The case involves two Bangladeshi nationals who traveled through several countries before reaching Hungary, where they applied for asylum and were detained in the Röszke transit zone for 23 days. Despite seeking asylum, their claims were swiftly rejected based on Hungary considering Serbia a ‘safe third country’. After appealing and subsequent rejection of their asylum applications, they were escorted to the Serbian border and entered Serbian territory. The applicants argued that their detention conditions violated their rights under Article 3, Article 5 (1) and (4), and Article 13, and their expulsion to Serbia put them at risk of “chain-refoulement” to Greece. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Hungary’s procedure deeming Serbia a ‘Safe Third Country’ didn’t adequately protect against inhuman treatment and that the applicants’ lengthy detention in the transit zone amounted to a deprivation of liberty without the ability to contest. The case was later referred to the Grand Chamber on September 18, 2017.
The Grand Chamber’s judgment addresses two key issues: the application of Article 3 regarding the removal of the applicants to Serbia and the conditions in the transit zone, and the violation of Article 5 (1) and (4) concerning their confinement in the transit zone. Regarding the first issue, the Court found that Hungary failed to adequately assess the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment the applicants would face in Serbia, violating their rights under Article 3. Despite the applicants’ asylum claims, Hungary considered Serbia a ‘safe third country’ without sufficient evidence, neglecting procedural guarantees. The Court also ruled that the conditions in the transit zone did not amount to inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3, considering the decent hygiene, food, and medical care provided.
However, the Court found a dissenting opinion on the applicability of Article 5 regarding the applicants’ confinement in the transit zone. While acknowledging a significant restriction of movement, the Court determined that it did not amount to a deprivation of liberty. The applicants had voluntarily entered the transit zone to apply for asylum, and Hungary’s measures were deemed necessary to assess their claims amid a mass influx. The Court concluded that Article 5 was not applicable and dismissed the complaint under this article as inadmissible ratione materiae, given the lack of a direct threat to the applicants’ lives upon their return to Serbia.
The Court found a violation of Article 3 with regard to the applicants’ removal to Serbia, no violation of Article 3 with regard to the conditions in the border transit zone of Röszke, and the complaints under Article 5 (1) and (4) inadmissible as incompatible ratione materiae. The Court awarded 5,000 euros non-pecuniary damage to each applicant, lowering by half the amount given by the Chamber.