Helsinki Committee debunks myths about asylum-seekers

August 8, 2015

Photo: D. András Hajdú
Photo: D. András Hajdú

Hungary’s Helsinki Committee has issued the following facts and figures about immigration and asylum in Hungary, debunking myths promulgated by the government’s EUR 4.5 million xenophobic campaign.  The committee also warns that Hungary may cease to be a safe country for asylum-seekers.

– In Hungary only every 70th person is an immigrant.  In Austria every eighth.  In the Czech Republic every 25th. In Slovenia every 23rd.

– 78 percent of the 140,000 immigrants are Europeans, mainly from neighbouring countries.  Others mainly come from East Asia.

– In 2007-2012, 59% of EU citizen and 56% of non-EU citizen immigrants worked, compared to 49% of Hungarians.

-In 2007-2012, 19% of EU citizen and 35% of non-EU citizen immigrants had a university degree, compared to 16% of Hungarians.

– The number of asylum claims multiplied by 100 between 2001 and 2015.

– The Serbia-Hungarian border is now one of the EU’s main entry points for asylum-seekers.

-3 in 4 asylum-seekers come from Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq.  Many of them are seriously traumatized.

– 80-90% leave towards the West in a few days.  There are “only” 4-6000 asylum seekers in the country.  Dublin Regulation ineffective: From the 40-50,000 who left in 2013-2014 only 1545 were sent back between January 2014 and June 2015 (3-4%).

– Over 8000 first-time “asylum-seekers” have been held in “asylum detention” since July 2013, with ineffectual judicial review (according to Supreme Court).

– Refugees kept in large refugee camps with poor hygienic conditions and hardly any individualized assistance.  In Debrecen 1800 refugees occupy 800 places.

– Every year 300-500 asylum seekers get protection status.  In 2014 only 9% of decisions were positive.  This was the lowest in the EU, whose average was 45%.

– 1 in 3 Syrian and 4 in 5 Afghan applications were rejected in first instance.

– Legal, social and psychological assistance entirely dependent on NGOs with no normative funding from the state.

– Government budget spent on inciting xenophobia in 2014 (“national consultation on immigration and terrorism”) and xenophobic billboard campaign: EUR 4.5 million.  Price of the fence to be built on Serbia-Hungarian border: EUR 96 million.  2014 asylum budget of the Office of Immigration and Nationality: EUR 1.9 million (20% funded by EU).

– The recently amended Asylum Law includes seriously problematic provisions:

– All claims from asylum seekers coming from Serbia (over 99%) automatically rejected without any examination.

– Most other cases channeled to accelerated procedure (decision in 15 days) with limited safeguards.

– Judicial review ineffective (only 3 days to appeal, no hearing, deportation possible before hearing income cases, etc.)

– Asylum-seekers required to contact the country of origin during procedure, etc.

With these changes there is a risk that Hungary will cease to be a safe country for asylum-seekers.