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Restricting access to asylum: “statement of intent” procedure in Hungary

The spread of coronavirus around the world  affected the way national governments manage immigration. Hungry is among the states, which used health crisis to limit cross-border mobility and to strengthen anti-migrant and anti-refugee discourse.

The first registered COVID-19 cases were announced by prime minister Orbán on 4 March 2020. He announced that the first two reported cases were two students from Iran studying at Hungarian universities. The government reacted by suspending the issuing of visas for Iranian nationals and introduced testing for Iranian nationals entering Hungary by air and land* . Already on 11 March 2020, the government declared a “state of danger” and one of the first preventive measures was the closure of borders and the ban of new entries into transit zones. As far as transit zones had been temporally closed and the access to asylum procedure within the country had been limited**, the government introduced a new mechanism -  asylum applications may only be made after a “statement of intent for lodging an asylum application” is handed in by the asylum-seeker in “one of the embassies of Hungary outside the Schengen area”. Authorities designated only the embassies in Belgrade and Kyiv as embassies where the statements of intent may be submitted. The solution was provided by the Government Decree No. 282/2020. (VI. 17.)  and is applicable until 31 December 2021. 

According to the regulation, migrants  wishing to seek asylum in Hungary have to first submit a “statement of intent of lodging an asylum application” in the embassy of Hungary in Belgrade or Kyiv. The embassies forward the statement of intent to the asylum authority (Nation al Directorate General for Aliens Policing, NDGAP) which shall examine it within 60 days (the NDGAP may organize remote hearings). The NDGAP then informs the embassy whether it may issue a single-entry permit for the person submitting the statement of intent or not. If the single-entry permit is issued, the person concerned has to travel to the Hungarian border within 30 days after issuing the permit and avail him/herself to the border police. The border police have to present the person concerned to the NDGAP where the person may finally lodge the asylum application. The rules on the “statement of intent” were adopted in May 2020 as a temporary measure, but their application has already been extended twice, currently until 31 December 2021. The detailed rules are not defined in the legislation, thus, according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, people are regularly turned away at the embassy when attempting to lodge their “statement of intent” and are informed that they are placed on an undefined “waiting list” to get an appointment to lodge the intent. According to the official statistics, in 2020 (between 27 May and 31 December) there were 24 migrants and in 2021(as for 30 June) there were 42 people who submitted a “statement of intent of lodging an asylum application” in the embassies of Hungary in Belgrade or Kyiv. 

More information is available in the report: The impact of coronavirus country measures on asylum and reception systems in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland

*The government suspended visa issuing for Iranian nationals, in Hungarian, https://koronavirus.gov.hu/cikkek/operativ-torzs-kormany-felfuggesztette-az-iraniak-szamara-vizumkiadast. 
**Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, family members of beneficiaries of international protection and foreigners subject to forced measures, measures or punishent affecting personal liberty (except if they are detained for crossing the border illegally) may apply for asylum without having to leave Hungary, http://www.forintegration.eu/pl/pub.