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Ombudsman Takes Stand in Relation to His Visit Paid to the Guarded Refugee Reception Centre of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Police Headquarters

At the Guarded Refugee Reception Centre of the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Police Headquarters, the unit appropriate for quarantining and isolating infected persons, which had been set up for detainees, was able to ensure proper placement for those affected throughout the pandemic. At the same time, Ombudsman Dr. Ákos Kozma found that the fact that detainees affected by health problems were not examined by a physician caused an impropriety related to the right to physical health. Moreover, due to the uncertainty of the outcome of the proceedings conducted by the aliens policing authority, and to their isolation from their families, the detainees were in poor psychological condition, which led to an impropriety related to their right to mental health.

On 18 September 2020, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights acting in his competence as OPCAT National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) and several of his staff members paid a visit to the Guarded Refugee Reception Centre of the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Police Headquarters (hereinafter: “the Guarded Refugee Reception Centre”). The aim of the visit was to inquire into the complaints received by the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on the one hand, and also to monitor to what extent the measures taken with a view to prevention in times of pandemic affected the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the detainees.

On the day of the visit, there were 40 persons (all men) held at the Guarded Refugee Reception Centre with a holding capacity of 160 persons. According to the information provided by the director of the Reception Centre, all of the detainees, who were expelled, were third country nationals.

In his report written about Case No. AJB-6175/2020, Dr. Ákos Kozma found that at the time of the visit, there were three detainees at the Reception Centre who regularly refused to eat during mealtimes. However, according to the Reception Centre staff, they purchased food when the Centre’s grocery shop was available for the detainees, and they ate some of that. The NPM listened to the complaints of each of the three detainees involved in the hunger strike, who appeared to be in good physical condition based on the – non-medical – observations of the members of the visiting group. Those detainees who had complained about health problems reported to have received only painkillers. There was a detainee who felt dizzy from time to time, he was sweating, and he suspected that he was suffering from hypertension, whereas another one complained of symptoms of haemorrhoid, but neither of them was examined by a doctor. Other medical complaints included pains in the limbs and toothache. When the visiting group arrived at the cells, the detainees were clamouring and the atmosphere was tense. The interviews made with the detainees revealed that the tension primarily derived from the time spent away from their families and their despair caused by their situation which they deemed hopeless.

The NPM found that the fact that detainees affected by health problems had not been examined by a physician caused an impropriety related to the right to physical health. Moreover, due to the uncertainty of the outcome of the proceedings conducted by the aliens policing authority, and to their isolation from their families, the detainees were in poor psychological condition, which led to an impropriety related to their right to mental health. The unit appropriate for quarantining and isolating infected persons, which had been set up for the detainees at the Guarded Refugee Reception Centre, was able to ensure proper placement for those affected throughout the pandemic.

For the report, please click on the following link: AJB-6175/2020.