Overview on the Balkan route and numbers
This week a lot of changes have taken place along the Balkan route. While the EU-Turkey deal got blocked by Greece as Greek courts decided Turkey is not a safe country for refugees, and the evacuation of thousands of people in Eidomeni by Greek authorities has started, Bulgaria is planning to build more fence on its border with Greece and Turkey to limit the entry of asylum seekers. The number of people continuing to arrive in Serbia - where supporting infrastructure is urgently needed - and travelling on to Hungary is growing. According to the Hungarian border police 776 people were registered to enter into Hungary under the fence, and were apprehended between May 18th and 23th. UNHCR estimates the number of people entering Hungary from 18th to 22nd at around 772 people in total. For Austria, up to date information on the numbers is unfortunately not available. In comparison to the last weeks this means that the numbers are rising.
In Hungary the xenophobic propaganda continues. Janos Lazar, the Minister of Ministers, Peter Szijjarto the Foreign minister as well as Viktor Orban have all vocally complained about the influence of George Soros on American politics, and how Soros is planning to bring a million muslims to Europe, but how Hungary is standing in the way of this migration. In addition, next year’s budget is supposed to be increased to guarantee ‘public safety’ and ‘counterterrorism’.
The resistance against the EU quota system remains fierce by Fidesz and Jobbik, but some opposition parties are questioning the true reasons behind the referendum. Zoltan Balog, the Minister of Human Resources, repeats the line of Orban, that Brussels should not decide with whom Hungarians will live.
György Bakondi, the security advisor to the Minister of Interior, commented on the state TV on the situation in refugee camps camps, and called refugees staying in closed camps criminals. According to him, the Parliament is now discussing a new law that will allow the return of anyone found within 8km from the fence to be returned to the transit zone. Such a law would be extremely concerning, but unfortunately we have seen know written draft. Firstly , such legislation puts any people moving in the areas close to the borders under general suspicion to have crossed the fence illegally, and thus to have committed a crime under the Hungarian law. Second, because already now hundreds of people are stuck for days and weeks at the border to Serbia, waiting for entry, or are held in the transit zone to wait for their decision in the more than questionable - from a legal and humanitarian perspective - border asylum procedure. Transferring more people back into this severely bad conditions will worsen the situation even more, and in effect contributes to the worsening humanitarian catastrophe already happening in the transit zone
ABCcúg published a story about the work of the immigration office, based on interviews with previous employees. The report, of which Migszol will soon provide an English translation, reveals changes and systematic flaws in the refugee status determination process by the OIN during the last years. The employees report how since asylum has evolved into a huge political topic and correspondingly the case officers’ work conditions have totally changed to the worse in the last few years, many have quit their jobs because their conscience has told them so. The amount of time and consideration that case officers can spend in the interviews has significantly decreased. The interviews reveal that these days the process is totally arbitrary, especially regarding the decisions on who goes to detention and who to an open camp. Many case officers were openly fighting against the whole concept of asylum detention, in vain They also reported that Hungary’s foreign policy had a clear effect on the asylum policy of OIN, especially for Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers. In their cases, case officers have reported to get criticized by their bosses for positive status decisions for Afghans and Iraqis. Concerning numbers, the report shows, that in 2015, 152.000 from the 177.000 applications were stopped, and the work remaining is mostly administrative. One other case officer says asylum seekers have good reasons to leave Hungary.
Borders, transit zones and the situation in camps and detention centers
The situation at the borders and in the transit zones is ongoing, and very bad. An increasing number of of people are in Kelebija and Horgos , at the border crossing from Serbia. According to UNHCR the was an “average of 415 asylum seekers, waited to be admitted into the two “transit zones” at Kelebija and Horgos I border crossings. Of those, 25% were women and 41% were children. 124 were admitted into Hungarian asylum procedures, i.e. roughly 15 per “transit zone” zone per day. “We recommend this picture-report by RESPECT from the border Horgos-Rözke, which shows the bad conditions in the improvised tent camps.
This week also 43 people in Szeged were convicted of illegal entry to Hungary and expelled from EU for one year.
Migszol has been to Bicske last weekend and people there have reported a lot of problems with reception conditions, translations and access to legal support. A detailed report on the visit in Bicske will be published the next days.
Several people report from Kiskunhalas asylum detention center that the situation is terrible. People report that a lot of fights between imprisoned people are going on, without securities stepping in. The access to medical care, even in emergencies is very restricted. A person reported of a case, in which a Pakistani men fell seriously and got very hurt. He was shouting in pain, but did not get any care. Only after other detained people protested for three hours, finally an ambulance came.
Other reports we have received from imprisoned people in the Nagyfa detention center tell that people get beaten up by security personnel repeatedly. People are very scared in the detention center and one person told us of an incident when securities came into rooms, searched through all bags and beat up seven people.
Also it seems to be a practise of the Hungarian police to patrol in the areas of train stations and bring refugees, when they find them close to trains stations to detention centers. This happened even in cases in which people were officially registered as staying in open camps, have all the necessary papers with them and also no international train tickets etc. on them, that would prove that they want to leave the country. Not in all cases are people brought to detention centers, however - those who are registered as minors are brought to Fot, and some are brought back to open camps. That said, several people have reported to us that they have been approached by police close to Keleti, transferred to detention centers and are kept imprisoned now.
The number of people in the in the Körmend tent camp, set up next to the Austrian border, is changing constantly. While sometimes there were around 200 people living in the camp, at other times the numbers decreased to 17 people, as reported by people staying there. Most of the people are said to leave the camp within 2-3 days. A person who is staying in the camp since it was opened, reports that the conditions are ongoingly horrible. People have to fight over the best tents and get food only one time a day. There is medical aid available, but some people reporting to us say that it has not been possible to see a doctor, but others say that they could visit the doctor and got medicine they needed. In the camp also an unaccompanied minor is present, who is travelling with a distant cousin. Since some earlier debates over whether refugees broke a window in a nearby sports facility the guards have prevented the men from leaving the camp, and they have to fight for their right to leave the territory of the camp. Usually only one man of a group is allowed to go out to buy additional food. For an overview over the location of the camps, see our map.
For legal details, see here the information leaflet prepared by the Hungarian Helsinki committee. It is available in ten languages, and we would like to stress that the HHC is the number one source for updates on the legal situation of people on the move. We also recommend you to follow the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (@hhc_helsinki) and Migszol Csoport (@migszolcsop) on Twitter. We further recommend the new report on the general situation of Hungary as a country of asylum, published by UNHCR in May 2016.
More pictures of the border Rözke-Horgos: