Strasbourg court rules Hungary’s treatment of asylum-seekers unlawful

March 14, 2017

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled Tuesday that Hungary unlawfully detains asylum-seekers in the transit zones along the Serbian border, and that the practice of sending them back to Serbia violates their rights “to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment” as it exposes them to the risk of being sent back to a country that is not considered safe.

In the case of Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary, the Court found that:

  • The two plaintiffs, Bangladeshi nationals, were unlawfully detained by Hungarian authorities after lawfully entering Hungary and applying for asylum on September 15, 2015
  • Hungarian authorities violated the rights of the plaintiffs during their asylum process
  • Hungarian authorities sent the asylum seekers back into Serbia unlawfully because there was no guarantee that Serbia would not send them back to Greece where they risk being detained in what that court has ruled to be inhumane and degrading conditions

Lydia Gall, a human rights lawyer and researcher for Human Rights Watch, says her organization welcomes the judgment, and hopes the ruling will have the effect of halting Hungary’s new restrictive laws on asylum-seekers.

“We hope the Hungarian government lives up to its international and EU obligations with respect to the rights of asylum-seekers,” Gall says.

According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, today’s ruling by the ECHR is a clear indication that the “legislative border blockade” adopted by the Hungarian parliament last week must not be signed into law by President János Áder. Should President Áder sign the bill in contravention of the Strasbourg court’s ruling, those being detained in the Hungarian transit zones will be able to seek significant damages from the Hungarian government.