In June, a tent camp for asylumseekers was opened in Nagyfa in Hungary, and now there is also a tent camp within the refugee camp in Bicske. No bathrooms or kitchens are provided, and the July heat is suffocating. Notably, Bicske is a pre-iuntegration camp for recognized refugees, supposedly a place to sort out bureaucratic paperwork, study Hungarian, look for employment. Many projects are funded by the European Refugee Fund for recognized refugees. Now the Hungarian Government is also placing asylum seekers in the camp. We wonder what sort of report the Ministry of the Interior will prepare for the EU, explaining how they used the integration funds.
The first half of 2013 has seen a five-fold increase in the number of asylum applications in Hungary. Knowing the difficulties of integration, limited legal aid and appeal time among the shortest in Europe, three quarters of the asylum seekers have left hungary towards Western Europe. Nevertheless, the Hungarian asylum system is on the brink of the collapse, and the Office of Immigration and Nationality (OIN) has responded by opening a new reception centre in the village of Vámosszabadi on the Slovakian border.
In the past month, the villagers have organized several fierce demonstrations against the camp, and the situation has gained a lot of attention in the media lately. Migráns Szolidaritás Csoport (Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary) actually agrees with some aspects of the arguments made by village leaders. For example, the village was not officially informed prior to the opening of the camp, and only learned about it in the media. No information was provided regarding the rights of asylum seekers and their responsibilities while in Hungary.
We would like to remind OIN and the Ministry of the Interior that a lack of information, transparency, communication with the residents of Vámosszabadi has created a fertile ground for xenophobia, and has stoked a tense and xenophobic atmosphere. The villagers of Vámosszabadi accuse the Hungarian government of wanting to deal with refugees as cheaply as possible. Migráns Szolidaritás agrees with this statement, noting with amazement that all the current facilities for refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary are situated in outskirts of towns and villages — making personal contact with Hungarians and language learning difficult.The location of refugee camps in Hungary only contributes to a popular misconception of refugees as a marginal group of people. Considering that today there are thousands of vacant buildings in Budapest, we do not understand why OIN has only considered abandoned military barracks as a locations, and why the new reception center needs to be placed on the Slovakian border. According to our opinion, big reception centres are not adequate housing solutions for either asylum-seekers or for refugees but smaller hostels/private accommodation in cities and towns would help their integration into Hungarian society.
That said, Migráns Szolidaritás is alarmed at the aggressive and extremely xenophobic atmosphere in Vámosszabadi, and the spreading rumors of asylum seekers. While we understand the underlying concerns of the villagers, we do not agree with the xenophobic labeling of asylum seekers in the village. We urge Hungarians to remember that 50 years ago hundreds of thousands Hungarians also sought asylum in other countries, and were often granted fair procedures and a warm receptions.
Crucially, we demand the OIN to adopt a policy of in-depth communication and consultation with all stakeholders as a prerequisite for the introduction of changes in the asylum policies, as well as transparent decision-making regarding all asylum matters in the country. Finally, we see that with much justified critique to Fidesz-KDNP, OIN and the Ministry of the Interior, the protests in Vámosszabadi are much about Hungarian politics. We finally urge the villagers in Vámosszabadi not to make individual asylum seekers pay for the mistakes of the Hungarian Government and Ministry of the Interior, and welcome them with openness and curiosity.
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!