Differential treatment of specific nationalities in reception

Hungary

Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in reception Last updated: 10/07/24

Author

Hungarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

There is no difference in treatment with respect to reception based on nationality.

Following the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan in August 2021, almost 500 former NATO co-workers and their families were flown to Hungary in a rescue operation. The families were first quarantined for 10 days in the former transit zones at Röszke and Tompa, at the Hungarian-Serbia border.[1] The HHC established contacts with several families at both premises during their quarantine, in order to provide legal information and answers to their questions. After the quarantine the families were relocated to the remaining two reception facilities in Vámosszabadi and Balassagyarmat.

The rescued Afghan citizens were accommodated in Vámosszabadi and Balassagyarmat even though they were subject to the alien policing procedure (residence permit for other purposes, i.e. humanitarian purposes), instead of being channelled in the asylum procedure. In August 2021, Vámosszabadi was emptied, so that it could exclusively serve as an accommodation centre for Afghan citizens rescued by the Hungarian Defence Forces. Both facilities became overcrowded (in case of Vámosszabadi, it gave home to 270 evacuees, despite its capacity of 210 places). The overcrowding resulted in problems in particular when people were using the bathrooms or praying. In Balassagyarmat, two families had to share a room, which presented an additional cultural problem. In some rooms, children had to sleep on the floor as there were not sufficient beds in the facility.

Afghans were given hygienic items and food in kind, but had no opportunity to cook for themselves. This caused conflict and problems both in Vámosszabadi and Balassagyarmat, as reported by Menedék Association and the problem was not solved by the end of their stay in the facilities. To the knowledge of the HHC, the asylum authority justified the decision by arguing that the kitchens would not be able to accommodate so many people at once. In Vámosszabadi, several complaints were noted by the HHC in relation to the meals served to the residents. These problems surged from the prohibition of taking food into the rooms, so that children had to be woken up in case they were sleeping during meal time. The HHC was also informed about a diabetic refugee’s dietary needs not being respected, as he was not provided with special meals.

The rescued Afghans received donations from the Hungarian Red Cross and many private individuals, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, equipping them with the basic necessities, primarily with winter clothes. A group of volunteers organised a special winter clothes donation in both premises and paid regular visits to both Balassagyarmat and Vámosszabadi. In early September 2021, HHC attorneys noted complaints about the Wi-Fi connection both in Balassagyarmat and in Vámosszabadi (only plug-in cable internet was available), which made it hard for the evacuees to keep contact with family members stuck in Afghanistan.

As for community activities, Menedék Association mainly organised programmes outside the camps focusing on the children. During their stay in the reception centres, education for the children was not organised.

Despite the fact that the rescued families were not allowed to access the asylum procedure, the HHC closely followed the developments regarding their situation, and provided the opportunity for legal counselling and legal representation in both reception facilities (Balassagyarmat and Vámosszabadi). HHC staff and attorneys together with translators regularly visited both places. The HHC was not allowed to access reception facilities, but the families were happy to receive assistance in nearby parks and outside the centre. Altogether, 21 families authorised the HHC to represent them.

The responsible authority in Hungary failed in its obligation to regularly provide information on the procedure and with the help of translators. During the legal counselling sessions held by the HHC, the Afghan citizens shared that they were not sure what documents they had signed and what procedure they were in. Both the HHC and the Menedék Association shared that although the families signed a paper confirming the reception of information on the procedure and their stay in reception facilities, they were not even aware of the fact that their application for a residence permit had been submitted. They did not know about their rights and obligations attached to the residence permit once they obtained that either. The Afghans could stay in the reception facilities until the end of October when they were moved to Budapest by the assistance of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service (Maltese Charity) (see under section on Housing).

Information on the move-out, their future legal status in Hungary and the assistance available in Budapest was also rather scarce and left many families in uncertainty. The lack of information and this uncertainty most likely contributed to the fact that a significant proportion of the families decided to leave Hungary. For those who remained, the HHC organised two information sessions in Budapest in November and December 2021 to help them understand their legal status, their rights and the integration contract signed with the Maltese Charity.

 

 

 

[1] Information by the NDGAP on 7 February 2022.

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