Hungary

Hungary is one of few countries to have acceded to all four core statelessness conventions. Although this has translated into some positive law, policy and practice at national level, there remain some significant gaps and the stateless population has never been comprehensively mapped. A statelessness determination procedure is established in law, and access, assessment, procedural protections and appeal rights under the procedure are generally positive. However, the definition of a stateless person in national law is narrower than the 1954 Convention, applicants under the procedure lack protection from detention and removal, and the law provides only limited rights to people recognised as stateless. Access to citizenship, although provided for in law, is very difficult to acquire in practice leaving most stateless people in the country unable to acquire a nationality even in the long term.

There are limited protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people in Hungary and what limited procedural safeguards are in place have been deemed insufficient by various national and international actors. Safeguards exist in nationality law to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings, children born abroad to Hungarian nationals, and in cases of withdrawal of nationality. However, there are only partial safeguards to prevent children from being born stateless on the territory, adopted children may be stateless unless and until they acquire citizenship through naturalisation, and although births will be registered regardless of parents’ status, officials will register a child as having ‘unknown nationality’ unless this can be proven otherwise, causing significant problems for children later in life.

Last updated: 
Feb 2019
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2020
Country expert(s): 

Additional resources

ASSESSMENT KEY

++POSITIVE
+ SOMEWHAT POSITIVE
+-POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE
--NEGATIVE

ADDITIONAL INFO

-NORMS & GOOD PRACTICE

 

International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are state party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

Hungary has a strong record on accession to relevant regional and international human rights instruments. It is one of few countries that are state party to all four of the core statelessness conventions, and these have full effect in national law. However, Hungary does retain significant reservations to the European Convention on Nationality, and it is not party to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

  • Hungary is State Party to the 1954 Convention with no reservations, and the promulgating act gives it full effect in national law.
  • Hungary is State Party to the 1961 Convention with no reservations, and the promulgating act gives it full effect in national law.
  • Hungary is State Party to the European Convention on Nationality but retains significant reservations impacting on procedural safeguards relating to the acquisition of nationality (with a direct impact on stateless persons’ access to Hungarian nationality).
  • Hungary is State Party to the European Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • Hungary is State Party to all other relevant regional and international instruments except for the Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are effective measures in place to count stateless people in detention.

Hungary does not collect reliable quantitative data on its stateless population. Although there was a category ‘stateless’ in the last census, it relied on self-identification. Data is available on the number of people recognised as stateless under the statelessness determination procedure, which is also the source of figures reported by UNHCR. Asylum, immigration and detention data on stateless refugees, migrants and detainees is not routinely published and statelessness has never been comprehensively mapped in the Hungarian context.

  • Hungary does not collect reliable quantitative data on the stateless population. 
  • The 2011 census in Hungary included a category of ‘stateless’ (113 people were recorded under this category – 53 men & 60 women); however, the data relied on self-identification.
  • The competent authority for the statelessness determination procedure holds data on the number of people recognised as stateless under the SDP since it was established in 2008 (138 people 2008-2017). This is the figure that UNHCR reports for people under its statelessness mandate in Hungary (though it reports 139 people over the same period).
  • UNHCR additionally reports 79 stateless refugees in Hungary as of 2017.
  • Other national statistics either do not include statelessness or the data is not routinely published (for example, data on stateless asylum seekers – or those recorded as ‘Palestinian’ or ‘unknown nationality’ - held by the Immigration & Asylum Office is only accessible through freedom of information requests).
  • Stateless populations have not been mapped in the national context.
  • There is no published data available on stateless persons in detention, although the government does collect and hold some data on people in detention.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination (SDP) procedure; or, if not, whether there are other procedures or mechanisms by which statelessness can be identified and legal status determined. Countries are subdivided in four groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP in place, those with other administrative procedures, those with a status but no clear mechanism, and those without any status or mechanism. Where a procedure and status exist, these are assessed against norms and good practice, and the rights granted to recognised stateless persons are examined.

Hungarian law and policy on the determination of statelessness is generally positive, but there are gaps when it comes to protection status and routes to naturalisation for people recognised as stateless in the country. Hungary has established a statelessness determination procedure (SDP) and a definition of a stateless person in law, although the latter is narrower than the 1954 Convention definition. Access to the procedure, the assessment process, procedural protections and appeal rights in the SDP are generally good. However, a key issue is the lack of protection for applicants, who may be subject to detention and return, and the content of Hungary’s stateless ‘protection’ status, which does not provide an automatic right to work, nor adequate access to citizenship in practice. By law, stateless people can apply for naturalisation after three years’ residence, but this must be ‘domiciled’ residence (significantly prolonging the three-year period in reality) and they must meet other stringent requirements, which makes it very difficult to acquire citizenship and ultimately resolve their statelessness.

  • There is a definition of a stateless person in national law, but this is narrower than the 1954 Convention definition, in that it translates as a person who is not considered a national by any State 'based on its law' or 'in accordance with its law' rather than 'under the operation of its law'.
  • There is also an exclusion provision in the definition that goes beyond the 1954 Convention, though it is not clear whether this has ever been used in practice.
  • There is a dedicated SDP in Hungary which is established in law.
  • The Immigration and Asylum Office is the competent authority and the seven regional directorates of the Foreigners' Policy Authority (not the asylum/international protection directorate) are appointed to determine statelessness.
  • Applications can be made in writing or orally in any language, and there are no further formal requirements, for example, there is no fee for the procedure, nor any time limit on access.
  • Since a constitutional court judgement in 2015, there can be no requirement for legal stay as a condition for accessing the SDP.
  • There is an obligation in law on the authorities to consider an application.
  • The law states that an interpreter may be provided if the applicant and authority do not share a language, but it is not known how this is implemented in practice.
  • Applications cannot be made ex officio, but by law, the authorities can inform someone about the SDP, giving the immigration authorities an active role in promoting access to protection for stateless people. There is no information about how this is implemented in practice, however.
  • There is no provision in law nor any information about cooperation between agencies, but statelessness and asylum determination are conducted by the same overarching authority, which may facilitate cooperation.
  • There is no specific guidance on how to make a claim for statelessness status.
  • An annual information day is organised by UNHCR for determining authorities, but this does not constitute formalised training.
  • By law, the burden of proof lies principally with the applicant, but under procedural rules the authorities should also actively contribute to establishing the facts and do so in practice.
  • The standard of proof is lower for statelessness determination - the applicant must 'substantiate' their statelessness - reflecting the standard of proof in asylum procedures and in line with UNHCR guidance.
  • There are some safeguards for certain groups including those who are illiterate, unaccompanied minors, and those with limited legal capacity, but it is not known how these are implemented in practice.
  • There is clear guidance for decision makers in law and practice.
  • Free legal aid is available in law and practice with no need to meet a financial eligibility requirement, and legal representatives can be present and comment in interviews.
  • An interview is mandatory in all cases.
  • The applicant can conduct the interview in a language they understand, and interpretation is provided by the authorities. Documents can be submitted in any language without a certified translation.
  • Decisions are given in writing with reasons.
  • Quality assurance audits of the SDP are conducted on a yearly basis and in cooperation with UNHCR.
  • There is no formal referral mechanism for an individual refused asylum or whose expulsion could not be carried out for a longer period, who may be stateless to the SDP.
  • There is a time limit for decision-making set in law (60 days), but this can be extended where there is a delay on the part of a foreign authority, which means that in practice, the delay can amount to months or even years for the applicant.
  • By law, the state should issue an applicant for stateless status a renewable temporary residence certificate for six months, but in practice this is not issued to people in removal or detention proceedings.
  • In practice, expulsion and detention are possible during the procedure, and an application for stateless status does not constitute automatic grounds for release from detention.
  • Applicants do not have a right to work and there are no provisions regarding shelter and social security.
  • The law provides for an automatic right to appeal a negative decision to the Budapest Administrative & Labour Law Court within 15 days. Further appeals to the Regional and Supreme Courts are possible.
  • There is free legal aid available during the whole process and no fee for the appeal procedures.
  • There is no evidence of significant errors in decision making since the removal of the requirement for lawful stay to access the procedure.
  • Stateless people recognised under the procedure are granted a humanitarian residence permit with maximum validity of three years, which can then be renewed each year for one-year periods.
  • Travel documents are issued.
  • Stateless people are only entitled to family reunification on the same basis as other holders of humanitarian residence permits, which is restrictive and there is no preferential treatment.
  • Stateless status can be revoked under certain conditions.
  • A stateless person has only very limited access to the labour market and needs to obtain a work permit prior to accessing employment, which is a very burdensome barrier in practice to accessing the labour market.
  • Stateless people have access to pre-school care, primary, secondary and higher education on the same basis as Hungarian nationals.
  • Access to social security is linked to employment contributions, so a person recognised as stateless does not have an automatic right to social security, only to basic emergency public healthcare services. This does not include maternity care, for example, which is only available to those who can establish 'domicile' i.e. usually after three years’ legal residence and/or on acquiring permanent residence.
  • By law, stateless people become eligible for naturalisation after a reduced three years as opposed to five or eight years for other groups. However, they face barriers to acquiring 'domiciled' residence, which can only be requested after a minimum three years’ residence with humanitarian protection status and only if granted permanent residence at the discretion of the Government, which may only be granted if considered being ‘in the national interest’.
  • In practice, stateless people must wait many years before they can naturalise, and then only in a completely discretionary and non-transparent procedure.
  • Stateless people must meet all other general requirements for naturalisation such as passing a constitutional exam, income and language requirements, costly translation and certification of documents.
  • An applicant for naturalisation must not have a criminal record, nor any pending criminal proceedings and should not violate Hungarian law or pose a threat to public security.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, focusing in on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as detention decision-making, whether alternatives to detention are legislated for and implemented, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight and effective remedies, as well as protections on release and whether statelessness is considered juridically relevant in bilateral return and readmission agreements.

There are limited protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people in Hungary. Statelessness is not considered juridically relevant in decisions to detain, which are generic rather than individualised, and a country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention for removal. Alternatives are provided for in law, but they are rarely applied, and only when detention would be a disproportionate detriment to the person. What limited procedural protections are in place have been deemed insufficient by the Supreme Court (Kúria), as well as national and international civil society and monitoring bodies. Positively, a temporary residence permit and protection from re-detention (unless on new grounds) are granted to people released from detention, and a humanitarian residence permit may be granted by law to people who cannot be removed.

  • Powers for immigration detention are provided for in Hungarian law.
  • A proposed country of removal does not need to be provided prior to detention.
  • Statelessness is not considered a juridically relevant fact in relation to detention.
  • There is limited information about the extent of Hungary's detention of asylum seekers, including those who may be stateless in practice, which is extensive.
  • The law states that immigration detention should only be considered after less coercive measures have been explored.
  • There is no legal requirement to conduct a vulnerability assessment prior to detention, though factors such as health and age of the person are supposed to be taken into account. Statelessness is not considered a factor increasing vulnerability.
  • Alternatives to immigration detention are provided for in law and include seizing travel documents, financial restrictions, and designating a place of stay.
  • The test for applying alternatives, however, is lower than the 'last resort/least coercive /exhaust all alternatives' standard i.e. alternatives should be applied if detention would result in a 'disproportionate detriment' to the person concerned.
  • Alternatives are applied in practice but are not consistently considered, nor subject to a proportionality test nor time limit. Detention orders are generic, and do not take into account individual circumstances.
  • Time limits on detention are provided for in law: 30 days for detention to prepare for expulsion; 30 days for detention to implement removal in the case of families with children, and 12 months in other cases.
  • There is no legal requirement for detainees to be provided with information on reasons for detention, but in practice, detainees are informed in writing of the reasons for detention, rights and responsibilities, which are translated to them if necessary. But it's not clear whether the information is sufficient, and they are not routinely informed of the possibility to apply for stateless status.
  • There is an automatic court review procedure - a request for extension of detention must be submitted to the court within 24hrs, a judicial decision issued within 72hrs and then an automatic court review takes place every 60 days after that.  However, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, UNHCR and the supreme court have all reported these safeguards to be ineffective in practice.
  • There is no judicial remedy for a detainee to challenge the detention order or prolongation, though they may submit a 'complaint' against violation of certain specified rights relating to immigration detention.
  • No information about rules governing the process of redocumentation and ascertaining nationality is publicly available. 
  • Hungarian law provides detainees with the right to an allocated representative ad litem or case guardian. However, this practice has been criticised for, for example, courts failing to appoint them, representatives not being informed about their clients’ cases, and rarely presenting arguments in their clients’ favour. NGOs may provide free legal aid, but access is restricted following termination of an agreement between the government and Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which offers this type of assistance.
  • People released from detention are issued with a temporary residence certificate for a maximum of three months or six months if a designated place of stay is ordered.
  • On release from detention after expiry of the 12-month time limit, detention can only be ordered again if the authorities issue a new expulsion order based on new facts. In such cases, cumulative time spent in detention under a previous order is not counted. Detention in preparation for expulsion (up to 30 days) is included in the maximum time limit of 12 months, but asylum detention (up to six months) is not.
  • If an expulsion order has been revoked or if expulsion cannot be carried out after expiry of the 12-month maximum detention period, the immigration authorities may issue a humanitarian residence permit, but it is not clear how this is implemented in practice.
  • There is no information on whether statelessness is considered juridically relevant in return and readmission agreements, but in one known case, a stateless person was returned under a readmission agreement, despite it being known they did not possess the nationality of the country of return and had a pending stateless status application in Hungary.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, reduction measures taken by states to prevent statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions regarding withdrawal of nationality.

Safeguards exist in Hungarian nationality law to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings and children born abroad to Hungarian nationals. Births are entered in the registry regardless of the status of parents and nationality may only be withdrawn if it does not lead to statelessness, except in cases of fraudulent acquisition of citizenship. However, there are significant gaps in the prevention and reduction of statelessness in Hungary. There are only partial safeguards to prevent children from being born stateless on the territory, children adopted by Hungarian nationals may be stateless until and unless they can acquire citizenship through naturalisation, and birth registry officials will register a child as having ‘unknown nationality’ unless this can be proven otherwise, which causes significant problems for children later in life as there is no later procedure for them to establish their nationality and rectify the record of ‘unknown nationality’.

  • There are two partial safeguards in law to prevent statelessness in the case of children born in Hungary who would otherwise be stateless.
  • There is an automatic safeguard at birth for children born in Hungary whose both parents are stateless and domiciled in Hungary, or whose parents are unknown (foundlings). However, this does not prevent statelessness in the case of children whose parents cannot confer a nationality to their child, or who are stateless but do not have 'domiciled' residence status in Hungary, which is only accessible after at least three years’ of residence with humanitarian protection status as a recognised stateless person in Hungary.
  • There is also a non-automatic provision for children born in Hungary who do not obtain the nationality of either of their parents at birth. For these children, there is a legal option to acquire Hungarian nationality by declaration prior to their 19th birthday. In this case too, parents must be domiciled, and the child must have resided in Hungary for five years or more. However, this provision is not used in practice.
  • Foundlings are granted citizenship at birth by law. Children born to an unknown father and a mother who is known but whose identity is not proven and has abandoned the child at the hospital are also treated as foundlings.
  • Citizenship cannot be withdrawn until it is proven that the child has another nationality, though it's not clear how this is determined in practice.
  • There is no age limit other than the legal definition of a child (under 18 years).
  • Adoption does not change the nationality of the child.
  • A foreign child can apply for Hungarian citizenship up to the age of 14 with the consent of the adoptive parents in the case of full adoption and will be exempted from the general requirements for naturalisation. The child can apply on their own behalf if aged 14-18 years.
  • There is a risk of statelessness in the procedure if the child/parents do not apply/consent to apply for naturalisation, or there is a delay on the part of the authorities, and the child loses their former nationality or is stateless on adoption.
  • Children born to at least one Hungarian parent are Hungarian by birth without conditions, irrespective of where the child is born.
  • The births of all children born in Hungary must be notified within one day of birth to the civil registrar by the head of the hospital or the respective lead medical professional assisting during the birth if born outside a hospital.
  • The civil registrar will examine the child's nationality upon registration. If the child's nationality or statelessness is not proven, they will be registered as 'unknown nationality' in the birth certificate, which causes significant problems for the child later in life as there is no later procedure for them to establish their nationality and to rectify the record of ‘unknown nationality’.
  • There are no registration deadlines stipulated in Hungarian law aside from that the birth should be notified to the registrar within one day of birth by the hospital/medical practitioner.
  • There is no evidence of groups at high risk of not being registered and no available research on this issue.
  • There is no evidence of any campaigns to promote birth registration, but also no evidence of groups at high risk of not being registered.
  • Hungarian Helsinki Committee has identified groups of children born in Hungary who may be at risk of statelessness due to gaps in nationality law safeguards.
  • An amendment was introduced in 2011 to the Foundlings provision to enable children born to unknown fathers and abandoned by known mothers, whose identity could not be proven, to acquire Hungarian citizenship (see above).
  • The law provides that nationality can only be withdrawn if it was acquired based on fraud and, therefore, protects against statelessness in all other cases.
  • The Budapest Regional Government Office is the competent authority in nationality matters, though decisions on withdrawal/deprivation are meant to be taken by the President.
  • There is a right to appeal a decision to withdraw nationality unlike in other nationality-related matters, but   publicly available information on practice.

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