23 June 2020

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, has published a report following his visit to Hungary in July 2019.

During the visit he met with migration authorities and conducted private interviews with migrants, allowing the views of the most vulnerable to be heard. The visit also allowed him: ‘to assess existing laws, policies and practices in relation to the governance of migration in Hungary and their impact on the human rights of migrants of all categories’. 

One of the key issues identified in the report is the right to education, particularly the restrictions to access and quality education due to detention and the existence of transit zones. 

Hungary has been repeatedly called to account for its treatment of migrants. Recently the European Court of Justice handed down a verdict condemning the systematic detention of asylum seekers, reminding Hungary that such restrictions must be temporary and only done in exceptional circumstances.

Yet, minors represent 60% of the population: Out of 361 persons residing in these zones, 197 of them are children. Many have been in detention for more than a year. Since 2017, ‘the Hungarian authorities have started providing basic educational and recreational activities for children in the transit zones. Those activities do not seem to be fully tailored to meet the needs of the children’ (para 27). 

The Special Rapporteur also found that the conditions in transit zones, which he described as ‘prisonlike’, are a major obstacle to access to education for migrant children (accompanied or not). They are ‘inappropriate and inadequate for accommodating children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, or for other individuals with special needs.’ (para 34). 

The UN special rapporteur is not the first UN body to raise concern about Hungary’s treatment of child asylum-seekers. In March 2020, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its concluding observations regarding Hungary, reaffirmed the rights of migrant children, and urged the Hungarian government: 'to ensure that children in transit zones have access to education under the same conditions as Hungarian children, and that children who have been kept in transit zones have access upon release to adequate child protection, education and health services, including mental health services' (para 39).

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