A group of Somali refugees that arrived no more than two weeks earlier was the first to approach us. Some of them told us about their journey from Somalia, and about their disappointment on arriving at a place with such bad living conditions.
One thing they all voiced in their complaints was the lack of food, which is distributed only two times per day, with no more food given after noon. This is the result of very recent changes in camp regulations and food delivery timings, which are being piloted throughout different camps in Hungary.
Moreover, the refugees pointed to a lack of respect for their need to know what kind of food they are getting. For example, many of them are Muslims, yet they have no information on whether there is pork in the food they are offered. MigSzol believes that it does not take many resources or time to put a short description of the ingredients contained by the food.
Another major concern of the refugees is the lack of blankets provided, especially in a time when cold weather and winter are approaching. Together with the lack of food, the upcoming winter is shaping up to be a dangerous experience for people in the Debrecen camp.
While we were talking about the living conditions, we also talked about people’s personal histories. We met a young man who was a playwright in home country, and talked a lot about his previous theatre projects. Of course we asked him whether he would be willing to share his work with us, and talked about using his artistic talent to express his ideas on the humane treatment of asylum seekers and the inclusion of refugees in Hungary.
The trip also gave us the opportunity to deliver a lot of donations made by MigSzol supporters, items such as clothes, hygiene products and books. We also brought painting equipment to introduce our new media and art project to the people living in the camp.
On this occasion, we managed to get a better insight into another large group of people inside the camp - Kosovar asylum seekers. In recent months, the number of Kosovar asylum seekers in Debrecen has increased considerably, and this time we managed to talk to a lot of them and get their stories. One of the things that enabled us to get in contact with them was the painting workshop that we organized in front of the camp. We invited the children living with their families in the open camp to come and paint with us, which was very welcome since, as reiterated by their parents, there are no activities or games organized for them in the camp.
While the children were painting (a lot of them were painting houses, some in the form of apartments and some in the form of the bungalows you see in the camp) we talked with some of their parents. They were so shocked by the living conditions in the camp, that their main desire at that moment was to return back to Kosovo. One of their main concerns was the bed bugs, which are present in the entire camp. They showed us bedbug bites on their own and, most worryingly, on their children’s bodies. Mothers cried out that the bedbug bites on their children’s skin were getting worse, and that they do not have medicine of any type to treat them. This is not the first time MigSzol encountered reports like this, and we have drawn attention to this serious problem by writing an official letter to the Immigration authorities and by publishing articles on our website.
Unfortunately, during this latest visit our concerns about the news that entire families were being housed inside the detention prison were confirmed by different refugees in Debrecen. They told us that families are typically put in detention for a week, and then released into the open camp. The majority of these families are said to be economic migrants from Kosovo that are trying to reach Germany and other Western European countries. However, because they were captured in Hungary, they have to seek asylum here because of the Dublin regulations.
We strongly condemn these practices by the authorities. It is unacceptable that innocent adults and families are put in detention, which only worsen the situation and conditions of these families and it does not serve any purpose that is not political. Moreover, being imprisoned is a decidedly traumatizing experience. We fear that the conditions in the detention center will have an extremely negative impact on the social and psychological development of the children. Most of the families we met were young families with children no more than 12 years old. And detaining families is not a practice confined to the Debrecen camp, but one that has been extended to other detention centers located throughout Hungary, according to our sources.