In its decision Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary from 14 March 2017, the European Court of Human Rights found that Hungary violated several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights by returning two asylum seekers from Bangladesh (after carrying out the accelerated asylum procedure in Röszke detention unit) back to Serbia in 2015. The Court found that the asylum seekers were unlawfully deprived of their liberty and that the conditions in which they were staying in the detention unit, were inhumane and degrading. Hungary therefore had violated the Articles 5 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition, since Hungary officially considers that Serbia is a safe third country, the refugees were returned to Serbia informally (without cooperation with Serbian police) following the asylum procedure.
The Court found that the Hungarian authorities did not implement the procedure for returns in accordance with the EU Return Directive and that the refugees did not have any effective remedy at their disposal that could challenge the decision to return them to Serbia, which is a violation of Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court pointed out that the return of refugees to Serbia, the country which the UNHCR declared unsafe in 2012, creates the risk of further return to Macedonia and Greece (chain refoulement) and exposure to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court noted that not only the Hungarian authorities had not considered whether there is an individual risk of inhuman and degrading treatment in the case of returning refugees to Serbia, but they even refused to take into account the reports submitted to them, basing the decision solely on the Regulation of the Government of Hungary from 2015, which declares Serbia a safe third country.
This judgment unequivocally shows that the existing provisions in the field of refugee law of Hungary and practice of its authorities are giving room for a flagrant violation of human rights, as previously indicated by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and other civil society organizations. Hungary should amend its laws as soon as possible and ensure a fair and effective asylum procedures as well as the humane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. This ruling is extremely important as it points out to countries (among which is Serbia) that the practice of automatic application of the concept of a safe third country, without considering how these countries treat refugees can lead to violations of fundamental human rights and subsequent accountability before the European Court of Human rights.
The applicants were represented by Hungarian Helsinki Committee, while the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights provided assistance in collecting factual material for filing the application.