#Ukraine Temporary protection card extended until 2025

She asked for protection. So they put her in arbitrary detention.

Translation is available for this content

Váltás magyarra

A young Syrian woman fled both from the war and from forced marriage. She desperately needed help on several levels, yet she was locked up in Hungary. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in her favour yesterday. This was the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s fourteenth victory regarding arbitrary immigration detention, but Hungarian authorities and courts have used it on numerous other occasions as well.

L. had a cruel life. She didn’t only have to flee her country because of the civil war in Syria, but her family also forced her into marriage as a child. No wonder she wanted to run away from them. First, she tried to seek protection in Greece, but there she had no chance because the asylum system was incredibly overwhelmed. Following some not-so-good advice, she tried Hungary then.

She needed a smuggler’s help and a forged passport to get to Hungary by plane. After the police apprehended her in December 2018, she revealed her real identity and cooperated fully with the authorities. 

A month later, the Hungarian criminal court convicted her of forgery of official documents and banned her from re-entering the country for two years. From 29 January 2019, she was held in asylum detention for six months. Neither the asylum authorities nor the courts have addressed whether only the most severe deprivation of liberty can guarantee the effectiveness of the asylum procedure. They did not even consider whether the shattered L. was fit to be detained at all – even though the asylum authority concluded that the young woman was at “medium risk of traumatisation”.

The authorities rejected her asylum application in July. The expert opinion of the Counter-Terrorism Centre (TEK) played a significant part in this, which considered L.’s stay in Hungary a national security risk. In its judgement, the Strasbourg court underlines that there was no evidence or even sign of this. What the TEK considered a risk was that L. had used the help of smugglers. A classical case of victim blaming.

Her asylum detention was maintained for six months because the authorities feared that her relatives would contact L. and help her escape from the country. The opposite happened. Her uncle asked the authorities twice about her, but L. told the authorities not to reveal anything about her for fear that her family would force her back into the marriage she had fled.

The asylum-seeking woman appealed to the Strasbourg court with the help of Róbert Miskolczi, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s lawyer. On 21 March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Hungarian state arbitrarily restricted L.’s right to liberty and security when it held the Syrian woman in asylum detention for six months without justification. It therefore awarded her EUR 2,500 in just satisfaction.

“Today, asylum detention or transit zones where L. was transferred after her detention no longer exist as in 2018. However, the situation is, in many ways, worse. These days, women like L. are being pushed back to Serbia without any investigation. At the same time, the recent Strasbourg judgement also warns the Hungarian state that it cannot disregard human rights – neither those of asylum-seekers nor those of Hungarian citizens – without consequences”, commented Róbert Miskolczi, lawyer of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee