On Valentine’s Day, MigSzol gathered in Debrecen to open an exhibition of pictures made by refugees from all around the world. The exhibition took place at a Youth Centre, close to the main street of Debrecen, in what used to be the Jewish community school. In the morning, the early birds put up the pieces painted and drawn by asylum-seekers who live, or used to live, in Debrecen camp. Of course the colorful paintings that the children made on one of Migszol’s visits were also exhibited. On another wall the visitors could find information about the camp and the conditions asylum-seekers have to live everyday.
On the 25th of January Migszol went to northern Serbia to visit a place we have been hearing about for a very long time. Most refugees in Hungary traveled through Serbia and stayed here at one point or another. The Jungle, as we came to know it, is the area around an abandoned brick factory on the outskirts of a small town called Subotica. Migszol went there to learn about the history and reputation of the place, and to find out about people’s experiences on the other side of the border.
As we left the train station, it occurred to us that it might be useful to have the number for a local taxi. We approached one of the taxi drivers outside the station, got his number, and told him that we were looking for refugees. He looked surprised, but then told us that he sometimes saw refugees around town, although most of them were around the brick factory. When we told him that we might give him a call later, he explained that he is not allowed to take refugees: the police counts this as human trafficking, confiscates the taxi and puts the driver in jail, even if the taxi ride did not go near the border.
We wanted to buy some food for the people we might meet, so we started asking passers-by about shops or bakeries that are open on Sunday. After a few unsuccessful attempts, an elderly man offered to show us the way to the market. On the way there, we casually mentioned that we are from a migrant solidarity group in Budapest, and asked whether he knew anything about migrants in Subotica. He seemed reluctant to talk about them, explaining that the economic situation is so bad that everybody with an education leaves town. When we changed the topic he cheered up and told us about the history of Subotica until we reached the market.
After we bought food, we started walking: left from the train station, right on the first big road, then the first left, and straight ahead passing some train tracks and a working factory. We knew we had arrived when we passed that factory on the left, and saw a big dormant chimney on the right. All in all, the walk takes about half an hour, so we had plenty of time to devise a plan and discuss our expectations. We agreed to talk to people over breakfast, and to take inventory of their most urgent needs so that we could go back to the city to buy them.
This is the English version from the text originally published on Kettös Merce. For the original, see here.
There were two big deals in the news in Hungary today: the visit of Chancellor Merkel, and the situation of 250 people from Kosovo being stuck at the train station in Györ. The Kosovars all felt that they are forced to leave their country since they did not want to continue their life in destitution. According to the news, they all had valid train tickets, only valid visas they didn’t. Ironically, exactly while the situation on the train station was being “solved” (by sending the Kosovars to refugee camps in Hungary and not letting them move on towards Austria), one of our members was addressing a question regarding migration to EU to Mrs. Merkel at a Q&A-session held at the private, German-language Andrássy University. In her answer, Merkel revoked the supposedly clear distinction between refugees and economic migrants. She stated that we simply cannot let everyone to enter, and that we need to focus on either those who “can work” or on those who are politically persecuted in their own countries. This answer to our question was puzzling, indeed: on one hand she emphasized the importance of political refugees fleeing persecution in opposition to „economic migrants”, but on the other hand, she also stressed the importance of having fresh, skilled labour in Germany. We can only imagine this to mean that there is a further distinction between „poor” economic migrants and so called „highly skilled migrants from third countries.” That is, some economic migrants are more welcome than others. Merkel’s implicit suggestion that (the poor) “economic migrants” cannot work is odd, given that it is exactly them that many employers choose to exploit for low-ranking jobs. If anyone knows what is it like to “really work”, it is the “economic migrants” who should know.
The Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary (MigSzol) learned from the media that, during her short visit on 2 February 2015, Chancellor Merkel will meet the leaders of Mazsihisz, a Hungarian-Jewish organisation. MigSzol welcomes that the German Chancellor will speak with the leaders of a Jewish organisation, because the antisemitism of some Hungarian politicians and some members of society causes tremendous fear in many Hungarians, with or without Jewish origins. Notwithstanding the foregoing, MigSzol would like to emphasize to the Chancellor that other minorities in Hungary are also being subjected to systematic and vicious attacks by some politicians and some members of society.
Members of the Roma community are facing ever-increasing discrimination. Hate speech against Roma people in public places such as supermarkets and hairdressers is rampant, and less and less people have the courage to openly speak up for the members of the Roma community.
Members of the LGBTQI community are also under double threat: the Hungarian Government openly advocates a heterosexual family unit, making it impossible to broaden LGBTQI couples’ rights and ignoring basic individual human rights. This stance also encourages self-appointed protectors of “healthy morals” who compel members of the LGBTQI community to hide their sexual orientation.
Photo: German Embassy via kormany.hu, Merkel and Orbán meet in Berlin in 2014
This blog is ran by members of Migszol, it features our analyses and reflections on asylum questions in Hungary in more depth. If you would like to write a guest piece, drop us a line!