Last update: 17.03.2017
New Law: Detention of All Asylum Seekers in Hungary
Please consider the following changes carefully, when planning to enter Hungary: The asylum law in Hungary will change in March 2017. All asylum seekers entering Hungary legally through the Transit Zone will be detained in a container camp at the Hungarian border with Serbia. This includes families, unaccompanied minors above the age of 14, single women and men. Unaccompanied children under the age of 14 will be brought to an open facility in a different part of the country. Detention will last for the whole duration of the asylum procedure. In practice, the asylum procedure in Hungary lasts 4 to 9 months. There will be no legal way to oppose detention and there will be no option for bail out (bail out = paying money to go out).

It is possible to leave the Transit Zone towards the Serbian side of the fence, but that means that your asylum application will be stopped and you cannot enter again (only when you register and wait again for entry to the Transit Zone, but then your chances for a positive decision are even smaller).

If you decide that you still want to enter Hungary, think about the following things: Before you go to the border or enter the Transit Zone, inform your family and friends that you go there. Inside the Transit Zone you will most often not have internet access and no access to phone credit. When coming to the border, make pictures of all papers and what happened to you and save them online, in an email account or a cloud, so that your pictures are not lost if your phone gets taken away! Pictures can be important to prove your story. Write the most important phone number of a friend or family member to your skin so that in case of losing your phone you can still contact somebody later on.

Find this information also in Arabic, Farsi, French and Turkish here: Info-flyer legal changes Hungary.

The Situation on the Southern Borders
Along the southern border, there are four transit zones: Beremend and Letenye on the Croatian borders, and Horgos / Röszke [46.1759, 19.9758] and Kelebija / Tompa [46.1672, 19.559] on the Serbian border. These transit zones were created in 2015, and are now the only way of entering Hungary legally and ask for asylum coming from Serbia. The transit zones are on Hungarian territory. There are people on the Serbian side waiting to enter them. However, you need to sign up on a list and wait your turn.

The transit zone is inside several blue containers, surrounded by a fence, on the other side of the border fence on Hungarian territory. People have to apply for asylum in the so-called border procedure in there. Often, people are made to wait for several days inside the transit zone, before they are let out. The unofficial camp where people wait to enter the transit zone is located in front of the fence on the Serbian side.

Entering via the Transit Zones at the Serbian-Hungarian Border
Coming from Serbia to the Hungarian border, you will need to register your name on a list inside the official Serbian camps, including the one-stop center in Subotica. Then, you will have to wait for your turn in the official camps. The lists are hanging on the walls in these camps. The information we have on these lists is not precise: it is unclear who manages these lists and what the criteria to get on the list are.

Vulnerable people are supposed to have priority to go inside. This means families, elderly people, disabled people, unaccompanied minors, people with illnesses or people in need of psychological help. Unfortunately there is no way to assess who is vulnerable or not in a very clear way: if your sickness is not too visible, or you are unaccompanied minor that looks like you could be 18 years old, it is difficult to be recognised as vulnerable. The people who have to wait the longest are single men.

If you have any health issue speak with the doctors or any other organisations (UNHCR, MSF) present there and explain your situation. Don’t be shy about it. Doctors go to the Serbian side of the transit zone every day. Say also if you have problems that are not physical: for instance, if you have bad memories and you cannot sleep.

When you enter the transit zone, you can apply for asylum and you will have your first interview inside the transit zone. For more information on this see the Asylum section.

There should be showers and toilets inside the zone, and a place to sleep. Once you have entered the transit zone, you may go back to Serbia at any point if you do not want to continue onwards to Hungary.

Entering not via Transit Zones
According to the new law, every person irregularly entering and staying in Hungary (no visa, no residence permit) – this applies to the entire Hungarian territory – will be brought back to Serbia through the fence, with no possibility to apply for asylum. The only option to apply for asylum is through the Transit Zones. Further, people often experience violence before they are deported back to Serbia. An exception to this procedure might happen, if the Hungarian police see you damaging the fence, carrying weapons or if you use any kind of violence against the police. In these situations, it could happen that they do not deport you immediately, but put you in pre-trial detention and start criminal proceedings against you.

More information about the Serbian-Hungary border: Migszol

Hungary has deployed police and soldiers to the border to keep people from entering. People have reported violent behaviour by Hungarian police and civil patrols when they crossed the border on their own. People who are caught after crossing into the country illegally are pushed back or put into detention. A lot of people report that their passport and mobile phones are taken by the police when they are detained. Many people store their personal data online in case their phone gets broken or stolen. The area between Subotica and Horgoš is the most controlled region. There is a soldier/police officer sitting in a trench every 50m along the fence. If the fence is approached an alarm will start, which consists of a noise signal and flashing lights to make people afraid.
Paramilitary/Civil Defense Groups
There have been reports of violence committed by some people wearing uniforms which can mean police officers, soldiers, field guards, vigilantes or self-organized paramilitary groups. Very often they pretend to be police but are just disguised as such. Victims have reported that they were brutally beaten and abused and then pushed back to Serbia. They said that perpetrators often used gas-spray or pepper-spray, set dogs on them, kicked and beat them, put plastic handcuffs on them and forced them through small openings in the razor wire fence, causing further injuries.

If you experience violence from police or military forces, you can report it to the Helsinki Committee lawyer collective via a Facebook message:

Hungarian Helsinki Committee / Magyar Helsinki Bizottság

Also, check the PUSH-BACKS AND EXPULSIONS section.

If you want to apply for asylum in Hungary, you need to prove that Serbia is not a safe country for you. If you cannot prove that Serbia is not a safe country to ask for asylum, your application will be rejected. You can prove that Serbia is not a safe country by showing that the state is not able to uphold basic human rights. The following are reasons, why Serbia is not a safe country for refugees and asylum seekers. Serbia is not safe for you if…

  • Serbia does not allow you to register an asylum application and enter a camp.
  • Serbia does not provide you with basic needs of shelter and food.
  • you do not get access to basic health care.
  • if you are forced to sleep on the streets without shelter, food and basic health care, which can expose you to further threats of sexual, racist or other violent assault.
  • Serbian police is mistreating you.
  • Serbian authorities are overwhelmed and do not have the capacity to care for all asylum seekers according to international human rights standards.
  • Serbia does not have enough facilities and resources to uphold international human rights standards.

In the words of international human rights this is called inhuman and degrading treatment, which proves that Serbia is not a safe country.

When you apply for asylum in the Transit Zone, you are represented by a state lawyer for free. But you can also ask for an independent lawyer from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee for free. Her name is Dr. Timea Kovacs. You can write an email to her address: Or you can tell a person from UNHCR that you want help from a lawyer from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, they will put your name on a list and forward it to Timea Kovacs.

Interviews and documents should be translated to a language that you can fluently understand. If you cannot read, all documents should be read to you in a language that you can understand.

Inadmissibility means that Serbia or your home country is considered a safe country, which means that you are not allowed to apply for asylum in Hungary at all. In this case, you have only 3 days (calendar days) to appeal against the decision. Make sure that in your appeal you mention all the reasons why Serbia is not a safe country. If your appeal fails, you will be pushed back to Serbia without the consent of the Serbian authorities.
Negative Asylum Decision
If at the end of the asylum process your application is rejected (=negative decision), you have only 8 days (calendar days) to appeal against the decision. If your appeal fails, you will be pushed back to Serbia without consent of the Serbian authorities. If you do not agree to go back to Serbia, you will be taken to an immigration jail to be deported to your home country.

Hungarian authorities will try to make you pay for your stay in the Transit Zone, if you are being rejected and sent back to Serbia. Bring only little amounts of money for small items, food and phone-credit with you, so that large amounts of money cannot be taken from you.

If the Hungarian asylum authorities see that you are not cooperating with them, they can decide to stop your asylum procedure and push you back to Serbia. You cannot appeal this decision!

Positive Asylum Decision
If you get a positive asylum status, you will be able to stay within Hungary. And you can move within the Schengen Zone (European Union) for up to 90 days like EU citizens.
For more information see also:
Fingerprints from Serbia are not a problem in Hungary or any other country of the European Union.

In Hungary, fingerprints are always taken, even if you do not apply for asylum. If you have given your fingerprints to authorities in Hungary and you don’t stay there but continue your journey, you might get threatened to be deported back to Hungary in the EU country where you apply for asylum. However, there are actually very few deportations to Hungary from other EU countries happening at the moment.

If you continue your journey onwards from Hungary and apply for asylum in another EU country, please look at the information about Dublin III on the website [for example if you are in Germany see].