Dear Zsuzsanna Vegh,
It has come to the attention of the Migrant Solidarity Group that in the Nyírbátor detention centre a group of asylum seekers has started a hunger strike some days ago, which since then has ceased as a result of some promises made by OIN representatives.
On 13th August 2013 members of our group spoke on the phone with some of the people who were previously on hunger strike. We were given a detailed report on the reasons why the detainees were forced to resort to a hunger strike in order to improve their situation in detention, calling the attention of the outside world on the hopelessness and the desperation of their situation.
First of all, we would like to emphasize that the Migrant Solidarity Group does not encourage anyone to go on a hunger strike, or to continue one. Nevertheless, we will not attempt to convince anyone to stop using this tactic, if they have so chosen. We consider that a hunger strike is a very personal decision made by the individuals who are directly affected by the conditions of detention, and as long as we are not in a similar situation, we cannot judge their decision. We would only ask the hunger strikers to stop their action if it is the case that someone’s life is endangered – but even then we would respect the hunger strikers’ decision if they wanted to continue protesting even when their lives are threatened.
The asylum seekers detained in Nyírbátor refugees’ detention reported the following issues that led them to start a hunger strike:
• Asylum seekers have not committed a crime for which they should be detained
• The only information that the asylum seekers were given was “Now there is a new rule that they can be detained”. However, the asylum seekers do not understand what the difference is between them and other asylum seekers who are not detained. Their demand is to be free like the other asylum seekers.
• The detained asylum seekers received no information in their mother tongue on how long they would be detained for, why they are detained, and what will happen with them after they are released.
• In the Court hearing resulting in the detention, the asylum seekers were not given a chance to share their own viewpoints and arguments. The interpreter present only translated the Judge’s comments to the asylum seekers, but did not translate the asylum seekers’ comments back to the judge.
• The lawyer paid by the Hungarian state, present in the hearing, did not utter a single word in the defense of the asylum seekers. Moreover, the state lawyers do not work on a voluntary basis: rather, they are lawyers paid by the state, who in return for their salary do not do their job.
• The protesters complain that in the Nyírbátor prison there is very limited access to legal aid, even though they all have the right to receive legal help, free of charge
• The protesters found worms in their food. As they are detained, they have no chances of livelihood other than what is provided in the prison. If the food is not edible (a detainee claims there were worms in the food), the responsibility lies with the state. If the food is inadequate for human consumption, the state could be made responsible for it and the asylum seekers cannot be expected to eat it.
• The detained asylum seekers said that only one hunger striker, who fainted, was taken to a doctor but in a very humiliating way — in handcuffs.
• They also said that since they stopped the strike, they have not had any possibilities to use the Internet.
The Migrant Solidarity Group, in the interest of (but not in the name of) all the asylum seekers in Hungary, demands the following:
• OIN should not detain any asylum seekers, as these persons have not committed any crime that could be punishable by detention.
• OIN should provide all asylum seekers the right to a fair procedure when the decision about their detainment is made, during which not only the representatives of OIN are listened to but also the people they want to punish with the most severe restrictions of personal liberty.
• OIN needs to provide information about the procedure and their situation in a language understandable to the asylum seekers. The information should include the reasons why asylum seekers are detained as well as prospects of what will happen with them after their release.
• OIN needs to ensure that there are enough chances for legal aid inside the prison, enough lawyers with adequate competence, working enough hours.
• OIN needs to ensure that the food given to asylum seekers is edible as well as respect the different dietary needs according to age or religion.
• OIN has to provide all asylum seekers with proper medical care, including the possibility of independent doctors to visit the detention centres during times of a hunger strike.
• OIN needs to refrain from any type of punishment of the asylum seekers who took part in the hunger strike — including prohibiting their access to the Internet.
We ask the OIN to respond to these demands as soon as possible.
The Migrant Solidarity Group