Alternatives to Detention in Hungary

Unaccompanied children are not to be detained

Section 56 of Hungary’s Act II of 2007 on the Admission and Rights of Residence of Third-Country Nationals establishes that unaccompanied children cannot be detained for migration reasons.

Unaccompanied children who come into contact with authorities, however, must provide evidence of their identity (with personal identification or valid travel document) and demonstrate a legal ground for stay in Hungary.

Those who cannot provide this may be held for a maximum period of 24 hours while the authorities conduct identification and age assessment verification. Those found to be children are appointed a guardian employed by the Department of Child Protection Services, who is legally responsible for the overall care, management and legal representation of the child.

Since May 2011, unaccompanied children seeking asylum or international protection fall under the scope of the country’s general child protection regime and thus enjoy the same rights as Hungarian children. They are regarded primarily as children, and only secondarily as migrants.

They are placed in a specific child protection facility in Fót supervised by Hungarian authorities, with services provided by a variety of national and international organisations.

Section 45(1) of the Hungarian Child Protection Act requires that children in care facilities must be provided with food, clothing, health care, education and housing suitable for the development of their physical, mental and emotional needs.

Non-asylum seeking children are accommodated in a child protection facility in Hódmezövásárhely run by the Catholic Church under a contract with the Social and Child Protection Directorate. The capacity at this facility is, however, limited (18 UAMs) and some non-asylum seeking children are placed at other child protection facilities when required.

Age assessment must take place within 24 hours of detection of the UAM. It has been reported that the lack of uniform age assessment procedures may lead to the detention of UAMs. In case of  doubt,  until  the  minority  of  the  UAM  is  confirmed, he/she  is  treated  as  an  adult, thus  may  be  accommodated  either  in  an  adult  reception  facility  for  asylum seekers or put in immigration/asylum detention if the conditions are met.

Laws providing for individuals to enjoy rights and and basic needs 

Exiles  shall  be  provided  aid  and  support  specified  under  specific  other  legislation. Government  Decree  114/2007  (V.  24.)  on implementing  Act  II  of  2007  on  the  Entry and Stay  of  Third -Country  Nationals  regulates aid and supports (Articles  73-88).

The Office of Immigration and Nationality (OIN) shall provide aid and support for the subsistence of exiles. Exiles shall be entitled to receive provisions under the scope of personal care, including financial provisions and financial assistance.

Personal provisions: a) room and board in a community hostel or the like; b) medical services; c) meals provided in an educational institution. Financial provisions: a) one-off moving allowance b) school aid Financial assistance: a) rental support; b) financial support for leaving the country permanently; c) covering the costs of a  pre-employment medical examination and aptitude test, and the costs of translation of documents in proof of  vocational training.

Maximum time limits on detention for families with children

Third Country Nationals Act and the Asylum Act provide that families with children can be detained for a maximum period of 30 days (Asylum Act, Section 31/A(8); TCN Act, Section 56(3)).

Temporary legal statues: provisions for basic rights

Tolerated stay /”Exile” status under Act II of 2007 on the Entry and Stay of Third-Country Nationals (entered into force on 1 July 2007, hereinafter: RRTN).

A residence permit on humanitarian grounds is  issued to the person  who has been granted the status of exile by Hungary.  The validity period of a residence permit  granted on humanitarian  grounds shall be one  year that  may be extended  by  a  maximum  of  one  year at  a  time  and  under  Art  29  (3)  of  RRTN   a  residence  permit  on  humanitarian  grounds shall  be withdrawn if any requirement for issue is no longer satisfied; the third-country national in question has disclosed false information or untrue facts to the competent authority in the interest of obtaining the right of residence; or the withdrawal is requested by the authority or body on whose initiative it was for some other reason.

Exiles shall be entitled to receive provisions under the scope of personal care, including financial provisions and financial assistance.

Monitoring: Directed residence in semi-closed reception centres

In Hungary, there used to be a system of fully open centres, but this was modified because of a 70% absconding rate, during the period when Hungary was predominantly a transit State. Now there are semi-closed centres, with an initial two to four weeks of ‘quarantine’ detention (for medical, identity and other checks) followed by a period of accommodation during which freedom of movement is not formally restricted.

Asylum seekers are obliged to reside in these centres if they require State support. There are also several institutions, called (misleadingly, as they are run by the police) ‘community shelters’, to which both asylum seekers and persons who have been granted a protection status may be released, often after spending the maximum period of twelve months in detention.

Conditions in some of these ‘shelters’ have been found inadequate and unsafe by independent monitors in recent years. Perhaps for this reason, 65% of all asylum decisions in Hungary were ‘discontinued’ in 2002; a higher rate of absconding than in some neighbouring States which also run open centres.

Monitoring: Handover of travel documents

In  order to secure the costs  of  departure,  \the  competent  authority  may  seize  the  travel ticket  if  the  third-country  national  in question  has one,  or  –  if  sufficient  financial  means cannot  be  ensured  otherwise  –  may confiscate  his  money  in  the  amount  as  is required to purchase the ticket and to obtain a travel document.

Reporting requirements for asylum seekers

Reporting requirements are specific to varying categories of asylum seekers, pursuant to section 62 (2) c) of Third Country Nationals Act.

Negative conditions for non-compliance: Bail

The  refugee  authority  shall  ex  officio  examine  whether  conditions  of  asylum  bail  prevail.

If  the availability  of  the  person  requesting  recognition  may  be  secured  through  asylum bail,  the  refugee  authority  shall make a decision on this. Following the deposit of asylum bail, the asylum authority shall designate a place of residence for the person seeking recognition,  and  shall  inform  him/her  about  his/her  obligations  relevant  to  availability, the  non-compliance  of  which  obligation shall result in the person seeking recogniton losing the right to claim back the deposited asylum bail. Sections 31/H 1); 3) and 2 lc) of the Asylum Act

Find out more: 

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Rights: Challenges and Achievements in 2014, (Vienna: EU FRA. 2014).

Ophelia Field and Alice Edwards, Alternatives to Detention of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, (Geneva: UNHCR, 2006).

Unaccompanied children are not to be detained

Section 56 of Hungary’s Act II of 2007 on the Admission and Rights of Residence of Third-Country Nationals establishes that unaccompanied children cannot be detained for migration reasons.

Unaccompanied children who come into contact with authorities, however, must provide evidence of their identity (with personal identification or valid travel document) and demonstrate a legal ground for stay in Hungary.

Those who cannot provide this may be held for a maximum period of 24 hours while the authorities conduct identification and age assessment verification. Those found to be children are appointed a guardian employed by the Department of Child Protection Services, who is legally responsible for the overall care, management and legal representation of the child.

Since May 2011, unaccompanied children seeking asylum or international protection fall under the scope of the country’s general child protection regime and thus enjoy the same rights as Hungarian children. They are regarded primarily as children, and only secondarily as migrants.

They are placed in a specific child protection facility in Fót supervised by Hungarian authorities, with services provided by a variety of national and international organisations.

Section 45(1) of the Hungarian Child Protection Act requires that children in care facilities must be provided with food, clothing, health care, education and housing suitable for the development of their physical, mental and emotional needs.

Non-asylum seeking children are accommodated in a child protection facility in Hódmezövásárhely run by the Catholic Church under a contract with the Social and Child Protection Directorate. The capacity at this facility is, however, limited (18 UAMs) and some non-asylum seeking children are placed at other child protection facilities when required.

Age assessment must take place within 24 hours of detection of the UAM. It has been reported that the lack of uniform age assessment procedures may lead to the detention of UAMs. In case of  doubt,  until  the  minority  of  the  UAM  is  confirmed, he/she  is  treated  as  an  adult, thus  may  be  accommodated  either  in  an  adult  reception  facility  for  asylum seekers or put in immigration/asylum detention if the conditions are met.

Laws providing for individuals to enjoy rights and and basic needs 

Exiles  shall  be  provided  aid  and  support  specified  under  specific  other  legislation. Government  Decree  114/2007  (V.  24.)  on implementing  Act  II  of  2007  on  the  Entry and Stay  of  Third -Country  Nationals  regulates aid and supports (Articles  73-88).

The Office of Immigration and Nationality (OIN) shall provide aid and support for the subsistence of exiles. Exiles shall be entitled to receive provisions under the scope of personal care, including financial provisions and financial assistance.

Personal provisions: a) room and board in a community hostel or the like; b) medical services; c) meals provided in an educational institution. Financial provisions: a) one-off moving allowance b) school aid Financial assistance: a) rental support; b) financial support for leaving the country permanently; c) covering the costs of a  pre-employment medical examination and aptitude test, and the costs of translation of documents in proof of  vocational training.

Maximum time limits on detention for families with children

Third Country Nationals Act and the Asylum Act provide that families with children can be detained for a maximum period of 30 days (Asylum Act, Section 31/A(8); TCN Act, Section 56(3)).

Temporary legal statues: provisions for basic rights

Tolerated stay /”Exile” status under Act II of 2007 on the Entry and Stay of Third-Country Nationals (entered into force on 1 July 2007, hereinafter: RRTN).

A residence permit on humanitarian grounds is  issued to the person  who has been granted the status of exile by Hungary.  The validity period of a residence permit  granted on humanitarian  grounds shall be one  year that  may be extended  by  a  maximum  of  one  year at  a  time  and  under  Art  29  (3)  of  RRTN   a  residence  permit  on  humanitarian  grounds shall  be withdrawn if any requirement for issue is no longer satisfied; the third-country national in question has disclosed false information or untrue facts to the competent authority in the interest of obtaining the right of residence; or the withdrawal is requested by the authority or body on whose initiative it was for some other reason.

Exiles shall be entitled to receive provisions under the scope of personal care, including financial provisions and financial assistance.

Monitoring: Directed residence in semi-closed reception centres

In Hungary, there used to be a system of fully open centres, but this was modified because of a 70% absconding rate, during the period when Hungary was predominantly a transit State. Now there are semi-closed centres, with an initial two to four weeks of ‘quarantine’ detention (for medical, identity and other checks) followed by a period of accommodation during which freedom of movement is not formally restricted.

Asylum seekers are obliged to reside in these centres if they require State support. There are also several institutions, called (misleadingly, as they are run by the police) ‘community shelters’, to which both asylum seekers and persons who have been granted a protection status may be released, often after spending the maximum period of twelve months in detention.

Conditions in some of these ‘shelters’ have been found inadequate and unsafe by independent monitors in recent years. Perhaps for this reason, 65% of all asylum decisions in Hungary were ‘discontinued’ in 2002; a higher rate of absconding than in some neighbouring States which also run open centres.

Monitoring: Handover of travel documents

In  order to secure the costs  of  departure,  \the  competent  authority  may  seize  the  travel ticket  if  the  third-country  national  in question  has one,  or  –  if  sufficient  financial  means cannot  be  ensured  otherwise  –  may confiscate  his  money  in  the  amount  as  is required to purchase the ticket and to obtain a travel document.

Reporting requirements for asylum seekers

Reporting requirements are specific to varying categories of asylum seekers, pursuant to section 62 (2) c) of Third Country Nationals Act.

Negative conditions for non-compliance: Bail

The  refugee  authority  shall  ex  officio  examine  whether  conditions  of  asylum  bail  prevail.

If  the availability  of  the  person  requesting  recognition  may  be  secured  through  asylum bail,  the  refugee  authority  shall make a decision on this. Following the deposit of asylum bail, the asylum authority shall designate a place of residence for the person seeking recognition,  and  shall  inform  him/her  about  his/her  obligations  relevant  to  availability, the  non-compliance  of  which  obligation shall result in the person seeking recogniton losing the right to claim back the deposited asylum bail. Sections 31/H 1); 3) and 2 lc) of the Asylum Act

Find out more: 

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Rights: Challenges and Achievements in 2014, (Vienna: EU FRA. 2014).

Ophelia Field and Alice Edwards, Alternatives to Detention of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, (Geneva: UNHCR, 2006).

There are alternatives cover

Over the past five years, the IDC has undertaken a program of research to identify and describe a number of positive alternatives to immigration detention (‘alternatives’) that respect fundamental rights, are less expensive and are equally or more effective than traditional border controls.

This research, entitled There are alternatives, provides readers with the guidance needed to successfully avoid unnecessary detention and to ensure community options are as effective as possible.

This text was published in September 2015.