Iranian Student Accused of Breaching Quarantine to be Expelled from Hungary

Iranian twins, both medical students, were accused of breaching quarantine rules. Although criminal proceedings have been dropped, one of them is to be deported and HCLU is now helping her.

In recent years, the Hungarian government has spent billions of forints financing grant programs, attracting thousands of foreign students to Hungarian universities. Iranian students represent a large percentage of those given grants, outnumbered only by Chinese students, when counting those coming from outside the EU. However, they, too, are subject to the xenophobia that defines the politics of Viktor Orbán's government. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Iranian students studying in Hungary were scapegoated, as official statements claimed that they were the first ones to become infected in the country and that they then defied anti-epidemic measures.

Iranian sistered accused of breaching quarantine actually never left the unit they were assigned to

Hungarian authorities passed a decision on the expulsion of over a dozen foreign-born students, including an Iranian woman, who was, with her twin sister, subject to criminal proceedings. Having lived 10 years in Hungary, where they had attended high school, they were both studying at the Semmelweis University to become pharmacists. On 6 March the pair were obliged to go into quarantine because they had been in contact with two Iranian medical students who had tested positive for covid-19. After leaving quarantine, the sisters left the hospital with a negative test. However, criminal proceedings were then started against them. They were accused of having left having the ward they were assigned to and refusing to go back there at the nurses' request on 7 March.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), who offered legal representation to the pair, submitted a complaint claiming the allegations were unfounded. The police failed to provide evidence about the sisters leaving the ward, or specify who had asked them to return there. The accusation was based on the assumption that the Iranian students had breached a decision concerning the pandemic closure, which was communicated to them only in Hungarian, which is against the rules, meaning it had to be regarded as if it had never happened. Furthermore, the decision said nothing about the ward. It was only the hospital unit that they were not allowed to leave. In fact, they never left the unit, and they said they had left the ward assigned to them only twice: once when an officer of the immigration police made an announcement to the hospitalized foreign people, standing in the corridor, and on another occasion when they were moved to another ward.

Decision on deportation should not have been made as criminal proceedings dropped

On 7 March a government a order entered into force, which said that breaching quarantine rules was a criminal offence. According to Hungarian criminal law, when determining an action, the rule in force must be applied. This means that with its decision of 20 May, the Prosecutor's Office actually stopped the criminal proceedings.

However, the Immigration Authority had already made a decision to expel of one of the women on 24 April. On the basis that she had been suspected of a crime, the girl was not allowed to enter or stay in Hungary for three years. In fact, since the criminal proceedings were dropped by the Prosecutor's Office, this suspicion was no longer valid. Thus HCLU has filed a complaint against the decision, which was full of infringements. The complaint will be decided on by the Capital Court in the coming days.