Hungary is Intentionally Denying Food to Asylum-Seekers
Hungary’s government has stopped providing food to adult asylum-seekers who have appealed their denied cases. Authorities have both refused to provide food and denied individuals permission to purchase their own food. The government is also blocking attempts by outside groups to donate food, according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights watchdog group based in Hungary. These actions have prompted outcry from human rights groups from around the world.
Hungarian authorities have told the media that officials are following the country’s laws—immigration authorities provide care to asylum-seekers whose applications have not been denied. The policy appears to be designed to force individuals to abandon their asylum applications. The European Court of Human Rights has stepped in repeatedly to order Hungary to provide food, but they are moving on a case-by-case basis. In essence, asylum-seekers must go to court to obtain food.
Hungarian authorities have respected orders passed down from the European Court of Human Rights, but the slow pace will inevitably result in further food deprivation among other asylum seekers. Hungary’s Immigration and Asylum Office argued that there is nothing in Hungarian law that obliges authorities to provide food to people in the “aliens policing procedure” in transit zones. However, authorities do have binding obligations under human rights treaties and norms that prohibit inhumane treatment of those in their custody.
Some asylum seekers have told Human Rights Watch that breastfeeding women and children were given food, but they were ordered not to share with other family members.
The Hungarian recently re-elected Prime Minister Viktor Orban won on a vociferous campaign against refugees and migrants. The country had previously closed its borders to migrants and set up detention facilities on its border to stop refugees and asylum seekers from entering the country. Hungary also pulled out of a United Nations agreement on migration and passed a controversial bill limiting the ways in which people can assist migrants. Assisting asylum seekers is now punishable by a jail sentence. Hungary’s message is loud and clear: migrants are not welcome in Hungary, and they may face extremely inhumane conditions if they attempt to cross the border.