People in Kormend need to travel 500 kilometres to meet their case officer
In May the new tent camp in Kormend was opened, and just like we thought, people keep on disappearing from there. As expected,the conditions in the camp are very problematic. Access to legal aid or proper case officers is very limited, and the biggest problem is lack of information. We are especially worried of the fact that some people who are staying in Kormend need to travel to Debrecen, a distance of nearly 500 kilometres and a 9-hour travel by public transportation, to meet their case officers and attend the court hearing regarding their asylum case. In such absurd cases, the immigration authorities does not provide them with accommodation to stay overnight in Budapest.
Conditions in Körmend are bad, much like in Bicske and Nagyfa in previous years, with the tents being simply inadequate without a proper floor or mattresses. There is a doctor at Körmend, some people, however, have no information of where they can meet him, though others do. One of our chief concerns is that in Körmend as well as elsewhere, the quality of food has not only went down but also become severely limited, as people are simply not served dinner anymore. This is very serious concerning the fact that according to the new legislation, people are neither entitled to weekly cash allowance. Coffee, cigarettes, dinner, utilities for small babies, etc., all have to be financed by people themselves: if someone loses all money to e.g. in a robbery, there is nothing to do. The arbitrary decision making about detention, especially in the case of Afghans, is not only clear from this article by ABCúg that interviews previous OIN-workers, but also from the experiences of detained people.
During the week, Hungarian government representatives have confirmed their intention to close the now largest open refugee camp in the country, Bicske. There is no final date for the planned closure.
Death at the border
In early June the police on the Tisza river on the border of Hungary and Serbia saw two men swimming across the river to Hungary. Upon seeing the police, they turned back, but only one of them reached the shore. On June third, the body of the second man was found. There are conflicting reports about the nationality of the man, presumably Iraqi or Syrian, 22-year old person seeking international protection in Hungary.
During the morning, the Hungarian police picked up an Iraqi family of five people from the water, where the 2-3 year old toddler was close to hypothermia. The mother and the three children were brought to a hospital, while the father was taken for criminal investigation. We are deeply disturbed by these photos and videos published by the Hngarian police, where police visits the family in the hospital giving them presents - and would like to remind that the only reason why the family was forced into this desperate solution is because of the extreme difficulty of accessing Hungarian territory to seek asylum. Also UNHCR has severely condemned the treatment of people in border areas. UNHCR and other organizations such as the Hungarian Helsinki Committee are documenting numerous stories of Hungarian police violence and push-backs at the Hungarian border.
Number of people waiting at the transit zone is rising
16 612 (as of May 22nd) people have crossed the fence during 2016, and there have been 17 000 asylum requests lodged in the country A humanitarian crisis is evolving in the transit zones, where the policy of letting in only 20-30 people per day continues. UNHCR, HCIT and MSF are present on the Serbian side. Unfortunately it was reported that MSF could not work for few days. This was very worrying when most of the people waiting on the Serbian side are part of vulnerable groups including many sick people and children. The access on the Hungarian side is very limited only to SOS Children village, UNHCR and the HHC. However the Hungarian government announced that they have has given money to the following Hun charities for working on the border: Hungarian Maltese Charity, the Catholic Caritas, the Hungarian Reformed Church Charity, the Hungarian Ecumenical Charity and the Hungarian Red Cross. It is not clear when they will start.
At the end of the month, the chief security advisor to Viktor Orbán, György Bakondi, stated that a third zone might be set up near the village of Ásotthalom with the notoriously racist Mayor who prepared a refugee-hunting video in 2015. Bakondi also stated earlier that there might be a new legislation according to which anyone caught within 8 kilometres of the border fence will be brought back to the transit zone. A draft text of this legislation has not been circulated.
Protests in the detention centers
In the last few weeks, there have been several protests in the different detention centers in the country. In the national media, the protests were immediately branded as very dangerous and unacceptable, and a security “experts” were comparing the situation to “war, where one side is not respecting the law”. Riots happened in Kiskunhalas, of which we also wrote about at length, and in Bekescsaba in the southeastern border of Hungary. In addition, a fight between two men was stopped by pepper spray in the detention center in Nyirbator. We are in daily touch with people detained and with relatives and friends of those detained, and we are extremely worried of the situation with detention, leading to desperation and hopelessness. Many of those detained were caught on their way to Austria and detained after that. That said, more than 10 000 people have disappeared from Hungary towards the West during 2016.
End of all integration support
May 2016 was the last month of the previous asylum legislation, with substantive changes taking effect from Wednesday, 1st of June: there are substantial changes to the status of humanitarian protection, all integration support for recognized refugees has been abolished, and similarly to Austria, there will be a 3-year automatic review on the Convention refugee status and for the subsidiary protection status. Refugees are now expected to take advantage of the same social support available for Hungarians: in practice, this means becoming homeless along tens of thousands of Hungarians, and ending up in a domestic registration system that effectively bars refugees from applying for Hungarian citizenship in the future. We would like to further note that homelessness has been criminalized in the Hungarian constitution, and that for it is almost impossible for families to enter the Hungarian homeless shelter-system. We urge all other European Union member states to immediately stop all Dublin deportations to Hungary. In addition, we urge all member states to stop the deportation of people who already have a refugee status in Hungary, but are now seeking to stay in other EU countries.