Asylum seekers won at the European Court of Human Rights again
Translation is available for this contentVáltás magyarra
The Hungarian state violated the human rights of three Syrian refugees – the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared on December 15. The Hungarian authorities expelled them without properly examining their asylum applications or assessing what awaits them in Serbia or other countries: whether they may face torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, or punishment. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee represented the applicants before the ECtHR.
The men fled from the Syrian war and entered the Röszke transit zone legally, with the permission of the Hungarian authorities in April 2016. However, as soon as they submitted their asylum applications, they received a decision within a few hours: their asylum applications would not be investigated on the merits. This happened without considering individual circumstances, neglecting fair procedure – just as with almost everyone at the time.
They were expelled to Serbia instead, which the Hungarian government considered a safe third country for asylum-seekers. The decision did not consider whether they would have access to the asylum procedure in Serbia, or whether they would be deported from Serbia to other countries, thereby at the end of the chain, even to Syria, where they fled from.
The Syrians tried to have the hastily made asylum decision and expulsion reviewed, but the court rejected them as well, citing the general legislative presumption that Serbia was a safe third country, which the applicants did not manage to rebut. They were ushered out of the transit zone afterwards, and forced to illegally enter Serbia. The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and the lawyer Nikola Kovačević called the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s attention to the infringements against the three men – they turned to the European Court of Human Rights then.
The Strasbourg court merged their individual complaints and found the Hungarian state to be in violation of Article 3 of the Convention in its 15 December judgement. The reasoning also includes that the infringements were exacerbated by the fact that they received no legal aid at all during the procedure. The domestic court did not even listen to them, and it was also unlawful that the Hungarian authorities forced them to leave the transit zone for Serbia illegally. What’s more, the Hungarian state disregarded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ position that did not consider Serbia as a safe third country for asylum-seekers at the time. The asylum seekers faced a real risk in Serbia that they would be deported further to North Macedonia, then to Greece. They had no chance for a fair asylum procedure and, if necessary, protection in those countries either.
“The first judgement declaring that removal of an asylum-seeker from Hungarian transit zones to Serbia without examination of the asylum claim on the merits violates fundamental human rights was brought three years ago, in November 2019. We cherish the judgement with our clients, but it’s deeply saddening that the unlawful situation has even worsened since then: today, it is not even possible to apply for asylum, and violent and illegal push-back of those seeking protection is a daily practice”, said Barbara Pohárnok, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s attorney and legal representative of the successful complainants.
In addition to finding the infringement, the court set fair satisfaction and a compensation of 5000 EUR for each complainant.