“The claim that the Hungarian authorities would have any obligation to provide catering after the final closure of the asylum procedure is not substantiated,” the government maintained. “Food can be bought in the transit zone at any time, the conditions for self-care are met, and the state must not be expected to provide additional care from the state budget.”
It is the same reasoning the government has given since the issue of withholding food was documented last year by two leading human rights groups, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, based in Budapest, and Human Rights Watch.
“Nobody but the Hungarian government — no lawyer, court or human rights body — has found that people who are held behind barbed wire, guarded by police officers and surveilled by cameras 24/7 are not being deprived of their liberty,” said Marta Pardavi, the co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, based in Budapest.
Critics say that the Hungarian government, unable to simply deport those who have been denied asylum — in many cases without meaningful assessment of their claims — instead tries to force them out of the country by making conditions intolerable for them.
“The government has stooped to a new inhumane low by refusing food to people in their custody, apparently reveling in breaching human rights law, including its obligations as a European Union member,” Lydia Gall, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a report last year. “This disregard for people’s well-being smacks of a cynical move to force people to give up their asylum claims and leave Hungary.”
The report by the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner is not legally binding and her office does not have a mandate to impose — or even propose — any penalties.
However, the commissioner’s reports are used by the council’s other institutions, like the European Court of Human Rights Court, whose judgments are binding. In some cases, the European Union and national courts have also based their assessments and decisions on reports released by the commissioner.