A day, which is not solely dedicated to the uneasy brainstorming about how life could be better for the refugees in Hungary, but a day when we can get closer to each other and forget our daily struggle for a few hours. Because the refugees who would come to the party have to carry a lot of burden. Most of them had the right to stay in Bicske Reception Centre till 13th March 2013. On the day of the music and dance they have been living in uncertainty for a week already. Most of them hadn’t left the camp. There is nowhere to go because they are not getting any support from the government to be able to live on their own.
Two days before the event, on Friday, we received an apprehensive phonecall from the person who is in charge of security of events from BRFK (Budapest Police Headquarters), with whom we were in contact during our earlier demonstration. He called one of our members and was asking about the event. He said that he was informed about the event from the people on duty at BRFK, they found out about it on Facebook. He asked several questions :what type of event it will be and where it will be, on public space or on private property, will it be demonstration or not. Our member told him that the refugees and their friends will have a gathering on private property, but depending ont he weather, they might go to the II. János Pál pápa square to play football, so it is definitely is not an event that need to be registered with the police.
We still considered the call as an act of the overprotecting care of the government. But we were still wondering for which other friend gatherings, organized by any Hungarian social group other than refugees , would the police call two days before the event ?
But then came the shock. On Saturday, a day before the event, an acquaintance informed us on our public Facebook page advertising the party that day two police officers appeared in the club expressing interest regarding a refugee-event . And these anonymous guard of public safety with their early arrival only caused confusion as usual.
The news spread quickly in the group: we called each other what to do. One thing that was a priority for us:each refugee who was planning to come should know that TEK might turn up, but also that the most they can do is to ask for our papers. This, of course would not be the worst part but the intimidating appearance of the counter-terrorist force: in particular, for the individuals who, in the country of origin, were tortured, thrown into captivity, and whose family members and friends in some case by organizations of state violence (the police, military and counterterrorism forces). The Bicske Reception Center is filled with refugees who have benn diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and depressions who, so far, have been unable to overcome the traumas caused by their persecution. This is what was really vile in the threats of the two policemen without a name: during music, singing and dancing in a basement club in the downtown of Budapest when suddenly state security raids the event the refugees could have the sensation that they are back in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia even if they are in Central Europe. And not only would they relive their traumas again, but also us, foreigners and Hungarians living in Budapest would also get a taste what it’s like when you are innocently suspected by masked men shrouded in anonymity with batons and weapons.
However, we decided together with the refugees that since we have nothing to hide we will not cancel the event, the cannot deter us with anything. And if anyone happens to come, be it police, or TEK, then after the event we will write down what happened, as we are doing it now.
Finally we decided to call the TEK as dutiful citizens would. We wanted to ask them if they really wished to supervise our program and also to inform them about the intimidating visit of the two policemen that day. We called the contact number given on the webpage and the TEK officer in charge affirmed that they had no intention to check upon us. He said they would go only if somebody would have placed a call asking them to help but nobody called them therefore they will not go anywhere.
It was not easy to find the venue of the party so we agreed to meet at the Blaha Lujza Square on the day of the party. We were standing at the corner waiting for some other refugees arriving from Bicske before leaving the square together. When most of the participants had arrived we started to go with the younger ones and three Afghan asylum seekers were left behind on the square to meet and guide the last arrivals. Just shortly after we left two policemen approached them and started to check their IDs. We returned immediately, shook hands with our friends and asked from the policemen if they had any particular reason to check them or it was already part of the nationwide alert on checking people, including refugees . They had no clue what we were talking about and instead of answering our question they asked for our IDs too. We asked them again why they checked us and they said that according to their briefing instructions they had to check refugees on the Blaha Square. They also asked us to confirm if our party will be held from 2.00pm to 10.00pm. It was hardly a surprise that they knew about the event and with using taxpayers’ money these policemen were commanded to come and check people who wanted to meet some other friends – checking identity of local and foreign people on a nice Sunday afternoon instead of dealing with crimes. We asked them if they would appear at the place of the event and they said no but it was hard to believe that. We asked them about their reasons to make these checks and they stated that they did it in order to prevent conflicts. We were wondering what they meant and tried to explain that only friends will get together and there would be no place for conflicts. Then the policemen argued that people could get pretty drunk at such a party. Then we told them that Muslim refugees are not typical alcohol consumers but even if they would drink some, then what?
We got back our IDs and moved slowly away among the people at the tram stop, though the two policemen spontaneously walked us up ahead for a while until they left at the Népszínház Street.
Later the police turned up at the party, of course. In the afternoon, around 4 or 5 PM a police van arrived and two policemen jumped out of that, holding batons in their hands. The venue of the party was private area and supposedly they did not plan to come in to check upon us, but instead they asked if we had started the party already and how many people came. When we asked them if they would come again they said no, however they returned fifteen minutes later then left again.
We recalled the relevant law which says :
(1) Unless a rule of law or government decree expressly provides otherwise, except as set out in subsections (2) and (3), a refugee shall have the rights and obligations of a Hungarian citizen.
(2) A refugee
a) shall have no suffrage except for elections of local municipality representatives and majors, local referenda and public initiative;
b) may not fulfil a job or responsibility and may not hold an office, the fulfilment or holding of which is tied by law to Hungarian nationality.
(3) A refugee shall be entitled to
a) an identity card determined in separate legal rule and a bilingual travel document specified by the Geneva Convention;
b) provisions, benefits and accommodation under the conditions determined in the present Act and in separate legal rule.’
But all those difficulties are pale in comparison with the fascinating time we spent together Sunday afternoon.
I think none of us expected to have such an uplifting and inspirational afternoon, full with dance, music and singing. Refugees, who suffered persecution in their motherland and threatened by homelessness in Hungary, stepped into the circle of clapping people to dance, expressing their joy and sadness with movements. One of the most memorable moments was the dance of a refugee whose still-born child recently died in the ambulance car at the camp in Bicske. This man came to the party with his children and after many months it was the first time for them to see their father to dance and being happy again.
It meant a lot for the refugees that other non-refugees/locals danced to their music and songs, it was really appreciated by them. We will organize such an event in the future and any peaceful people will be welcomed to join.