Committee of Ministers urges Hungary to stop pushbacks of asylum seekers
Sofía Medina Sánchez
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On the 22nd of September, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe released the detailed decisions made during its meeting from September 19 to 21, where it supervised the implementation of judgments and rulings issued by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Committee of Ministers diligently oversees the execution of these judgments, relying on information provided by national authorities, civil society organizations, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and other stakeholders.
Following a review of the implementation of a cluster of judgments issued by the European Court of Human Rights concerning violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) related to asylum-seeking, the Committee of Ministers has called upon the Hungarian authorities to present an action plan by June of the following year.
This cluster of cases primarily involves a breach of Article 3 of the ECHR, which pertains to the assessment of the risk of ill-treatment prior to the deportation of asylum-seeking applicants to Serbia. This assessment was conducted by relying on a general legal presumption of a "safe third country" (cases Ilias and Ahmed; W.A. and others). Additionally, the cases involve infringements of the prohibition of collective expulsion of foreign nationals, as defined in Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention. These violations stemmed from the application of the "apprehension and escort" measure, as introduced by the State Borders Act, which authorised the police to deport asylum-seeking applicants residing illegally within Hungarian territory to the outer side of the border fence on the Serbian border without a formal decision.
The Committee of Ministers reiterates its "grave concern" that, despite repeated assurances from the authorities regarding the ongoing reform of the asylum system, no specific measures have been communicated. Furthermore, collective expulsions not only persist but are reportedly increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Hungarian National Police, there were 158,565 pushbacks to Serbia reported in 2022, and as of mid-September 2023, this number had already reached approximately 66,000.
In its Interim Resolution for Hungary, which represents a decision form adopted by the Committee of Ministers to address more intricate situations requiring special attention, the Committee "strongly urges" the Hungarian authorities to intensify their efforts to reform the asylum system. This reform should ensure effective access to legal entry means, especially border procedures in accordance with Hungary's international obligations. The authorities are also encouraged to establish a timeline for the legislative process, present a draft legislative proposal, and keep the Committee informed of all pertinent legislative developments.
Finally, if Hungary does not demonstrate tangible progress by September 2024, the Committee of Ministers contemplates taking "new action" to ensure Hungary fulfills its obligations arising from the Court's judgments in this cluster of cases.
Sources and further Reading:
Council of Europe, Newsroom, Implementing ECHR judgments: Latest decisions from the Committee of Ministers, 22 September 2023 : https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/implementing-echr-judgments-latest-decisions-from-the-council-of-europe-s-committee-of-ministers-2
Council of Europe, Press Media Release, Ref. DC 211(2023), Hungary: Gravely concerned over pushbacks of asylum seekers, the Committee of Ministers urges authorities to terminate this practice without further delay, 22 September 2023: https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680aca70e