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27 March 2020 – Hungary

Hungarian Police Patrol a Transit Zone on the Country's Border with Serbia (
Hungarian Police Patrol a Transit Zone on the Country's Border with Serbia (

Among the initial cases of confirmed Covid-19 infections in Hungary were a group of Iranian students studying in Budapest. This spurred Hungarian authorities to capiltiaze on the pandemic to stoke xenophobia, blaming migrants and refugees for the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said there was a “clear link” between illegal immigration and the coronavirus epidemic.

In mid-March, authorities took steps to forcefully expel a group of 13 Iranian students. Authorities stated that the students had violated quarantine measures, but according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), some had strictly followed the measures. According to HHC, which launched legal action, Hungarian authorities issued a blanket decision with no attention paid to the conditions the students may face in Iran “which raises the issue of violating the principle of non-refoulement.”

In early March, before any cases had even been confirmed within the country, Hungary suspended entries into its transit zones on the country’s border with Serbia. This move effectively suspended access to asylum procedures given that since March 2017, applications can only be made within these zones. Reportedly, authorities justified this move in claiming that new arrivals from Iran would pose a health threat to those already inside. On 27 March, Hungary’s chief security advisor stated that in order to protect European populations, authorities must gather all migrants in camps and screen them for coronavirus. The GDP has been unable to find any reports indicating the measures taken to assist migrants and asylum seekers in detention.