Until the end of year 2020, it had never been the case that asylum seekers were left without accommodation due to a shortage of places in reception centres.
Unlike detention centres (see section on Conditions in Detention Facilities), the legal standards regulating open reception premises are defined in separate instruments. There is no regulation on the minimum surface area, the minimum common areas or on the minimum sanitary fittings. Conditions in reception centres differ. In all centres, residents get 3 meals per day or are provided with financial allowance. As a result of the limited number of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, people can cook for themselves in every facility. The Decree of the Minister of Interior 52/2007 on the organisation of NDGAP stipulates the amount of nutrition value that must be provided at the open reception facilities and states that religious diets are to be respected in all facilities.
In all centres, regular cleaning is arranged, and the number of toilets and showers are sufficient in all facilities during regular occupancy. There has been no concerning complaint noted by the Menedék Association in the last years. Not every door is lockable which can easily amount to unsecured privacy, nonetheless, since 2018 though there has been no complaint recorded in this regard either.
Residents share rooms. The minimum surface area that should be available is outlined in the national legislation only for the community shelters i.e. Balassagyarmat. The relevant Decree provides that the community shelter must have at least 5m3 of air space and 4m2 of floor space per bed. Families are accommodated in family rooms. Every facility has computers, community rooms and sport fields.
There have been no problems reported regarding religion practices. Since the last conflict in Fót Children’s Home in 2018 due to the changed daily routine of children during Ramadan, no other case was reported in 2019 and 2020.
The management of the guardians of unaccompanied minors used to belong to the competence of the fifth district of the Budapest Governmental Office, however, in 2020 as a result of legal changes the task was taken over by the third district of the Budapest Governmental Office. The Menedék Association evaluated the change as unfavourable because the latter does not seem to be well-prepared.
After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, asylum seekers were given disposable masks and gloves, and for certain periods of time the fever control was introduced in the reception facilities. Hand sanitizers were provided at disposal in the reception centres, as well. Asylum seekers were continuously updated by the social workers – with the help of the HHC attorneys and the Menedék Association – about the newly adopted regulations, such as rules of curfew and the time slots based on age introduced in the supermarkets. In general, asylum seekers were treated in the same way as Hungarian citizens with regard to the COVID-19 measures.
Activities in the centres
The variety of activities of the asylum authority’s social workers compared to the era prior to 2018 has decreased. As per the experiences of the Menedék Association for Migrants (“Menedék Association”) in 2019 there was no regular program provided to asylum seekers by social workers who were mainly overburdened with administrative tasks. The withdrawal of the AMIF calls affected the number of the social workers and their activities as well, as many of them lost their jobs after 30 June 2018. Furthermore, due to the institutional transformation of the asylum authority, there were several employees whose employment ceased by July 2019. Consequently, in 2018 and 2019 community activities were exclusively provided by NGOs in the reception facilities. However, the number of these organizations on the field due to funding troubles has also decreased. In 2020, there was one social worker of the NDGAP providing development programs and another one offering Hungarian language classes for children in Vámosszabadi. According to the HHC’s knowledge, the services were provided with less intensity in Balassagyarmat. The community room in Vámosszabadi had been closed down, the residents could not use it until early 2020 when upon the Menedék Association’s request the room was re-opened, thus children could again play with the toys stored in there. The internet room became accessible again, as well in both reception facilities.
The Menedék Association for Migrants similarly to the previous year, continued its activity in Vámosszabadi in 2020 providing regular individual support, information provision, legal counselling (information on the rights and obligations, furthermore on rules of employment, accommodation etc.) and organized community programs for the residents. Their community programmes covered a wide range of activities from children and sport programmes to cultural activities. The organisation was also present in Balassagyarmat in the beginning of the year 2020 providing programs aiming at easing the distress of the residents caused by the long detention conditions in the transit zones or in asylum detention centre. The organisation continued its activities online during the lockdown introduced in March 2020. Since then due to the low number of residents in the community shelter, it suspended its activities there. The organization was also present in Fót. They offered activities to the unaccompanied children, such as art and craft programmes, Hungarian language class, psycho-social support, table tennis, board games or cinema visits. During the lockdown periods the Menedék Association provided the services online three times a week and via other telecommunication means.
The Jesuit Refugee Service has been also present in Fót since autumn 2019. In 2020 the organisation offered programs for the children on a weekly basis together with the Menedék Association.
Reportedly, the Hungarian Red Cross was present in Vámosszabadi once a week in 2020. As per the HHC, the Lutheran and the Reformed Church visited the asylum seekers regularly and organised outdoor activities for the families. Menedék Association reported that the community shelter in Balassagyarmat was visited by a Lutheran pastor in 2020.
The Cordelia Foundation provided psychosocial services to the residents of Vámosszabadi, Balassagyarmat and Fót. The Menedék Association was also present with one psychologist in Vámosszabadi and Fót (see for more detail section on Health care).
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the introduced lockdown between mid-March and the end of June, as well as in November and December (except for Fót) the organisations had no access to the facilities.
According to Annex 1 Decree 239/2009 on the detailed conditions of providing continuous shelter-service activity and the rules on the issuance of the permissions to operate a shelter, available in Hungarian at: https://bit.ly/2S8eugp.
 community shelters (Balassagyart (Balassagyartmat)st of the schol aged children staying there, Section 131 Asylum Decree.