Strasbourg court temporarily halts transfer of 8 unaccompanied refugee children to transit zones

March 28, 2017

AFP Photo: Csaba Segesvári

The European Court of Human Rights issued a temporary order on Monday prohibiting the transfer of eight unaccompanied minors and one high-risk pregnant woman to so-called transit zones along Hungary’s southern border with Serbia, and gave the Hungarian government until April 10 to react to its concerns over conditions at the zones. The ECHR wants to know whether the transit zones are able to meet the special needs of vulnerable asylum-seekers, whether there exists suitable access to medical care, whether there are qualified staff at the zones, whether there are educational opportunities provided and whether young people will be kept in similar circumstances to the adults.

The decision will temporarily prohibit the removal to the transit zones of the eight minors and one Ugandan woman, who is reportedly enduring an at-risk pregnancy and requires psychiatric care, from a home for asylum-seekers in the town of Fót, near Budapest, where they are currently living.

The request to the ECHR to intervene on behalf of the woman and children was made by human rights organization Hungarian Helsinki Committee, just as the Hungarian government’s newest wave of crackdowns against asylum-seekers goes into effect Tuesday. The new rules permit the forced removal of asylum seekers from anywhere in the country, and their placement on the other side of Hungary’s border fence, and would apply to the children and woman.

The Helsinki Committee has argued that the new rules violate the Hungarian constitution, as well as EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights. Helsinki believes the rules disregard the personal circumstances of asylum-seekers, including people such as the pregnant Ugandan woman who have particular medical requirements, and also those of unaccompanied minors between 14-18 years of age who, Helsinki argues, may be detained without seeing to their needs.

UNICEF has also expressed concern over Hungary’s new asylum policy. The UN’s child welfare branch declared through its regional director Afshan Khan that “the detention of children who are fleeing violence and persecution in the hopes of a better life causes a newer traumatic experience.” Khan said that criminalizing the children and depriving them of their basic rights, such as their rights to education, has a lifelong impact on them, regardless of their age.