MigSzol is in a good position to have access to many sources and other groups who work in the field. We make use of this by documenting the situation in Hungary as often as possible. For this reason, we are starting a situation diary. Every other week, we will publish updates with general information about the situation at the borders and in the camps that we gather from our different sources all over the country. We hope this will provide information to other organizations elsewhere in Europe to keep up to date and serve as a reference for the conditions in Hungary.
Most importantly, see here for 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.
A steady number of people are transiting through Hungary every day
During the week in between April 22nd to 28th there were 1051 “illegal border crossings” recorded by the police into Hungary (this number does not include the people entering Hungary at the transit zones and the people crossing without being caught) and 1401 crossed into Austria (UNHCR numbers). This gives an idea of a regular flow through the country. People usually stay few days in Hungary before trying to leave.
Nagyfa closed and new camp opening in Kormend
The Office of Immigration and Nationality (OIN) held a press meeting in Körmend about the new camp and said that more than 10 000 refugees have disappeared from Hungary since they registered here. Dukai Miklós, Deputy of Ministry of the Interior, said that of the 12 000 registered asylum seekers there are 1777 people in in the open camps now, as reported on ATV.
Nagyfa camp next to the Serbian border has been closed. The new camp in Körmend next to the Austrian border opened on Monday 2nd of May. Asylum seekers are being brought from other open camps by buses. Already two of those who were brought to Körmend tried to cross to Austria and were caught on the train in Szentgotthard. They were brought back to the camp. The Hungarian extreme right party, Jobbik, is planning a demonstration against the camp on Friday, 6th of May.
Austria is planning to pass a new restrictive law for asylum seekers which will allow push backs towards Hungary. The authorities have begun to check every car arriving from Hungary on certain crossings.
Hungarian and Serbian border Update - Transit zones:
There are two tranzit zones on the Hungarian and Serbian border: Rôszke/ Horgos and Tompa/ Kelebija. These zones are the two legal entry points to enter and ask for asylum in Hungary. They have been available since their creation in September 2015, when Hungary built the fence and implemented new regulations that, among others, define Serbia as a safe third country. What has changed in the past months (since February) is that mostly families are coming to apply for asylum in the transit zones.
Once in Hungary people who applied for asylum are brought either to closed camps (immigration detention or asylum detention centers) or to open camps (refugee/asylum reception centers). From our sources in the open camps, we know that nowadays people tend to stay only a few days in the camp before heading to Austria and Germany.
According to Migszol Szeged (April 30th 2016) who is supporting refugees in the southern border of Hungary, the situation is more or less stable since a few weeks.
The transit zones cannot be accessed by any volunteers or NGO’s, only by the border police, ION, and the Hungarian UNHCR. The area in front of the transit zones on the Serbian side, the ‘no-man’s land’ where people are waiting to get inside, is regulated both by Hungarian and Serbian authorities, because the first 5 meters from the fence towards Serbia are still Hungarian territory. Since it is a contested border area, access is restricted. So far, UNHCR from both sides, MSF, HCIT and UNICEF Serbia are allowed to distribute Food, Non-Food Items and medical aid during the day.
Migszol Szeged is currently collaborating with UNHCR to support refugees with food and clothes donations at the border. It seems that single men are going to Horgos/Röszke, while families mostly try to cross in Kelebija/Tompa.
- Kelebija/Tompa: The situation is more serious at Kelebija/Tompa (on the Serbian side) because there are more people. UNHCR reported 150 people waiting to enter only here last Saturday, April 30th. Some tents are allowed on the Serbian side.
- Horgos/Röszke: There is a smaller number of people (around 30 on April 30th) in Röszke. There are no tents allowed in front of this transit zone but it is not clear why. People have to wait and sleep outside for several days.
Since February, only 20 to 30 people per day can enter Hungary through each transit zone, although they were built to let up to 100 people cross per day. The doors open at random times and mainly families are allowed in according to Migszol Szeged. Families are most of the time let in first. This situation is creating tensions among people who having waiting for a several days and are very frustrated, tired and hungry.
One of the reason for such a small number of entry given by the authorities is that there are not enough translators or case officers to process all the cases. This situation is putting hundreds of people, including the most vulnerable ones through very harsh conditions, as they have to sleep outside, exposed to all weather conditions, and limits their rights to dignity and their right to claim for asylum.
Once the people are on the Hungarian side and have applied for asylum, their admissibility procedure starts. Families are sent to open camps after a few hours and wait for their decision there. Single men, however, sometimes have to wait at the border for the results for several days.
It was reported that the situation changed a little recently (the officials cleaned the area, allowed more freedom to aid organizations than before). The border police, OIN etc. changed their behavior and allowed more freedom to UNHCR. According to Migszol Szeged UNHCR has recently been allowed into the ‘no man’s land’ outside the transit zones (where people are waiting) to distribute blankets, food etc.
Misgzol Szeged was now allowed to go to the other side of the fence, in the Tompa transit zone. It is however not clear if this will be permanent or not. The situation varies a lot, and with the political situation, it is very unpredictable.
Most importantly, see here for 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.
Pictures: the newly opened tent camp in Körmend, near the Austrian border