Until 21 May 2020, detention was a frequent practice rather than an exceptional measure in Hungary, although most of asylum seekers were detained in the transit zones and not in officially recognised places of deprivation of liberty – asylum detention centres. In 2017, only 391 asylum seekers were detained in what is formally described as asylum detention. These numbers further decreased in 2018, since there were only 7 asylum seekers in asylum detention. In 2019 and 2020, 40 and 22 asylum seekers respectively were placed in asylum detention facilities. According to the NDGAP, in the case of 9 asylum seekers a prioritised procedure was conducted in 2020. In 2021, 2 asylum seekers were detained and a prioritised procedure was conducted in their cases. 23 people were detained during the Dublin procedure (Section 31/A(1) Asylum Act), but they were not asylum applicants in Hungary. For 2022, the NDGAP only provided the overall number of all ordered asylum detentions, which was 39 and claimed that they do not have data on how many persons detained in asylum detention were actually asylum seekers. 39 therefore contains also the number of persons detained during the Dublin procedure, but who were not asylum applicants in Hungary. The officially published NDGAP statistics show that there were 7 asylum seekers detained in asylum detention in 2022.
|Asylum detention of asylum seekers: 2015-2022|
|Asylum applicants detained||Total asylum applicants||Percentage|
Source: former IAO and NDGAP.
Compared to 2019, there was a 10% increase in the use of asylum detention in 2020. Compared to 2020, there was a 13.7% decrease in the use of asylum detention in 2021. Compared to 2021, there was 10,8% increase in the use of asylum detention in 2022.
In 2019, the vast majority of asylum seekers (433) were detained in the transit zones. Taken together, the number of applicants (together with the number of subsequent applicants) detained in transit zones and asylum detention made up 93.6% of the total number of asylum seekers. With the closure of the transit zone on 21 May 2020, the number of detained asylum seekers decreased compared to the previous years and only 18.8 % of asylum seekers were deprived of their liberty that year. In 2021 there were 2 asylum seekers detained out of 39 asylum-seekers total in Hungary, thus detainees only accounted for 5,1% of all applicants. In 2022 there were 7 asylum seekers detained out of 44 asylum-seekers total in Hungary, thus detainees accounted for 15,9% of all applicants.
There were 2 asylum seekers detained in the Nyírbátor asylum detention centre in 2021. Kiskunhalas and Békéscsaba are closed. There were 7 asylum seekers detained in the Nyírbátor asylum detention centre in 2022.
There are also 3 immigration detention centres located in Budapest Airport Police Directorate, Nyírbátor, and Győr, which hold persons waiting to be deported. Asylum seekers who no longer have a right to remain on the territory are also held there.
From 28 March 2017 until 21 May 2020, all asylum seekers entering the transit zones of Röszke and Tompa were de facto detained, although the Hungarian authorities refused to recognise that this is detention.
On 14 March 2017, the ECtHR issued a long-awaited judgment in the HHC-represented Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary case. The Court confirmed its established jurisprudence that confinement in the transit zones in Hungary amounted to unlawful detention and established a violation of Article 5(1), a violation of Article 5(4) and a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3 of the Convention due to the lack of effective remedy to complain about the conditions of detention in the transit zone. The government appealed against the judgment; the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR did not agree with the Chamber’s unanimous decision concerning the nature of the placement in the transit zone and ruled that the applicants were not deprived of their liberty within the meaning of Article 5.
On 14 May 2020, the CJEU delivered its judgment in the joint cases of C-924/19 PPU and C-925/19 PPU, ruling among others that the automatic and indefinite placement of asylum-seekers in the transit zones at the Hungarian-Serbian border qualifies as unlawful detention. A week after the judgment was delivered, the government shut down the transit zones.
On 22 May 2020, the UN WGAD delivered its Opinion No. 22/2020 concerning Saman Ahmed Haman (Hungary) based on an individual complaint. The Working Group concluded that ‘the detention of Mr. Hamad was arbitrary and falls within category IV (when asylum seekers, immigrants or refugees are subjected to prolonged administrative custody without the possibility of administrative or judicial review or remedy).’
On 17 December 2020, the CJEU issued a judgement in the infringement procedure case C-808/18 and ruled that Hungary by unlawfully detaining applicants for international protection in transit zones infringes upon EU law.
The HHC is of the opinion that the above CJEU judgment, the UN WGAD opinion and all the reports, statements, concluding observations and recommendations of various bodies, institutions, organisations and special procedures of both the Council of Europe and of the United Nations, show the existence of a ‘broad consensus’ as to the fact that placement in the transit zones in Hungary constitutes deprivation of liberty, which should be taken into account by the ECtHR when ruling on the pending cases concerning the transit zones.
On 2 March 2021, the ECtHR ruled in its judgment in R.R. and others v. Hungary (appl. no. 36037/17) that the confinement of an Iranian-Afghan family, including three minor children, to the Röszke transit zone constituted unlawful detention in violation of Article 5 and inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the Convention. Moreover, it considered that the applicants did not have an avenue in which the lawfulness of their detention could have been decided on promptly by a court, thereby violating Article 5(4) ECHR. In 2022, the Court reached similar finding, that placement in the transit zone constitutes detention, in the several cases concerning families with minor children. However the Court did not consider that the placement in the transit zone constitues detention, seemingly because the placement period was either too short, or the applicants did not have any special vulnerabilites and declared the following cases inadmissible: appl. no. 34883/17 (family with children, 40 days), appl. no. 37325/17 (family with children, 27 days), appl. no. 83/18 (single woman, 63 days), appl. no. 3047/18 (single man, 58 days) and appl. no 8172/18 (single man, 135 days).
In 2020, a total of 37 asylum seekers were placed and de facto detained in the transit zones. The transit zones served as detention places for a further 52 third-country nationals under the alien policing procedure. However, the number of asylum seekers and persons under alien policing procedure de facto detained in the transit zones in 2020 far exceeded these numbers since there had already been 433 people placed in Röszke and Tompa in 2019 whose asylum and alien policing procedure were still ongoing in 2020. At the time of the closure of the transit zones around 300 people were released and placed either in Vámosszabadi or Balassagyarmat (except for 1 person under an alien policing procedure who was further detained). In 2021, only rescued Afghans were placed in the transit zones during the quarantine time due to COVID-19.
The new asylum system introduced on 26 May 2020 (see section on Embassy procedure) foresees that persons arriving in Hungary with a single-entry permit in order to apply for asylum can be placed in a closed facility for 4 weeks following the registration of their asylum application, without any available legal remedy to challenge the placement. However, so far none of the applicants allowed to enter Hungary after submitting their statement of intent at the Embassy was detained.
 HHC, Statistical Brief Series on formal detention orders vs placement in the transit zones, 3 February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2IbFvNw.
 Information provided by former IAO, 12 February 2019.
 Information provided by NDGAP on 3 February 2020 and 2 March 2021.
 In accordance with Section 35/A of Asylum Act as provided by the NDGAP on 2 March 2021.
 Information provided by NDGAP on 7 February 2022.
 Information provided by NDGAP on 7 February 2022.
 Information provided by NDGAP on 13 February 2023 and 23 March 2023.
 NDGAP, Statistics, available at: https://bit.ly/3msesVT.
 It covers first-time and subsequent applicants together.
 ECtHR (Grand Chamber), Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary, Application no. 47287/15, 21 November 2019.
 CJEU, Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 17 December 2020, European Commission v Hungary, C-808/18, 17 December 2020, available at: http://bit.ly/3KwuabY.
 HHC, Placement in transit zones is a form of deprivation of liberty, Development of a broad consensus by international organisations that qualifies placement in the transit zones of Hungary as deprivation of liberty, after the legal amendments of March 2017, Information Update, 6 August 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3omV7QW.
 M.B.K. and Others v. Hungary, Appl.no. 73860/17, 24 February 2022; A.A.A. and Others v. Hungary, Appl. no. 37327/17, 9 June 2022; W.O. and Others, Appl. no. 36896/18, 25 August 2022 and H.M. and Others v. Hungary, Appl. no. 38967/17, 2 June 2022.
 A.S. and others v. Hungary, 9 June 2022, available at: http://bit.ly/3XWmUJB.
 N.A. and others v. Hungary, 24 February 2022, available at: http://bit.ly/3Z1yrc6.
 According to the information provided by the NDGAP on 2 March 2021, there were 38 people detained in Röszke and 14 in Tompa based on Section 62(3a) of TCN Act.
 AIDA, Country Report Hungary – 2019 Update, February 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3kkFaif, 84.
 Section 270(5) of the Transitional Act.