• Press Release

Hungary stoops to new low with plan to round up asylum seekers in container camps

February 10, 2017

The Hungarian government’s announcement that it will detain all asylum seekers in containers near the border is yet another disturbing move in a pattern of demonizing this already very vulnerable group, Amnesty International said today.

The government will submit its proposal to Parliament which will then debate and vote on the measures within weeks. If adopted, it will be in clear contravention of EU law and the Refugee Convention.

"What we’re seeing in Hungary raises concerns that policies in the United States may embolden other countries to continue or even increase their hostility to refugees," said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “This makes it all the more important to repeal the Muslim ban in the U.S. once and for all to respond to this humanitarian crisis with compassion instead of bigotry.”

“Rounding up all men, women and children seeking asylum and detaining them months on end in container camps is a new low in Hungary’s race to the bottom on asylum seekers and refugees,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe.

Under the measure, all current and future asylum seekers would be transferred to container camps in a so-called “transit zone” near the border with Serbia, where they would be held for the duration of their asylum application process. Asylum appeals would by default be conducted with the asylum seeker attending only via video-link to a court rather than in person.

“By amending a raft of laws to lock up all asylum seekers, the Hungarian government will inflict unnecessary trauma, compounding what people seeking protection have already suffered. The government has in no way proven that the detention of each asylum seekers would be reasonable, necessary and proportionate. Detention should always be the last resort and not an immediate knee-jerk reaction as is the case here,” said Gauri van Gulik.

“This is further evidence that the EU needs to stand firm on Hungary’s flagrant disregard for European and International law.”


Currently, people seeking asylum cannot be detained in the so-called “transit zones” along Hungary’s border with Serbia for more than four weeks, after which they must be allowed inside the country. The reform under consideration would remove that time limit and introduce mandatory detention for the whole duration of the asylum procedure.

Access to transit zones set up at the border with Serbia has already been severely restricted for NGOs and human rights monitors.