Since it passed a new law March 28, 2017, Hungary is keeping asylum-seekers, including people under 18, in one of two "transit zones" at the border with Serbia.
Once you enter a transit zone, you must stay there for your entire asylum procedure — unless you leave for Serbia.
Read more about Hungary's asylum procedure and asylum recognition rates on our blog, and visit the Hungarian Helsinki Committee's website for an explanation of the transit zones and asylum process in Arabic, English, French, Kurdish, Pashto or Urdu.
If the Hungarian authorities believe you may try to escape before they have decided on your claim, they will put you in asylum detention. This detention can last up to 6 months.
UNHCR, humanitarian organizations, European politicians and governments, and others have criticized the transit zones as inhumane and a violation of human rights.
Gateway to the EU
Entering Hungary's transit zones is, for many people, the only official way to move from Serbia into the EU.
To get to Hungary from Serbia, you need to get on a list.
Ten asylum-seekers per working day are selected from the list to enter Hungary — five people from Syria, Iraq or another Arab country in Kelebija-Tompa and five people of another nationality (e.g., people from Afghanistan or Pakistan) in Horgos-Röszke.
Once selected, you can enter one of the transit zones. They are the only places to enter Hungary and ask for asylum.
If you go through the border fence instead of waiting to enter a transit zone, the Hungarian police will send you back to Serbia.
They may first place you in immigration detention. There, you can still ask for asylum. It is possible, but unlikely, that you could be transferred to asylum detention, where you can start the asylum procedure.
In May, the French news agency France 24 released footage from inside one of the zones. The gifs below are from that footage.
What it’s like inside the transit zones
The transit zones can each house up to 250 people, according to a report by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
All asylum-seekers must stay in the transit zones, except children under 14 who are traveling without their families, who stay in an orphanage in Fót, close to Budapest.
According to IOM, as of June 19, Hungary was hosting 539 asylum-seekers.
In the first six months of 2017, Hungary granted protection to 321 asylum-seekers. In the same period, it rejected 2,417 asylum applications.
People in the zones live inside shipping containers, surrounded by razor-wire fences.
The zones have basic medical facilities. But if they need emergency care or advanced medical help, they will be handcuffed and escorted to the hospital by armed guards, Hungarian Helsinki Committee has reported.
Kurdish media network Rudaw reports that Hungary has provided sports facilities, medical treatment, food and sanitation in the zones. Hungary also says it plans to install wifi and TVs, according to Rudaw’s report.
The transit zones provide no education for children despite the government's promises.
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