Access to detention facilities

Hungary

Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 15/04/21

Author

Hungarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

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.[1] 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.[2]

In asylum detention, no NGO is present on a regular basis. In 2020, the Hungarian Red Cross visited the facility two times and provided non-perishable food for the detainees.[3] In transit zones, the Charity Council,[4] which consists of six organisations, was the only organisation which was allowed to enter to provide certain type of assistance to asylum seekers based on an agreement with the Hungarian authorities: Red Cross distributed donations; The Hungarian Interchurch Aid distributed donations, held children programmes and helped in conflict management; The Hungarian Reformed Charity Service distributed donations, organised community programmes and, in case of need, religious programmes; the personnel of the Migration Medical Health Service of the Hungarian-Maltese Charity Service operated 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 and 2020 the Hungarian Reformed Church, the Reformed Church of Békésszentandrás and the Hungarian Red Cross were regularly present in the transit zones (except for the months when access was hindered by the preventive restrictive measures introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic).[5]

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.[6]

 

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.

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.[7]

As a result of preventive measures introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, access of private persons (such as family members) is suspended. Entrance for UNHCR or attorneys is possible only with gloves and wearing a mask, having had body temperature controlled, COVID-19 symptom checklist filled out and hands disinfected. Furthermore, social distance should be maintained. Donations are to be delivered at the entrance of the facilities without entrance.[8]

 

 

[1]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.

[2]ECtHR, Szurovecz v. Hungary, Appl. no. 15428/16, 8 October 2019.

[3] Information provided by NDGAP on 2 March 2021.

[4]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.

[5]Information provided by NDGAP on 3 February 2020 and 2 March 2021.

[6]UNWGAD, ‘UN human rights experts suspend Hungary visit after access denied’, 15 November 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2B7X5Pu.

[7]CRC, Concluding observation on Hungary, 10 February 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3op1QK0.

[8]Information provided by the NDGAP on 2 March 2021.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation