Foreigners held in immigration detention in Hungary are treated as criminals, according to a report “Stuck in Jail” published last month by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). Although Hungarian law does not qualify illegal border-crossing as a criminal act, several immigration jails severely limit the movement of detainees even within the facilities.
The study highlights many other shortcomings in the Hungarian detention system.
- The HHC have found during its visits two unaccompanied minors in detention, even if this is explicitly prohibited by the Hungarian Aliens Act.
- In all facilities a large number of detainees had psychological problems due to untreated previous trauma, bad detention or forced inactivity.
- The physical and hygienic conditions in two temporary immigration jails were in breach of international standards and rules set by Hungarian law.
- In most of the jails visited by the HHC, detainees reported that they were not receiving sufficient food and that they were seriously concerned about the quality of the food provided.
- The officers in charge of these jails admitted that there were problems with the nutrition.
- Moreover, many asylum seekers claimed to be detained beyond the preliminary assessment phase of the asylum procedure.
Until April 2010, four immigration jails were in operation in Hungary. However, between April and July 2010, 11 new immigration jails were opened all over Hungary. The staff of most of these new detention centres were not provided with any preparatory training, even though the majority of them do not speak any foreign language, have never worked in a multicultural context and often have not even worked in a detention context before.
The report is based on the findings of monitoring visits to 10 temporary immigration jails throughout Hungary in August 2010.
According to HHC, a new bill on immigration and asylum adopted on 24 December 2010 demonstrates the new government’s intention to introduce a much harsher immigration detention policy. The new law extends the maximum duration of detention to 12 months, allows the detention of families with children for 30 days and the prolonged detention of asylum seekers as a general policy.