In summer 2017, the authorities terminated cooperation agreements with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and denied access to police detention, prisons and immigration detention after two decades of cooperation and over 2,000 visits (see Information for Asylum Seekers).
Politicians have access to asylum detention, but they need to ask for permission in advance. In practice, this rarely happens, since the interest is not very high. Media access is more limited. Media were let in the transit zones only on one occasion, soon after the opening of the transit zones, when a press conference was organised by the Ministry of Interior in Tompa transit zone on 6 April 2017, which was virtually emptied of its inhabitants for the time of the press conference. On 8 October 2019, the ECtHR ruled that refusing a journalist access to report on living conditions in a reception centre for asylum seekers is a violation of freedom of expression.
In asylum detention, no NGO is present on a regular basis. In transit zones, the Charity Council, which consists of six organisations, is the only organisation which is allowed to enter to provide certain type of assistance to asylum seekers based on an agreement with the Hungarian authorities: Red Cross distributes donations; The Hungarian Interchurch Aid distributes donations, holds children programmes and helps in conflict management; The Hungarian Reformed Charity Service distributes donations, organises community programmes and, in case of need, religious programmes; the personnel of the Migration Medical Health Service of the Hungarian-Maltese Charity Service operate a lung-screening bus for the medical screening of asylum seekers’ lungs. In 2018, the Hungarian Interchurch Aid, the Hungarian Reformed Church and Caritas no longer regularly visited the transit zones. According to the NDGAP, in 2019 the Hungarian Reformed Church, the Reformed Church of Békésszentandrás and the Hungarian Red Cross were regularly present in the transit zones.
In 2018, UNWGAD was denied access to the transit zones in Hungary as the authorities considered that transit zones do not fall under their mandate, as these were not places of deprivation of liberty.
It is worth noting, that Hungarian Ombudsman, despite having a mandate to carry out NPM under OPCAT did not visit the transit zone and the only visit to the asylum detention centre happened in 2015.
Hvg, ‘Megnéztük a helyet, ahol Németh Szilárd szívesen lakott volna’, 6 April 2017, available in Hungarian at: http://bit.ly/2GwB9xu; Abcúg, ‘Szöges drótok pókhálója szövi körbe a tranzitzónában malmozó menedékkérőket’, 7 April 2017, available in Hungarian at: http://bit.ly/2EU8NA1;Index.hu, ‘Szöges drótok pókhálója szövi körbe a tranzitzónában malmozó menedékkérőket’, 7 April 2017, available in Hungarian at: http://bit.ly/2sPP8wz.
ECtHR, Szurovecz v. Hungary, Appl. no. 15428/16, 8 October 2019.
The six members of the national Charity Council are the following: Hungarian Red Cross, Maltese Charity Service, Hungarian Interchurch Aid, Caritas Hungarica, Hungarian Reformed Church, Baptist Aid: http://karitativtanacs.kormany.hu.
Information provided by NDGAP, 3 February 2020.