated circumstances, imprisonment up to one year (e.g. in case of material support to irregular migrants, organisations or individuals operating within the 8 km zone near the border; or providing assistance on a regular basis). On 25 July 2019, the European Commission decided to refer Hungary to the CJEU concerning legislation that criminalises activities in support of asylum applications and further restricts the right to request asylum. On 16 November 2021, the CJEU issued a judgment in case C-821/19. It ruled that the 2018 ‘Stop Soros’ law breaches EU law. Threatening people with imprisonment who assist asylum-seekers to claim asylum violates EU norms. No criminal procedures were started on the basis of this law.
On 7 December 2022, the Hungarian Parliament amended the Stop Soros law in a last-minute amendment that was introduced through a parliamentary super committee to an unrelated omnibus bill. The changes entered into force on 1 January 2023. In the HHC’s view, the amendments fail to implement the CJEU’s judgment. The general criminalisation of assistance was replaced by a new, vaguely defined criminal activity that jeopardises the attorney-client privilege, and in the case of non-attorney helpers, forces them to sacrifice the applicant’s best interests in order to protect themselves from potential prosecution.
The HHC is the only NGO that provides free legal aid and representation for asylum seekers in Hungary. Menedék association provides social assistance and integration support to asylum seekers, Cordelia Foundation is specialised in providing psychosocial counselling to asylum seekers and the Jesuit Refugee Service provides programs for children in Fót.
 Section 37 Asylum Act.
 See: https://bit.ly/3pl7he4.
 See also the highly technical language used in NDGAP’s website on the asylum procedure, available at: http://bit.ly/1e5AtBi, and Dublin, available at: http://bit.ly/1L3fA7b.
 HHC, National authorities terminated cooperation agreements with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, available at: http://bit.ly/2sMyU7o.
 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Hungary, 3 March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3kl2CM4.
 Law No LXXVI of 2017 on the Transparency of Organisations which receive Support from Abroad.
 EASO, EASO Asylum Report 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3oBAuUg, 58.
 HHC, Criminalisation and Taxation – The summary of legal amendments adopted in the summer of 2018 to intimidate human rights defenders in Hungary, 25 September 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2GxoLBq.
 European Commission, ‘Commission takes Hungary to Court for criminalising activities in support of asylum seekers and opens new infringement for non-provision of food in transit zones’, 25 July 2019, available at: http://bit.ly/360DIEg.
 CJEU, Judgment in Case C-821/19 Commission v Hungary (Criminalisation of assistance to asylum seekers), PRESS RELEASE No 203/21, 16 November 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3rn8bKH.
 Bill T/1837, an unofficial English translation of the adopted amendment and its reasoning is available at: https://bit.ly/3krV0ax.
 HHC, Criminalisation continues – Hungary fails to implement CJEU judgment, 21 December 2022, https://bit.ly/3QVDAPx.