The story of Gáborné Nagy and her escape to Hungary from the Russian secret services was presented in detail in an article published by Eszter Neuberger in February 2021 on 444.hu. Now we talked to the client of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee about how her life and that of her family was affected by the fact that after 20 years the Hungarian authorities see her stay in the country as a risk to national security.
- How long have you been living in Hungary?
I have been living in Hungary for 21 years, and in 2007 I was granted refugee status.
- When did you find out that you posed a threat to national security for Hungary?
That “I’m a terrorist”? In October or maybe November 2020, I was told that I am a national security risk to the country. I’m so dangerous that you can’t even tell me why I’m a danger. Actually, no reasons were given, neither orally nor in writing. It was just stated and that’s it. So for a little over a year now, I’ve been living under this “terrorist” label.
- In what procedure did they tell you about this?
I had an interview in October 2020 about revoking my refugee status. It was completely formal. The minutes described that I was actually not persecuted for being a Jew in Russia, that I was not in danger because of this, and that I was not imprisoned for not wanting to cooperate with the secret services. What amazed me the most was that at the end of the transcript, it stated that the conversation was in Arabic and what I said was translated from Arabic, and at the end there was an excerpt from a completely different interview.
- When they told you that you were a threat, did you have the chance to respond?
I asked, of course, why I was a threat, but they said they couldn’t share that with me because that’s the competence of the counter-terrorism agency.
- How did that affect you, how did you feel when you heard this? And then how did this impact your everyday life?
First of all, I am in constant fear of being deported without any explanation or justification. I have been going to a psychologist for a year, living in constant stress and fear. Stress. Constant stress and fear. My youngest grandchild has just been born. Surely, I would have gone crazy without her in this situation. Everything happens very slowly and nothing can be proven to anyone.
- And then how are you going on?
My lawyer and I have turned to the court and are challenging this decision. We have submitted the papers. There is a similar case that has already reached the Luxembourg court [that is, the Court of Justice of the European Union], and we are still waiting for a decision here. So, I’m waiting now.
- What status do you have right now?
I don’t even know what my current legal status is at the moment. Seriously. I can’t travel because I don’t have documents, I didn’t get a passport. My papers are slowly expiring, and I can’t renew them. My Hungarian ID is also expiring and it cannot be renewed either. Soon, I won’t even have health insurance. I did not even get a residence permit on humanitarian grounds because I am a danger here. Everything is very difficult.
- And since you don’t know why you have suddenly become a risk to the country, you can’t even challenge it…
Exactly. What can I say? They’re not telling me anything. We also wrote a letter to the Counter-Terrorism Centre (TEK) with my lawyer, and they answered saying that I am such a risk that they cannot even share this with me.
- What do you think could have happened?
I do not know whether to say this, but many people talk about how close the Prime Minister of Hungary and the head of Russia are. I heard on a German TV show that Putin has such incriminating evidence on Hungary that he can request certain services from the Prime Minister. Based on this, it is clear to me why this is happening here with me: this is an order from Russia. Since I did not want to cooperate with the secret services in Russia, they asked that I was sent back there. And what awaits me there is obviously death. It can’t be very different. I have lived here for over 20 years. Since 2006, several of the Russians in exile have died in Europe, who disagree with the current Russian regime. That’s why I’m really scared. I will be 60 soon, my blood pressure is high. If I am expelled, I will not get further than the border because I will simply die of a heart attack. Nobody cares that my family, husband and children are all here in Hungary.
My husband is Hungarian, my grandchildren are Hungarian. My kids went to school here, went to college here. I have two Hungarian grandchildren, but no one cares. At the hearing, the representative of the authority said that they did not think that my right to family life would be violated in Russia either, because my family members could come with me. My husband is 76 years old and does not speak Russian. Even if he came to Russia with me and I was imprisoned there, what would he do there? If they detain me at all and not kill me instead. He will only be able to bury me there. And who will bury him?
- What are you expecting now?
I don’t even know what to expect. I am awaiting the decision of the Luxembourg court in the other case, which will also affect my case. And I hope that a favorable decision will be made for me and that I will be able to regain my refugee status in Hungary. And I will turn to the court for the moral damage done to me. You have to resist somehow, you have to. But it is very difficult. And I have a hard time telling you what I’m going through. Imagine, when I received that letter, I was living a completely normal life. I had plans and ideas. And all of a sudden, I suddenly turn out to be “dangerous”. And then that’s all, nothing else. There is nothing left of what was there before. I really have no idea what will happen to me.
- We hope that you’ll have good news from the Luxembourg court.
Of course, I hope so. It will be a year in January that we filed the papers, and my lawyer, Tamás Fazekas, said that we would have to wait 2-3 years for the court to decide. I am not getting younger. It’s only been a year, but during that time, my health has only gotten worse. And even if all goes well and I can re-apply for refugee status, who knows … It’s a question of whether I will live till then. I first waited eight years for my refugee status. I would be almost 70 by then… And I would have to live until then without any documents.
I was 38 when I came to Hungary. My children, who came with me as small children, have not received citizenship either. And my daughter finished high school here, then went to Pázmány University and is now studying law there. My daughter has not received citizenship either, although she has lived here since she was a child, she has a Hungarian husband and Hungarian children. She applied two years ago and is still waiting for a response to her application for citizenship. No answer, whatsoever. Obviously, what is happening to me right now, is not helping her either. We don’t know what will happen to her. I have applied for Hungarian citizenship eight times, and was rejected every time. The reason for the rejection was never shared. I worked here, paid taxes like everyone else. The last time I applied for citizenship, I was already married to my Hungarian husband and still I was rejected.
- Yes, it is a real problem that the authority has no obligation to state reasons for their decision in these cases and that the applicants do not know on what basis they have been rejected and how to contest that. You have run into two types of cases (granting citizenship and the withdrawal of refugee status based on posing a risk to national security) where you cannot know the reasons for the decision.
It’s not just my burden. My son, when he came here at the age of 19, he also received refugee status on the grounds, that he is my son. He is now 34 years old and has been working here in Hungary for 5 years, in a good position, with a good salary and paying a lot of taxes to the Hungarian state. His application for citizenship was rejected within four months. On what basis, who knows? I have five children. Everyone is afraid of deportation, my whole family. And of course they’re worried about me. We are all worn out by this situation.