A new amendment of the law allows the police to ‘escort’ all refugees that are caught within 8km of the fence to the ‘no man’s land’ at the other side of the fence where they have to wait for days and weeks in inhumane conditions and almost no legal counselling. A new transit zone is opened in Àsotthalom. The conditions in the detention centers remain very bad, especially from Kiskunhalas immigration detention people report dirty facilities, lack of food and to be denied contact with their families. In the meantime there are trials against refugees who are accused of ‘vandalism’ going on (see the Migszol event on coming Friday, June 24th, regarding the political trials of riots in Roszke in Autumn 2015, in here.)
In between June 10 and June 20th there have been 1362 people who were caught crossing the border illegally to Hungary
In early June, after the law that abolished the integration contract, there has been new small but very severe and significant change in the Hungarian asylum law. The new amendment to the asylum act, that is to be signed by the President, outlines that whoever enters irregularly to Hungary and will be caught within 8 kilometers of either the Croatian or Serbian border will be “escorted back to the transit zones” by the police. As the Helsinki Committee declares, the people waiting in the pre-transit area are queueing for days and weeks, without being provided with tents, access to toilet or even water.
Bakondi György, the chief security advisor to the Prime Minister, declared that the most recent legal change in the asylum system will strengthen the measures in place, such as the barbed wire fence. In this limbo area, there is very high uncertainty about the fate of people who cannot return to Serbia but cannot move on to any other destination. According to the governmental chief security advisor, this measure will ease the pressure put on the existing camps and will stop “illegal immigrants” from staying in Hungary. We argue that the “pressure” accused by Bakondi has different causes – in the last months, a number of open camps have been closed (Debrecen, with the biggest capacity, being the most infamous case) and the basic services and reception conditions in some of the remaining camps are severely limited. The difficulties in accommodating people in open facilities is government-made and it is caused by its refusal to provide basic services to those few allowed inside such facilities.
The political and legal limbo situation of people at the border is made even more serious by the ambiguous relation between Hungary and Serbia. Serbia recently asked an explanation from Hungary regarding the new modification in law ordering the deportation of refugees back to Serbia via the transit zone which in reality belongs to Hungary. Serbian government declared that they will not take anybody back. In the meantime, the people “escorted” by the police back to the border know very little about the legal provisions that the government adopted to keep people out of Hungary and limit the number of applications for legal recognition. There is not legal aid provided by the government, and the only independent source of legal assistance in transit zones, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, has limited access and capacity to deal with each case. For instance, in the process of application in transit zones the right to appeal an order of expulsion must be exercised within a few days. While only a few dozen people are allowed to make an application everyday, many more are waiting in makeshift camps without extremely limited access to basic services of food, water, medicine. There are no sanitary facilities nor shelter for people to sleep or protect from the weather etc, while Hungary allows only 30 people per day through the transit zones.
For a summary of the last legal changes that further destroy access to protection for refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary we recommend you to look at this recent update from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
Zoltán Kovács, the government spokesperson, announced that a new transit zone will be opened in Ásotthalom, a city whose mayor made public an infamous warning last year against migrants who might consider crossing through Hungary and specifically through his city. In that video asylum seekers were warned not to travel in the area, while in the background a patrolling van and what appeared to be a small group of vigilante men seemed to suggest that the area is “protected.” The new agreement between the central government and the mayor of Ásotthalom will open a “special” transit zone which is said to will receive even less people than the other transit zones, in a location chosen by the mayor. In return, the government agreed to fix some roads around Ásotthalom. Zoltán Kovács declared that the new transit zone will not be a reception center, but a point where people’s access to Hungary will be decided “by means of accelerated procedures in which experts evaluate their requests.”
Szijjártó Péter, the Hungarian Foreign minister has declared he supports the proposition made by the Austrian Foreign minister, in favor of hosting refugees and asylum seekers in facilities outside Europe. His model of “best practices” is the Australian system of detention of refugees in locations outside the Australian territory, with little or no access to any means of public review of the treatment inflicted on people waiting for their recognition as refugees. As reported in the media in many instances recently, the Australian system has been condemned for inhumane treatment and gross violations of human and political rights by both international organizations and some of the personnel who decided to speak out against innumerable situations of abuse.
Border crossing, trials
The court in Szeged is hearing the case of a protest in the Nagyfa camp on October 22, 2015. At that time, detainees of the closed facility started a hunger strike and one window was broken during their protest. Several people announced the possibility of committing a suicide together. Seven Iraqis, two Syrians, and one Serbian were singled out during the protest. The main request from the protesters was for them to be set free. Two of the people accused are not with the Hungarian authorities anymore, and the police has an order to arrest them.
Another trial started in the Debrecen District Court, concerning a protest in the Debrecen camp in 2005, the largest camps in Hungary, closed during last that year. Seven people are accused of “vandalism” and “disturbance of public peace.” The people indicted are accused of having destroyed parts of the camp property during their protest. Since the camp was closed and the people inside moved to other facilities, the accused were publicly summoned and the announcement was made public in the mayor's office. For now, the case unfolds with only the lawyer of one person in court. However, the Criminal Code provides for trials in the absence of the accused. They can receive up to three years imprisonment and be arrested should they be caught on Hungarian territory.
The Hungarian government singled out five Charity associations that should provide assistance to the people waiting in the border zone for their passing to Hungary. They are The Maltese, the Red Cross, The Reformed Church, The Ecumenicans, the Catholic Caritas. They will receive 50 million forint each for humanitarian work.
The doctors present in the delimited area of the transit zone cannot help the many more people waiting outside in need of medical assistance. There are organization present there, reporting that no Hungarian ambulance can be called in the area, and people have to wait for a Serbian one to arrive.
In the latest meeting that UNHCR organized with Hungarian associations and civic groups to share information, there are reports of increasing police violence at the border and from prison guards in the closed camps or immigration jails. UNHCR and other organizations tried to contact the Hungarian police about cases of abuse, but there was no response until now. The Helsinki Committee collects evidence of abuse and encourages everyone to contact them to report any act of violence from authorities.
Conditions in camps and detention centers
Repeatedly we hear from people inside camps and detention centers about the very bad conditions in these facilities.
From Kiskunhalas immigration detention a person reported the lack of clean basic objects like mattresses, too little food, very limited access to legal information for their cases and the internet, leaving them restricted from connections with friends, family. According to our source, people who request to contact their families are told to make phone calls, which cost 1 Euro per minute in some cases, which makes contact unaffordable and thus nearly impossible. There is no information from the immigration office about the reasons for their confinement or about the general steps in the legal and administrative procedure. Following the report of the person in Kiskunhalas, there is no access to outside space at all.
Generally, from all detention centers we receive information about people who are transferred without notification from camp to camp, and some have been forced to readjust in four different facilities in the recent months. People suffer from huge amounts of stress while waiting locked down and in isolation. With little or no information about their legal status and the reasons for being imprisoned, many people harm themselves. As there is little transparency about the situation inside closed camps and immigration jails, we can only suspect that the number of cases of violence inflicted and self-inflicted is higher than the cases reported.