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 recognized 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, 40 people, whereas in 2020, 22 asylum seekers were placed in asylum detention. According to the NDGAP, in the case of 9 asylum seekers a prioritized procedure was conducted.
|Asylum detention of asylum seekers: 2014-2020|
|Asylum applicants detained||Total asylum applicants||Percentage|
Source: former IAO and NDGAP.
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 has decreased compared to the previous years but still very high as 64.1% of first-time applicants were deprived of their liberty.
Röszke transit zone was suitable for accommodating 450 asylum seekers whereas the Tompa transit zone was suitable for accommodating 250 asylum seekers. In 2020, 20 and 17 asylum seekers were detained in Tompa and in Röszke, respectively.
There were 22 asylum seekers detained in the Nyírbátor asylum detention centre in 2020. Kiskunhalas and Békéscsaba are closed.
There are also 3 immigration detention centres 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. The fact that asylum seekers inside the transit zones were deprived of their freedom of movement is also confirmed by the UNWGAD, CPT, UNHCR, UNHRC, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, European Commission, and Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
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 the 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 and 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 UNWGAD 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 constitute infringements of EU law.
The HHC is of the opinion that the above CJEU judgment, the UNWGAD 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” on 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 concering 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 avenue in which the lawfulness of their detention could have been decided promptly by a court, thereby violating Article 5(4) ECHR.
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 still lasted in 2020 (see AIDA report 2019). At the time of the closure of the transit zones around 300 people were released and placed either to Vámosszabadi or Balassagyarmat (except for 1 person under alien policing procedure who was further detained).
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.
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.
According to the information provided by NDGAP on 2 March 2021 there were 92 first-time applicants.
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Press briefing notes on Iran and Hungary, 3 May 2019, available at: http://bit.ly/38h8pXr.
OHCHR, End of visit statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, 17 July 2019, available at: http://bit.ly/2tqOHcX, the report can be found here: https://bit.ly/3abY15V.
European Commission, Migration and Asylum: Commission takes further steps in infringement procedures against Hungary, 19 July 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2uMEJ2c.
Commissioner for Human Rights Of The Council Of Europe, Dunja mijatović , Report following her visit to Hungary from 4 to 8 February 2019, 21 May 2019, available at: http://bit.ly/30upiLp.
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, ECLI:EU:C:2020:1029.
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, https://bit.ly/3omV7QW.
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.
Section 270(5) of the Transitional Act.