#Ukraine Temporary protection card extended until 2025

Unnecessary restrictions have been imposed as prisoners are allowed visitors again

Translation is available for this content

Váltás magyarra

After 16 months, it is finally possible to visit detainees in person again, but only under severe and unjustified restrictions. Children are still not allowed to visit their parents.

According to press reports, detainees can be visited again from 1 July 2021, but under significantly worse conditions than before COVID-19; even though there is no justification for this.

  • Children are not allowed to visit their parents;
  • Adults can only visit their relatives if they have a vaccination card;
  • A one-hour visit of at least once a month has been reduced to a half-hour visit no more than once a month, and a mask must be worn at all times during the visit;
  • The frequency of Skype calls with relatives has been reduced to once a month for up to half an hour, instead of the previous four times a month; and
  • It is still not possible to have physical contact, or to greet each other with kisses and hugs, even for well-behaved inmates or those who might be released within days. A high Plexiglas wall stands between detainees and their family members, which makes it difficult to hear and at times even see each other when the Plexiglas is too dirty and scratched.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee welcomes the fact that Hungary has finally lifted the blanket ban on visits; the last to do so in Europe. However, in the opinion of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, some of the remaining restrictions are unjustified, disproportionate and violate the detainees’ fundamental right to family life.

  • The spread of the virus is not affected by family members talking for half an hour or an hour.
  • Children (especially under these conditions) are no more likely to spread the virus than their relatives, who usually live in the same household. The same children can go to school, football matches or shops without any restrictions.
  • The Hungarian Prison Service has not yet issued an official statement on the new conditions for resuming visits, and the pre-pandemic rules are still posted on its website. It is crucial that detainees and their relatives are provided with the appropriate information concerning the new rules in a transparent manner as soon as possible, because they will define the conditions for visitations from 1 July.

In the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s opinion, legislation allows the Hungarian Prison Service’s Major General to impose restrictions on personal visitations, but only if they are required for pandemic measures or other health crisis related reasons. However, some of the newly introduced visitation related restrictions are not justified in any way, especially in light of the favourable low number of COVID-19 cases in Hungary. “These strict rules are incomprehensible and serve no rational purpose, especially the fact that children cannot see their parents even after 16 months. A festival can be held, tens of thousands can attend football matches, but it is considered dangerous if a father wants to see his child after 16 months.” – said Borbála Ivány, HHC’s attorney-at-law.

The lives of 17-18 thousand detainees and their roughly 100 thousand relatives (including about 40 thousand children) are affected by the rules and practices of the prison system. The Support Network for Detainees and their Families (FECSKE, the abbreviation means swallow in Hungarian) recently conducted research examining these regulations and procedures through publicly available information, Freedom of Information Requests to public bodies, interviews and questionnaires. In this research, several relatives of detainees reported increasing tension and alienation within the family, because they did not have in-person-contact with their imprisoned loved one for more than a year. Not knowing how long the ban will last and when personal visits are expected to be reinstated also makes it very difficult for those on the outside. “There are no visitations, and it totally stresses us out. When we call, we just fight, unfortunately, because of this. It’s hard to get through this. If this situation goes on much longer, many relationships could be ruined,” one of the relatives told FECSKE.

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee