Rule of law

Inhumane transit zones banned by EU court cost the taxpayers 6 billion HUF in five years

Hungary has closed down its controversial transit zones in Röszke and Tompa after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled, that the detention of asylum seekers is unlawful. We asked the authorities about the cost of the construction and maintenance of the zones between 2015 and 2020.

On May 14, 2020, the ECJ ruled, that holding asylum seekers in Hungarian transit zones for more than 28 days qualifies as detention, which would require a fair procedure and remedy safeguards – which the zones lacked. Hungarian authorities have denied holding asylum-seekers in detention claiming, that they could always have had left to Serbia.

Justice Minister Judit Varga commented on the ECJ ruling that the regulations in the zones were in line with European and international law. Nevertheless, transit zones were closed this May, 280 refugees, including approximately a hundred minors, have been let out of the zones. Many of them have been staying between the wires and living in containers for more than a year.

Now they have been taken to open or partially-open camps to wait for ruling about their visa. However, according to the spokesperson of the Helsinki Committee, refugees may only be able to receive a humanitarian visa. This way Hungary might be able to escape European law and the Genovese Convention.

Transit zones in both in Röszke and Tompa were built in 2015 when Hungary erected fences on its southern border. The zones were widely criticised by the independent media, NGOs and watchdog organisations such as the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

Refugees get deplorable treatment near Hungary-Serbia border

The situation is getting dire for many refugees caught at Hungary’s southern border with Serbia. Many looking to move on west are caught in no man’s land as they wait for processing.

More than 6 billion Forints

We asked the Hungarian Prison Service, the National Directorate-General For Aliens Policing and Hungarian National Police Headquarters about the cost of the construction and maintenance of the zones.

The construction of the zones was by the Hungarian Prison Service. They admitted spending a gross amount of 4.586.056.236 Forints (13.240.513 €) on construction work, including the purchase and moving of containers and field-work between 2015 and 2020.

The National Directorate-General For Aliens Policing answered our public information request saying that the maintenance of the zones between 2015 and 2020 cost them a gross amount of 1.472.435.040 Forints or 4.251.924 in Euros, excluding personnel costs.

From the Hungarian National Police Headquarters, we got to know that the cost of informatics services was gross 310 473 872 Forints (almost 900 Euros).

According to information from the three authorities, between 2015 and 2020, the transit zones cost 6.368.965.150 Forints (18.385.115 €), excluding wages.

We asked the Ministry of Interior about the costs of the transit zones and weather Hungary has received any aids. The Ministry informed us that they do not possess any information concerning these matters.

Growing controversy surrounding migrant clashes at Hungary’s southern border – new details emerge

The ongoing migrant crisis in Hungary peaked in September when the government sealed off the Serbian section of the border with a razor-fence, resulting in violent clashes between those trapped outside the country and the police.

However, in 2015 they answered a public information request stating that Hungary was allowed to spend 1,1 million Euros from the European Refugee Fund until 2015. Furthermore, the National Directorate-General For Aliens Policing received an extra 1,2 million Euro support in 2014, from the European Commission, and another 4 million in 2015.

Another answer to public information request uncovered that Hungary received 23.713.477 million Euros between 2014 and 2020 from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, an institution established by the European Commission. The funds were matched with almost 8000 Euros of financing from Hungary.

Written and translated by Lili Rutai – Hungarian version

Cover picture: Playground in the transit zone, Tompa. Source: MTI Fotó, Ujvári Sándor.