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Open letter to the Hungarian minister of Interior

Asyl in Not

25th January, 2004

Dear Minister,

This is to bring to your attention the appalling situation which exists in Szombathely Detention Centre for asylum seekers operated under the auspicies of your ministry.

The centre was visited on 22nd January 2004 by the participants of the First International Conference of Cross Border Asylum Action who interviewed a number of the detainees and met with the centre’s administration.

The visit revealed that the conditions for detainees at the centre do not meet international standards to which Hungary is a party, including §§ 3 and 13 of the European Human Rights Convention, as well as the basic principles of the Geneva Convention. Specifically, we would like to bring to your attention the following:

  • Cases of violence by the guards against detainees;
  • Inadequate health care and nutrition, including insufficient number of hot meals;
  • Disregard for religious dietary laws, e.g. pork served to Muslim detainees;
  • Insufficient supply of washing powder and soap.

    We are also seriously concerned with very poor quality of health care services provided to the detainees. Among other cases of inadequate medical care we would like to bring to your attention the case of Gok Zhenxiu, a detainee from China, who tried to commit suicide and was not provided with adequate medical and mental health care. There is also ample evidence that after the suicide attempt he was beaten by the guards and kept in an infirmary without a blanket.

    During the visit we also received information about a Muslim inmate who after a suicide attempt was subjected to what under international law amounts to cruel and degrading treatment, including being locked up in a small cell with the lights kept on for 24 hours, net receiving medical treatment for open wounds, not provided with a blanket or sheets, and served pork in violation of his religious beliefs.

    In general, conditions at the centre led to the death by suicide of two inmates in recent years. Also, we received information of a detainee who recently tried to commit suicide by hanging himself, as well as of several inmates going on hunger strike and inflicting injuries to themselves in order to protest against conditions at the centre and/or facilitate transfer to another facility. Their requests for transfer were ignored and they were punished by the guards.

    We urge you to use all powers of your office to investigate these complaints, intervene into the situation, and to facilitate an expeditious improvement of conditions at the detention centre. We also urge you to make sure that the above-referenced detainee from China immediately receives proper medical care.

    We request a full report within four weeks on what has been done to improve the situation at the centre. Should the Chinese detainee die, you will be held personally responsible.

    We are forwarding a copy of this letter to several international organizations and the media, and look forward to your reply and action.

    On behalf of the participants of the First International Conference of Cross Border Asylum Action (full list of signatories is attached)

    Correspondence to:

    Asyl in Not – Michael Genner – Währingerstr. 59, 1090 Wien, Austria

    List of signatories

    Michael Genner Asyl in Not Austria Judith Albrecht Deutsch im Asyl Germany Leonard Terlitsky HIAS Ukraine Simova Zavratnik Peace Institut Slovenia Alan Anstead European Roma Rights Centre Hungary Julia Kux Helping Hands Tirol Austria Barbora Kohutikova Slovak Humanitarian Council Slovakia Jozef Truppa Slovak Helsinki Committee Slovakia Martin Berger Bewegung Mitmensch Austria Kerstin Kellermann Die Bunte Zeitung Austria Tatjana Pezdir Peace Institute Slovenia Martin Kunze Austria Maria Pamula Poland Natalia Dulnyeva LCCS, Human Rights have no borders Ukraine Petr Cejka SOZE, Society of citizens assist. Migrants Czech Republic Florentina Covaliu Romanian National Council for Refugees Romania Kristine Krause Deutsch im Asylwerber Germany Christian Pobloth Free University of Berlin Germany Ozoekwe Chaka Sans Papiers (Die Bunte) Austria Agnes-Lisa Wegner Pro Asyl e.V. Germany Karl Kopp Pro Asyl, ECRE Germany Anny Knapp Asylkoordination Österreich Benita Suwelack Flüchtlingsrat Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany Judith Gleitze Flüchtlingsrat Brandenburg Germany Harald Glöde Forschungsgesellschaft Flucht u.Migration Germany Aldo Milohnic Peace Institute Ljubljana Slovenia Rainer Klien Asyl in Not Austria Irmela Steinert Kinderstimme Austria
    Gibril Deen

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