Afterwards we gathered to sit in a circle to get to know everybody in a more organized manner: we were talking in pairs with the person next to us and then presenting her/him to the whole circle. All the pairs were diverse: Cuban-Hungarian, Afghan-German, Eritrean-French, etc. Some did not even share a common language, but the wish to understand the other broke all the boundaries between us and made it possible to build a connection and thereby trust between each other.
After the circle, we gathered into 4-5 smaller groups in which we took a walking tour around the center of Debrecen. In these interactive and diverse groups the asylum seekers could show the most important and useful spots of the city to the others, and the people from Debrecen could also show their favorite hidden places. A Cuban asylum-seeker, for example, showed the two most important spots for him, which are the spots where the WIFI is the strongest in the city. He explained that the WIFI is very weak in the camp, so he has to come downtown for some faster communication and to feel himself closer to his family and to the outside world. We also passed by the court in Debrecen, which is a building none of the asylum-seekers wish to enter, but a lot of them do not have any other choice, if they need to appeal against a decision wrongly made by the Immigration Office. A local Hungarian showed her small walking group a piece of street art on a damaged wall: tiny stickers with great messages which represent that not everybody is happy with how the present leaders of the city are distributing the space and the opportunities to be able to create and to feel that the city belongs to everybody.
During the tour, people from bigger cities than Debrecen were amazed that there are no traffic lights operating on a Saturday afternoon. We learned that they don’t, because there is very little traffic. This also reminded us that perhaps most of the asylum-seekers would feel better in a city where there are more things going on, where there are more opportunities for them to share their experiences of life and to become more rooted in the place.
We finished our day in a separate room in a nice restaurant where we saw many local couples dating on the day of love. We gathered and shared our impressions of the city and we decided that this event should not be the last one of its kind.
We were also very happy to speak with local Hungarians who are keen on continuing the work with the people from the camp to create new ways of expressing the ideas and concerns of the refugees and the local community, be that in paintings or in common actions to change something which is equally good for the refugees and for the local Hungarian community.
We are currently looking for another exhibition space in Debrecen. We share more information here when the new place for the paintings is found!
This visit to Debrecen was another one in a long row of visits which MigSzol members paid since early 2014. Initially MigSzol got in touch with the asylum-seekers of the camp while organizing a solidarity protest in front of the asylum jail which is right in the middle of the otherwise open reception centre. The asylum-seekers were keen to join, and in May 2014 MigSzol organized the solidarity demonstration which was joined by more than a hundred asylum-seekers from the camp. After the protest MigSzol decided to keep up the good connection with the people of the Debrecen camp, and our idea was to bring the local community and the refugee community closer together, and we could not imagine a better way than creating art together as a means to reach this goal. Our idea to connect the local Hungarian community and the refugees was also supported by the Open Society Foundations which helped us visit the city and also helped us with organising this exhibition in Debrecen. This meant that from May 2014 we visited the camp once or twice per month and had great experiences: once there were 20 members of us painting together with the refugee children. From all the materials and experiences gathered during these visits, we then organized our latest Debrecen event on 14 February.