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Life in the Hungarian transit zones: no proper food, medical care or education (+ Video)

An Afghan-Iranian family with three children waited eight months at the Serbian-Hungarian border to be able to apply for refugee status. After the long wait, in April 2017 they were admitted to the so-called ’transit zone’ where they were practically locked up behind barbed wire for four months. They told Atlatszo.hu about the inhumane conditions in the transit zone: no food for the father, harassment and doctor’s visits in handcuffs. Hungarian authorities want to keep the conditions in transit zones a secret, but we were shown cell phone photos that were taken inside.

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Nach Ungarn muss keiner zurück

Kritik am ungarischen Asyl-System gibt es schon lange. So werden Asylbewerber dort systematisch in Gewahrsam genommen. Nun hat Deutschland Konsequenzen gezogen: Berlin führt Flüchtlinge nicht mehr nach Ungarn zurück, wie es das so genannte Dublin-System eigentlich vorsieht. Gründe sind die Bedingungen, unter denen Asylsuchende dort leben. Laut Dublin-Regel muss der Staat, in den ein Asylbewerber zuerst eingereist ist, das Asylverfahren durchführen.

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LIFE IN THE HUNGARIAN TRANSIT ZONES

The other day I happened upon an opinion piece in Magyar Idők written by Georg Spöttle, one of the many somewhat mysterious national security experts attracted to the Orbán government. He is allegedly a retired German army officer who has permanently settled in Hungary. His background is murky, as one can see from an interview he gave to Magyar Nemzet in 2002. Spöttle’s op-ed piece was supposed to quiet the hysteria created by Magyar Idők, a Fidesz MP, and three mayors in the Lake Balaton area over the vacation plans of Migration Aid for a few asylum seekers. But Spöttle spent about half of the article on the conditions in the two by now infamous transit zones set up by the Hungarian government for refugees waiting for an official decision on their cases.

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HUNGARIAN POLITICIANS AND MIGRATION AID’S “MIGRANT RESORTS”

By now, I’m sure, many readers of Hungarian Spectrum who regularly follow the English- or Hungarian-language news from Hungary have heard the story of those refugee families who were offered the opportunity to spend a few days in a village at the edge of Kis-Balaton, a huge wetland habitat. As is clear from the name, the place is only a few kilometers from Lake Balaton. An Austrian benefactor offered three cabins to Migration Aid International, an Open Society Foundation-supported organization that is helping both the refugees who are still being kept in transit zones along the Serbian-Hungarian border and those who have been released and have been granted asylum and are currently under the “protection” (oltalom) of the Hungarian state. In the rest of this post you will see what this “protection” means in the current harsh reality of the Orbán regime. Cutting to the chase: a Fidesz member of parliament, three mayors in the vicinity of those three cabins, and some of the less than charitable and enlightened inhabitants of the three towns swore that no refugee can have a vacation near them. They don’t care about these people’s legal status. They don’t want them nearby. In fact, as one of the mayors said, they don’t want them anywhere in Hungary.

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Fidesz mayors, MPs would prevent refugees from vacationing at Lake Balaton

Local Fidesz mayors and MPs have criticized a plan by a Hungarian aid organization to provide temporary vacation accommodation for refugees near Lake Balaton. Fidesz politicians (and pro-government media lapdogs) claim news of refugee families at public beaches “caused a panic” in the local population. Some mayors vow to prevent the refugees from holidaying in their towns, while others claim the “violent settlement” of the families is all part of the “Soros plan.”

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Hungary’s transit zones are prisons where pregnant women are handcuffed and children go hungry

The Hungarian government set up transit zones along the border as a place for those fleeing war to request international protection. These transit zones operate as though they are located in a “no man’s land”. In other words, Hungarian law does not necessarily apply at these locations. Until now, we had no knowledge of what happens behind the gates of these transit zones because the public access to these areas is restricted. We found two families in Serbia who fled the Hungarian transit zones. The respective heads of these families, Labib (L) and Mohamed (M) spoke to us of humiliating treatment, prison-like conditions, and starving children. Tímea Kovács, an attorney with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, met with asylum-seekers in one of the containers at a transit zone. Kovács spoke to us about handcuffed pregnant women. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees workers are allowed access to the transit zones. UNHCR press officer Ernő Simon helped us reconstruct what is happening behind the barbed-wire fence.

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