23 September 2011
Hungary refuses to examine on the merits asylum claims of asylum-seekers arriving in Hungary through Serbia, based on the wrong presumption that Serbia is able and willing to provide protection to these persons. This practice is in breach of Article 3 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Hungarian asylum authorities consider Serbia as a “safe third country”, i.e. a country which provides effective protection to refugees and where those in need can have access to international protection. This means that all asylum-seekers arriving in Hungary from Serbia are automatically excluded from the in-merit determination of their protection needs and are sent back to Serbia.
In reality, the Serbian asylum system is largely dysfunctional. Many asylum-seekers face destitution and the entire system is heavily underfunded and understaffed (only two officers have to deal with hundreds of cases). Even though a large proportion of asylum-seekers come from Afghanistan and Iraq, Serbia has never granted refugee status to anyone. Serbia automatically considers Greece and Turkey as a safe third country, while Belarus and Russia figure on its list of safe countries of origin. The UNHCR clearly advises against the consideration of Serbia as a safe third country.
This report, based on the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s 2011 June field mission to Serbia, provides an insight into the main characteristics of the Serbian asylum-system, highlighting all deficiencies that question the country’s qualification as safe for asylum-seekers.