Information for asylum seekers and access to NGOs and UNHCR
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.
The same level and sources of information are used in all stages of the asylum 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. Common leaflets drawn up by the Commission are already used in practice.
The asylum seeker is informed about the fact that a Dublin procedure has started, but after that, he or she is not informed about the different steps in the Dublin procedure. If the Dublin procedure takes a long time, this creates frustration, especially since the majority of asylum seekers are detained in the transit zones. Asylum seekers only receive the decision on the transfer, 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 procedural steps taken during a Dublin procedure still persisted in 2019.
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.
Oral, ad hoc information sessions organised by UNHCR, although informal, are a useful channel for basic information provision on reception conditions and the asylum procedure, mainly for those who have just arrived in the transit zones. Specific information on assisted voluntary return and reintegration, and also child friendly information is provided by IOM throughout the asylum procedure during their regular visits in the facilities where asylum seekers are held.
Access to NGOs and UNHCR
In summer 2017, the authorities terminated cooperation agreements with the HHC and denied 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.
In the summer of 2018, Hungary passed legislation criminalising otherwise legal activities aimed at assisting asylum seekers. 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.
 Section 37 Asylum Act.
 IOM, Children’s rights and responsibilities, available at: https://bit.ly/2V8xWvs. For more details see HHC, Legal and procedural information for asylum seekers in Europe: Hungary, April 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2QFjc5x.
 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, press release: 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.