Update: The latest on what to expect in Hungary's container camps

Last month, we shared information on life in Hungary’s container camps. Below you can find updates Refugee.Info has gathered over the past month.

Photo AP: Barbed-wire fence around the transit zone

Once you enter Hungary's transit zones

  • You can either ask for asylum in Hungary or get sent back to Serbia immediately.
  • There is no “list” to move on from Hungary — in Hungary, you can apply for asylum only in Hungary.
  • Once you apply for asylum in Hungary, you cannot leave the transit zones until the Asylum Office decides on your claim. However, you can request to go to Serbia. That is the only way to exit.
  • When you apply for asylum in Hungary, tell asylum officers immediately if you want to ask for Family Reunification with an immediate family member in another country.

Transit zones

There are two transit zones where you can enter Hungary: Roszke (called Horgos on the Serbian side) and Tompa (called Kelebija on the Serbian side).

  • Both are also referred to as “container camps” because people stay in containers.
  • Each zone was designed for 250 people.
  • Both zones have gates, armed guards and police with rubber batons.
  • Both zones are divided into “sectors.”

Photo MTI: Policemen in the transit zone

Sectors

  • Each sector is surrounded by a 4-meter-high barbed-wire fence.
  • There are cameras in every corner.
  • You cannot leave your assigned sector. If you need to visit the doctor, go to hospital or have an interview with the asylum officer, you will be handcuffed and escorted by armed guards.
  • A sector houses about 70 to 80 people, according to an asylum-seeker who voluntarily returned to Serbia.
  • Hungary tries to put people of the same nationality in 1 sector.
  • Each sector has several containers.

Containers

  • You will live in a container.
  • The capacity of containers varies, but for single men it is 6 people per container.
  • The containers do not have air conditioning. The containers heat up as the day grows hotter.
  • The open areas of each sector may remind you of prison yards.
  • The yards have no shade.

Photo AP: A Hungarian policeman walks by asylum-seekers

Communication

  • Asylum officers will give you very little information on your case.
  • If you are asking for Family Reunification, asylum officers may not tell you if the country where your family member lives has accepted or rejected you.
  • If you want to know more about your case, ask your lawyer for help.
  • Police and asylum officers probably will not talk with you.
  • You will have access to WiFi in your sector.

Food and water

According to an asylum-seeker who voluntarily returned to Serbia, in the transit zones:

  • The food is very monotonous, and there are no fruits or vegetables.
  • Parents get a limited amount of baby food and spoons.
  • Pregnant women don’t receive vitamins or supplements.
  • There is no bottled water. You need to drink the tap water.

We also learned:

  • You can buy groceries in a mobile shop that has access to transit zone, but the prices are high.
  • If you have been returned to Hungary from another EU member state, you will not receive food in the transit zone. You can get food, water and other items from Hungarian Interchurch Aid or another humanitarian organization that has access to the transit zones.

Photo New York Times: Asylum-seekers sitting outside in the yard of one of the sectors

Medical care

  • There is one doctor in the transit zone who provides basic medical care.
  • If you need emergency care or advanced medical help, police will handcuff you and escort you to the hospital.

Free time

  • There are very few organized activities for children.
  • There is a playground in each sector with limited equipment.
  • There transit zones also have some sports facilities.

Photo MTI: Playground in the transit zone

The conditions in the transit zones are very difficult. You may feel depressed, stressed, frustrated, angry, disappointed, afraid, disoriented, sick, sad or elsehow.

But if you leave the Hungarian transit zone and go to Serbia, it will be very difficult for you to return to Hungary later. You would need to:

  • Register at the police station in Serbia again
  • Register in a Serbian camp again
  • Get on the list for admission to Hungary again
  • Wait again
  • Pay the costs of your asylum procedure in Hungary