Asylum seeking families detained in Hungary against children’s best interest

Since September 2014, asylum seeking families with children are detained in Hungary1 based on a provision (Section 31/A (7) of the Asylum Act) that has been in force since the introduction of asylum detention in July 2013, but that had however never been applied before.

According to the law, families can be detained for up to 30 days. According to the information from persons working in the field, the asylum detention facilities in Békéscsaba and Debrecen are now used specifically for detaining families, while Nyírbátor is used for single men.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) expresses concern over the situation of asylum detention facilities, which are not appropriate for the detention of families. Children do not attend school, no recreational or educational activities are organised inside the centres, very few leisure materials are available and food is not adequate for children. The HHC received also complaints from detainees that children are intimidated by police officers and armed security guards in uniform, with truncheons and handcuffs, present in the facilities.

In addition, the facility in Debrecen is particularly unsuitable for families, as the small and bleak fenced courtyard, with no trees or benches, cannot be used for any meaningful free-time activity.

Grounds for detention of asylum seekers include, among others, identification purposes, the submission of the asylum application at the airport, and risk of absconding. As highlighted in the latest version of the AIDA report, the latter ground is sometimes assessed in a “very arbitrary way”, as it may be based on the asylum seeker’s statement that Hungary is not their preferred country of destination.

Despite the Asylum Act’s provision that the detention of families can be ordered only as “a measure of last resort”, the HHC believes that this safeguard is not applied, in contrast with the principle of the best interest of the child. In particular, the best interest of the child is not taken into account and alternatives to detention are not duly considered. Therefore, decisions to detain families are not taken on the basis of an individual assessment as foreseen by Article 8(2) of the recast Reception Conditions Directive.


  • 1. The current situation was reported to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee through its network of lawyers and NGO staff present in the detention centres. As the situation is evolving rapidly and the HHC is not kept informed by the Office of Immigration and Nationality (OIN) of further developments, it cannot be foreseen for how long families will keep being detained.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention across 20 countries.