Foreign detainees begin hunger strike at immigration detention center

  • Stay updated on the latest news from Hungary by signing up for the free InsightHungary newsletter:

The majority of the 52 foreign detainees held at an immigration detention center in the eastern Hungarian town of Nyírbátor began a hunger strike on Thursday as they await expulsion from the country, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee wrote in a Facebook post.

According to the human rights NGO, the detainees have asked to meet with lawyers and journalists, and complained of overcrowding in the detention center. Many of the detainees reportedly do not know why they are in detention.

The NGO writes that many of those held in Nyírbátor are in pre-deportation detention after their requests to remain in Hungary were denied by authorities. Many have Hungarian children and spouses, who are "afraid that their husbands, partners and fathers will be held for a long time before eventually being expelled from Europe."

For the past three years, independent civic organizations have been unable to monitor conditions within detention centers of the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (OIF) after the organization and the Hungarian police terminated longstanding cooperation agreements with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee in 2017.

Index's new deputy editor-in-chief resigns after one day as leadership struggles to hire new journalists

Disorder and uncertainty continued at after newly appointed deputy editor-in-chief Imre Tevan resigned last Friday after a single day on the job.

Tevan was appointed to the post last Thursday by Index Zrt. chairman László Bodolai after more than 80 journalists and staff resigned from the website in response to the firing of editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull.

Tevan, who earlier spent six years in the same position at Index until 2011, announced on Friday that he would not fill the post because the site's new leadership "is not the professional team that can create a new Index".

Imre TevanFotó: DIGI

Tevan expressed doubt that the board of directors - Bodolai, who fired Dull, and newly-appointed CEO Pál Szombathy and board member András Sztankóczy - would be able to bring together "a minimal team which can take over production of the site from the departed that rapidly approaching moment when they all leave for good".

"[Szombathy] and [Sztankóczy] haven't even decided on the fundamental question of which of them will be the editor-in-chief, the person for whom I will be the deputy," Tevan wrote.

No new staff members have been hired at Index since the wave of resignations began two weeks ago. Around two dozen journalists were allowed to leave the company directly after resigning, but most are being required to continue working until the expiration of the notice period, despite their requests for their resignations to take immediate effect. Most articles on the site are being published without author bylines.

The board of directors is reportedly struggling to recruit new journalists as potential recruits have refused offers to join the new team. Szombathy and Sztankóczy have avoided Index's headquarters, and are holding private meetings with resigned journalists at the site's parent company next door where they have attempted (unsuccessfully) to persuade them to remain on staff. Bodolai, the chairman of the board, is currently on vacation, and Index remains without an editor-in-chief.

Hungary misses out on €214 million in EEA/Norway Grant funds over allocation dispute

Over the past six years, Hungary has failed to collect some €214 million in potential development funds from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway over the government's refusal to allow disbursement of a portion of the funds to be controlled by civic organizations, Népszava reports. 

An agreement has still not been settled with Hungary on the EEA/Norway Grants 2014-2021 funding period, which would make some €109 million available to Hungary from the EEA Grants fund and €105.7 million from the Norway Grants fund.

While recipient governments are authorized to allocate the majority of the grants as they see fit, a portion earmarked for support of civil society is distributed by a civic organization selected through a tendering process by the contributor countries. In Hungary, those funds were previously doled out by a consortium of civic organizations headed by the Ökotárs Foundation, but the Hungarian government insisted on playing a role in the selection of the allocating organization and launched a smear campaign against Ökotárs and accused it of operating illegally.

Ökotárs offices were raided by police in 2014, but no evidence of a crime was found. The organization was stripped of its right to allocate the EEA/Norway grants, but Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway refused to allow the Hungarian government to choose an organization to allocate the funds for civil society. According to a recent report released by the funds, of the 15 EU member states which receive support from the three non-EU countries in exchange for access to the European single market, only Hungary has not received support since 2014. 

Fidesz MEPs vote for resolution condemning Chinese human rights abuses, but won't back down on Budapest-Belgrade railway investment

Independent MP Bernadett Szél recently posed questions to two government ministers on Hungarian foreign policy toward China in light of an EP joint motion condemning Chinese human rights abuses signed by ruling party MEPs.

On June 19, all Hungarian members of the European Parliament, including all Fidesz MEPs, voted in favor of the joint motion which condemned human rights abuses in China including abuses against the country's muslim Uyghurs and crackdowns on Hong Kong's political autonomy. The motion called on the European Union to include a human rights clause in any future trade agreement with China, and to place economic pressure on the country to improve its human rights record whenever concluding investment contracts.

Szél wrote to Innovation and Technology Minister László Palkovics, asking him whether "the government [is] preparing to withdraw from the Budapest-Belgrade railway investment in light of the events in Hong Kong and the EP resolution condemning China, which was also adopted by Fidesz representatives".

Independent MP Bernadett SzélFotó: botost/

A state secretary for the ministry wrote in a response last week that the €1.65 billion railway project, primarily financed by a Chinese loan, is in Hungary's geopolitical and economic interests, and that the investment would continue as planned.

Szél also asked Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó how the government's position on China's actions in Hong Kong should be interpreted in light of the Fidesz MEPs voting in favor of the joint resolution. In response, a state secretary for the ministry wrote only that the ministry "exclusively takes into account Hungarian interests in all foreign policy decisions".

Hungary to send €1 million in aid to Lebanon following Beirut explosion

The government of Hungary will donate €1 million in humanitarian support to the victims of the Beirut explosion, state secretary responsible for the Hungary Helps program Tristan Azbej announced on Twitter Wednesday.  

Azbej told state television station M1 that after consulting with the Lebanese ambassador and with charitable organizations, the government decided that the aid would go toward disaster relief and medical assistance in the Lebanese capital.

In a comment on Azbej's Twitter post, one of his senior advisors indicated that the aid would go to the Maronite Church, an Eastern Catholic congregation seated near Beirut. The church is a partner of the Hungary Helps program, which describes itself as a humanitarian assistance program for persecuted Christians and other victims of crises.

As of Wednesday, around 135 people had been confirmed dead and some 5,000 injured in Tuesday's massive explosion near Beirut's port. The blast reportedly came after 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material that was being stored in a warehouse at the port, was ignited by a fire of unknown origin.

For regular English language updates, sign up for the free InsightHungary newsletter here: