An European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ordered Hungary to compensate two Bangladeshi asylum seekers for expelling them to Serbia after holding them illegally for 23 days in a border zone.
The Strasbourg-based court, noting that even their lawyer could not enter the zone which was fenced and guarded, said the pair were “deprived of their liberty... without appropriate judicial review” and that Budapest must pay each man 10,000 euros ($10,650).
Mohammed Ilias Ilias and Ali Ahmed, both in their 30s, had arrived in Hungary via Greece in September 2015 after taking the so-called Balkans route along with tens of thousands of other mainly Syrian refugees at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis.
When they arrived, they immediately requested asylum but were held in a transit zone at the border between Hungary and Serbia.
After 23 days in the zone they were sent to Serbia, which the Hungarian authorities had placed on a list of “safe countries” by decree in July 2015.
This was of “particular concern”, the court said, noting that the UN refugee agency and rights organisations had “expressed reservations” over expulsions to Serbia as late as December 2016, and that they could eventually be driven to Greece.
“Their removal from Hungary to Serbia exposed them to the risk of inhuman and degrading reception conditions in Greece,” the court said.
Greece, as the first point of entry for the two migrants, was responsible for examining their asylum applications.
But a 2011 ruling by the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice had prohibited returning asylum-seekers to Greece because of the risk of inhuman treatment.
The ECHR also stressed that one of the two Bangladeshis was questioned in a language he did not understand, and both were illiterate but had been given only written information.