Refugees and migrants | Hungarian Helsinki Committee

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TAX NUMBER: 19013983-1-42

Each year hundreds of thousands leave their home due to wars, hunger, torture and persecution globally. In Europe, although often perceived as a safe region, asylum-seekers are often met by refusal, detention and expulsion.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee works towards providing effective assistance to those fleeing to Hungary.

Farahnaz Karimi is a divorced woman who worked as a photo-journalist for one of the international press agencies in Afghanistan. There are few more dangerous jobs than this in a war-torn country. She managed to escape with one of her sons, but unfortunately the majority of her family had to stay behind. Farahnaz and her son ended up in Hungary. The woman has done everything to help the rest of her family get to Hungary. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee successfully assisted in the reunification of her family.

The number of registered asylum applications has multiplied in Hungary since 2013. 43,000 applications were filed in 2014. The number of applications kept rising throughout 2015. The majority of the applicants come from Syria and Afghanistan. Apart from them, a significant number of asylum-seekers originate from Pakistan and a growing number from Iraq. Until February 2015 many Kosovars sought asylum in Hungary as well.

Refugee: According to the 1951 Geneva Convention a refugee is someone who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country.”

Although the majority of the applicants leave Hungary within days or weeks, protecting the rights of those remaining in Hungary is an enormous task. Currently, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee is the only organization that provides free and high-quality legal assistance to asylum-seekers. Most of our asylum-seeking clients are highly traumatised, having experienced horrific events in their home country or during their flight. Most of them do not understand what is happening to them, what their rights and duties as asylum-seekers are without professional help.

Ayman was drafted into Bassar el-Assad’s military. The young man did not want to fight against his own people in the Syrian civil war and especially did not want to end up among the terrorists of ISIS. First he went into hiding, then fled his home. He was granted asylum in Hungary with the help of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

Those fleeing war are not criminals. However, they are repeatedly being held in conditions resembling penitentiary institutions in asylum detention. Our colleagues visit weekly the immigration and the asylum detention facilities in the country. All of our applications to the European Court of Human Rights regarding the unlawful detention of asylum-seekers have been upheld in Strasbourg.

We provide legal assistance including legal representation to more than a thousand asylum-seekers each year in ten cities. Each year we represent more than a hundred asylum-seekers during their appeal procedures whose applications have been declined by the Office of Immigration and Nationality.

It is in the best interest of everyone that a refugee successfully settles in to their new community as early as possible. The unity of the family significantly enhances the possibility of integration. Family reunification in Hungary is rather difficult and for those with subsidiary protection it is almost impossible. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee successfully aided family reunification procedures in many cases.

Subsidiary protection status is usually given to those who do not have to fear of persecution due to “personal” reasons (religion, political opinion, etc), but due to a serious threat to their life as a result of indiscriminate violence in an armed conflict, for example a civil war in the country of origin.

There are millions in the world who do not possess any state’s citizenship commonly described as stateless persons. Their situation is usually similar to refugees, but may be worsen if they are forced to live without any official documents as “legal ghosts”.

Stateless person: A stateless person does not possess a citizenship of any country. As the right to citizenship is a widely respected fundamental human right, statelessness can be considered as a serious breach of human rights. Often, a stateless person is unable to exercise even their most basic rights, are not entitled to any state’s protection and usually “does not even exist” officially. A significant number of stateless persons are also refugees.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee acts as the current chair of the European Network on Statelessness and is one of the most active agents of their cause internationally. We work towards ensuring that no child born in Hungary becomes stateless.

Besides our main activities, we regularly provide help to Hungarian citizens who have been denied to live with their family in Hungary. We follow closely issues related to citizenship with special regards to possible misconducts and to naturalization procedures of stateless persons and refugees. By providing information and pursuing an active role in the media, we strive to defuse the existing fears unfortunately strengthened by the political climate of the Hungarian society surrounding immigration and refugees.


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