Hungarian border officials beating asylum seekers before expelling them

September 27, 2016

“Under international law, once you are on the territory of a particularly state and you articulate the fact that you would like to apply for asylum to an official of that country, they have a duty to process you in a regular sort of manner. The fact that they are (pushing them back) across the fence, including families, with instructions to go to the transit zone (is) a deterrent. It’s a message that the government is sending. We really don’t want you here. We are going to make your life difficult here by putting them in miserable conditions. Hungarian police should be placing asylum seekers in a facility within the country and processing their applications there. The new law makes it very easy for the government to kick people out of the country.  It is a very strange, punitive system with no legal bearing.  It’s just there to make people suffer needlessly.” – Lydia Gall, Human Rights Watch

Hungarian border officials are beating illegal migrants, says Lydia Gall of Human Rights Watch.

The human rights advocate told the Budapest Beacon that Hungary is deliberately and systematically violating the rights of refugees and asylum seekers arriving to its southern border, and administering beatings to those caught crossing the border illegally.

Families with children who are technically exempt from transit zones are being forced to wait weeks and even months outside the transit zones in the no man’s land between Hungary and Serbia before being allowed to apply for asylum.

Police beatings

Hungary passed a law on July 5th giving police the right to apprehend illegal immigrants within 8 kilometers of the border and return them to Serbia.  According to Gall, police are transporting illegal immigrants to the border and beating them immediately before or after ejecting them from the country.

“Violence is still very much occurring on the border during these escorts, including police beating them with batons, pummeling them with fists, setting dogs on them,” says the civil activist.  She says Hungary’s chief of police has acknowledged that such abuses are taking place and the police have launched investigations into four such cases.

Gall says Hungarian police are taking asylum seekers to a gate in the fence, showing them documents in Arabic, Farsi and other languages commonly spoken by refugees arriving on foot to Hungay’s southern border, explaining that they have entered the country illegally and of the existence of transit zones, and then expelling them into the no-man’s land between Hungary and Serbia.

She says police are in the habit of filming the illegal immigrants being deported, and even asking them whether they have any complaints about the police.  However, once the cameras are turned off, “the brutality ensues”, says Gall.

“They are being asked to get out of the car.  Sometimes they are told to pass through the gate and stop. Police follow them through the fence and beat them there.  Or ask them to return and beat them” on the Hungarian side of the fence before pushing them through the gate, recounts Gall.

Rather than expelling them into the no man’s land between Hungary and Serbia, Hungarian police should be placing asylum seekers in a facility within the country and processing their applications there,” she says, adding that “the new law makes it very easy for the government to kick people out of the country.”

“Under international law, once you are on the territory of a particularly state and you articulate the fact that you would like to apply for asylum to an official of that country, they have a duty to process you in a regular sort of manner. The fact that they are bringing them across the fence, including families, with instructions to go to the transit zone (is) a deterrent. It’s a message that the government is sending. We really don’t want you here. We are going to make your life difficult here by putting them in miserable conditions. Hungarian police should be placing asylum seekers in a facility within the country and processing their applications there. The new law makes it very easy for the government to kick people out of the country.”

Families forced to wait weeks in miserable conditions

Gall says that because Hungary only admits a total of 30 people a day to transit zones set up at the border, families with children who are supposed to be fast-tracked end up waiting months outside of the transit zones in deplorable conditions.  She says Hungarian officials are completely indifferent to the plight of the refugees, having abrogated responsibility for keeping track of “who’s up next” to “democratic leaders among the refugees.”

She says Serbian authorities are doing a much better job caring for asylum seekers waiting to enter transit zones than Hungary, and that they try to encourage asylum seekers to go to existing camps in Serbia until it is their turn to enter a transit zone.  She said Serbian authorities provide food and medicine and that the Serbian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are present. She said the Hungarian Office of Immigration recently began distributing diapers and formula once a day to the vulnerable.

Gall says each of Hungary’s two transit zones may admit 15 people per day, and out of these 30, 28 must be part of family constellations.

“Essentially the transit zones and the fast-track procedure apply to a specific class of people, while others are exempt.  Transit zones apply only to single males. Family, women are exempted from the transit zone procedure.  Yet they are required to wait outside of a transit zone,” says Gall, adding that single men are required to wait months.

“It is a very strange, punitive system with no legal bearing. It’s just there to make people suffer needlessly.”