Access to health care is provided for asylum seekers as part of the reception conditions. It covers essential medical services and corresponds to free medical services provided to legally residing third-country nationals. Asylum seekers have a right to examinations and treatment by general practitioners, but all specialised treatment conducted in policlinics and hospitals is free only in case of emergency and upon referral by a general practitioner.
According to the Asylum Decree, asylum seekers with special needs are “eligible for free of charge health care services, rehabilitation, psychological and clinical psychological care or psychotherapeutic treatment required by the person’s state of health.”
In practice, there are no guidelines for identifying vulnerable asylum seekers and a lack of specialised medical services. Furthermore, only a few experts speak foreign languages and even fewer have experience in dealing with torture or trauma survivors. The Cordelia Foundation, a Budapest based NGO, is the only organisation with the necessary expertise and experience and being specialized in providing psychological assistance to torture survivors and traumatised asylum seekers. Their capacity is constrained and every year the question arises whether it will continue to provide these much-needed services, as its activities are funded on a project-by-project basis and not under the framework of a regular service provider contracted by the NDGAP. The therapeutic activities of the Foundation include verbal and non-verbal, individual, family and group therapies, and psychological and social counselling. Despite the utmost importance of the organisation’s work, it had never been given an entrance permit to the transit zones prior to its closure.
In contrast to the previous years, in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Cordelia Foundation had no access to the reception facilities between mid-March and end of June and in November and December 2020. In the rest of the year, the Foundation similarly to the previous years, would have the capacity for regular visits on fortnightly basis, nonetheless, as a result of the low number of asylum seekers (and beneficiaries of international protection), the regularity of the visits of psychiatrists and psychologists was hectic throughout the year 2020. The Foundation was in contact with the management of the reception facilities in Vámosszabadi, Balassagyarmat and Fót, as well as with UNHCR and upon request arrived to the centres. There was a short period in September and October 2020, when the psychologist of the Foundation was present in Fót once in a fortnight.
The Foundation also plays a key role in the lives of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection (and of those migrants who have a “refugee story”, for instance students from Syria) who are residing in Budapest. In 2019, the Foundation provided therapeutic services to 86 persons in Budapest, while in 2020 by four psychiatrists, two psychologists and one art therapist the NGO assisted 46 persons in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the organization also provided online therapy to 26 people.
The psychologist of the Menedék Association also visited Fót and Vámosszabadi regularly in 2020.
According to the NDGAP, child asylum seekers have regular access to a pediatrist in Vámosszabadi, and since 15 June 2020, there has been one general practitioner available for adults. Previously, in case of medical complaints, asylum seekers had been taken to the doctor outside of the camp. Menedék Association reported that a nurse visited the facility on a daily basis, and there was an Arabic social worker who assisted with the translation. However, as to residents with other mother tongue (Dari, Farsi, Krudish), similarly to the previous years, the access to effective medical assistance was hindered by language problems due to the lack of interpreters provided by NDGAP. To a limited extent the intercultural mediators of the Menedék Association filled in the role of interpreters. Specialised health care is provided in nearby hospitals in all major towns (Győr), although similar language problems occur here if a social worker is not available to accompany asylum seekers to the hospital to assist in the communication with doctors. A nurse also visited Balassagyarmat on a daily basis, however, there was no interpreter available. Asylum seekers were provided with medical care by the local health care services in town.
The Asylum Decree states that asylum seekers residing in private accommodation are eligible for health care services at the general physician operated by the competent local government and determined by the residency address of the applicant. In practice, these asylum seekers struggle with accessing medical services as physicians systematically refuse the registration and treatment of asylum seekers on the ground that they lack a health insurance card. According to the verbal information provided by the former IAO in 2016, asylum seekers can be registered with the number of their humanitarian residency card and have to be treated in accordance with the law, although not all health centres are aware of this information. The Menedék Association and the legal officers of HHC often provide asylum seekers with the necessary written explanation (written in Hungarian) that the patient can take with him- or herself to the check-ups, thus avoiding any misunderstanding and complications. Eventually, the social workers of the NGO even give a call to the doctor and explain the legal eligibility of the asylum-seeker on the phone.
There was no asylum seeker residing in reception facilities infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 2020. According to the vaccination strategy, Hungarian citizens (above the age of 18) in the possession of a valid health insurance card are eligible for the vaccine. There is no publicly available information on the vaccination of asylum seekers. Since the vaccination against COVID-19 is not a mandatory one, pursuant to the Asylum Decree the asylum authority has no obligation for its provision among asylum seekers.
 Section 26 Asylum Act.
 A detailed list is provided under Section 26 Asylum Decree.
 Section 34 Asylum Decree.
 Information provided by the NDGAP on 2 March 2021.
 Section 27(2) Asylum Decree.
 Information provided by the NDGAP on 2 March 2021.
 Available only in Hungarian: https://bit.ly/39xjmHu.