At the end of 2002, Hungary hosted about 1,200 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection, including 1,100 asylum seekers with pending cases, and 100 persons granted asylum during the year.

During 2002, about 6,400 persons applied for asylum in Hungary, down about 32 percent from 2001. The largest numbers came from Afghanistan (2,300) and Iraq (2,000). Of the 100 persons granted asylum, most were from Iraq (46), and Afghanistan (10).

Hungary revoked the status of 19 refugees during 2002 for reasons that included voluntary repatriation; changed circumstances in the country of origin; obtaining Hungarian citizenship; and, in one case, because the person claimed to be Iraqi, but in fact was a European national.

During the year, the government discontinued the applications of about 5,000 persons, mainly because of the disappearance of the applicants.

Authorities granted asylum to fewer than 3 percent of the roughly 4,000 asylum cases decided on the merits.

Asylum Procedure

The authorities may grant asylum or two other types of protection – "authorization to stay" and "temporary protection."

The Office for Immigration and Nationality (OIN) grants authorization to stay to individuals who may face capital punishment, torture, or other inhumane treatment upon repatriation. The authorities consider authorization to stay to be protection against refoulement. Temporary protection is given on a group basis to victims of foreign aggression, civil war, ethnic conflicts, and grave human rights violations in the country of origin. Although the provision for temporary protection is written into the new law, the government did not issue the necessary decree to effect this legislation during the year. Authorities granted authorization to stay to around 1,300 individuals during the year.

The OIN is responsible for processing asylum claims. Upon arrival, an applicant completes a declaration; the OIN interviews the applicant, and forwards the claim to the National Security Office (NSO), which offers an opinion on the case within 45 to 60 days (5 days in the accelerated procedure). The Hungarian authorities should issue a decision within 90 days application.

When the applicant does not refer to persecution or fear of persecution in his or her home country; does not state his or her identity, citizenship, or provides false or misleading data; is from a country deemed to be safe; is a citizen of a European Union (EU) state; or has filed a late asylum application only to avoid deportation due to illegal entry into Hungary, the OIN uses an accelerated procedure to resolve the claim, which takes only 15 days. An appeal may be lodged against this decision within another 15 days. During the year, about 190 asylum seekers' claims were rejected in the accelerated procedure.

OIN uses a similar accelerated procedure in such cases at airports, except that it makes a decision within eight days. During the year, 7 cases were processed in the accelerated airport procedure.

Hungary deemed countries of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Romania and the Slovak Republic as safe in asylum determinations, but considered this presumption to be rebuttable on a case-by-case basis.

An applicant denied asylum can appeal the decision within 15 days to the Immigration and Citizenship Office. It is possible to appeal a decision of that office to the Municipal Court, and finally to the Supreme Court.

New Legislation

A new asylum law entered into force in January 2002, bringing the country's policies largely in line with EU standards. Among the most important amendments were provisions that allow undocumented asylum seekers full access to the asylum system (before they often were denied asylum and given other statuses), procedural safeguards for the treatment of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers (such as considering the best interest of the child), and allowing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to monitor the process by receiving court decisions.

Additionally, in an effort to shorten the asylum procedure and improve safeguards against refoulement, the OIN has exclusive authority to issue expulsion orders at the end of first-instance asylum procedures (to be suspended upon appeal), or to grant a humanitarian residence permit to individuals authorized to stay.

Although the aim of the legislation was to shorten the asylum determination procedure, in fact the new law, lengthened the time for the procedure by creating a four-level refugee determination process, with an extra layer of administrative review added.

The law limits detention to 30-days for illegal entry or stay. Under exceptional circumstances, migrants may be detained up to 12 months. Under the previous law, the limit was 18 months. According to UNHCR, however, varying interpretations of the law resulted in detention of asylum seekers for up to 24 months.

Children seeking asylum may attend primary school.


Asylum seekers normally stay in a community dwelling or reception center, though in certain cases they may stay with relatives or friends. An asylum seeker is given a certificate authorizing temporary stay until his or her case is decided. Asylum seekers may not work except for within the reception center.

UNHCR reports that open community shelters for persons authorized to stay lack qualified social workers, properly furnished community areas, organized activities for residents, and premises for children's activities. According to UNHCR, armed guards and dogs escorted foreigners from the community shelters to the communal canteen or to the exit gate of the Border Guard barracks and back, restricting freedom of movement. Increasing numbers of vulnerable groups, including women and children, were being accommodated at the shelters.

Refugees receive identity cards valid for 6 to 15 years, depending on the age of the person concerned, and the same public benefits as Hungarian nationals. In coordination with UNHCR, non-governmental organizations provide job counseling, language training, and other assistance.

Hungary grants persons authorized to stay a residence permit valid up two years. However, during the year, these persons were only issued with a temporary residence certificate valid between one and six months, pursuant to Section 24 of the Alien's Act. The government stated that this was because the document designed for persons authorized to stay was not available for technical reasons.

Restrictive Practices

The Hungarian government has readmission agreements with Croatia, Latvia, Macedonia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. During the year, Hungary entered into readmission agreements with Estonia, the Benelux states, the Slovak Republic, and Greece, although they were not in force at year's end.


After thousands of Roma left Hungary to seek asylum in past years, most notably in France and Canada, Hungary sought to improve conditions for Roma. The new Prime Minster's office established a state secretariat in charge of Roma affairs; several ministries appointed commissioners responsible for Roma issues, and Parliament appointed an ombudsman for minorities. The government drafted anti-discrimination laws and amendments to the criminal code to punish hate speech. In practice, however, discrimination persisted towards Roma throughout the year in employment, housing, and education.


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