Hungary is Denying Asylum Seekers Food

An international human rights group has found that Hungary is routinely denying food to some rejected asylum seekers or their family members as a means to deter them from staying in the country, something that is against international human rights laws.

This disturbing action is being used against asylum seekers held in the so-called “transit zones” on the Hungarian-Serbian border, according to a Human Rights Watch report. This has apparently been going on since early August.

“The government has stooped to a new inhumane low by refusing food to people in their custody, apparently revelling in breaching human rights law, including its obligations as a European Union member,” said Lydia Gall, Eastern EU and Balkans researcher for Human Rights Watch. “This disregard for people’s wellbeing smacks of a cynical move to force people to give up their asylum claims and leave Hungary.”

The report says that several Afghan families and a pair of Syrian brothers were denied food, while a breast-feeding mother was supplied food but was forbidden under threat of legal ramifications from sharing that food with her family or with other detainees.

People interred in the transit zones are forbidden from leaving their compounds. The only way to leave is to return to cross the border into Serbia, at which point they would abandon their asylum claim.

After an emergency appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, Hungarian officials were ordered on August 10 to resume providing food to detainees in transit zones. However, Human Rights Watch fears that while officials are respecting that particular order, they may not be following the spirit of the order for other detainees. Essentially, until explicitly ordered to, they may not be providing food to adults appealing their cases in these transit zones, something that eyewitness reports seem to substantiate.

This fear appears well founded, given that Hungary’s Immigration and Asylum Office is quoted by Reuters as saying that there is nothing in Hungarian law requiring officials to provide food for “aliens policing procedure” while asylum seekers are in transit zones. In terms of domestic law, this is now sadly true, thanks to a new law enacted in the past few months. 

Inundated with a flood of people following the Syrian crisis, Hungary quickly began the process of closing its borders, something that has become increasingly xenophobic and Islamophobic.

The latest political manifestation of this attitude came in July, when the Hungarian parliament passed legislation making it virtually impossible to be granted asylum in Hungary. The law also made it a criminal offense to help asylum seekers or refugees.

What this has meant in practice is that Hungarian officials are deporting people whose asylum claims have been denied even if they are appealing that decision — a right secured under international law.

It appears that Hungarian officials are using this law as justification for intercepting and denying food parcels and restricting access for human rights workers to asylum seekers. Meanwhile, conditions within the camps are increasingly hostile.

“The transit zone is encircled with high fences and barbed wires, and within the transit zone there are also smaller sectors divided by further fences and barbed wires,” NPR reports. “…People are confined to these small sectors.”

This all seems to add up to an incredibly—and purposefully antagonistic—environment designed to make detainees abandon their asylum claims by crossing back into Serbia to find food. If they do so, they would then have to start their asylum claim all over again, a process that can take well over a year, if not much longer.

Human rights groups have said that the Viktor Orban government is increasingly traded on anti-Muslim rhetoric to justify human rights breaches. This dangerous turn has been criticized by EU officials including the European Commission, but what is clear is that unless the EU uses the full weight of its powers, Hungary will continue down this path, and it is vulnerable asylum seekers who will be the victims just when they need help the most.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago


Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago


Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

Ben O
Ben O7 months ago

They are not denying money from the European Union... : ~ (

ANA MARIJA R7 months ago

For now I have to keep quiet because... my beautiful soulmate was seeking asylum here in Croatia... Our search for legal solution last almost 2 year...

Paulo R
Paulo R7 months ago

not exactly humane. Feed these people and send them elsewhere where they may be accepted and treated better.

Julie D
Julie D7 months ago

Even if they do not intend to allow these people to stay, and will be deporting them, there is no excuse for treating them with cruelty, and as less than human. We have our own issues in our own country being unnecessarily cruel to those people seeking asylum here. It is heartbreaking and it is wrong, no matter where in the world it happens.

Debra G
Debra G7 months ago

Trump is a big fan of Orban (and Duterte, Erdogan, Putin of course...). Denying the humanity of these people is straight out of Mein Kampf.

Carole R
Carole R7 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Colin Clauscen
Colin C7 months ago

Inhumane and yes as Margaret G says The transit zones sound like starvation camps