This turned out not to be the only news for us since we visited the camp the last time. Apparently, the internet service at the camp is now restricted to people with a Hungarian phone number. Others cannot connect to the camp’s WiFi. As they don’t receive any more pocket money, this also means that those who don’t have some money from before will not have enough money to buy a Hungarian sim card and consequently will not have access to the internet. As is known, internet access is very important for these people on the move. They are in constant contact with the ones left behind and the ones they want to reach. Reassuring their relatives about their well being and searching for information is key. We would be very curious to find out how the WiFi system is actually operated, by which company, and why the authorities wish to deny access to internet from those without a Hungarian number.
Those people who traveled to Hungary via Bulgaria had particularly nasty stories to share about their time in Bulgaria. Bulgarian vigilantes robbed them of their phones, their money and their food. They unleashed their trained fighting dogs on the fleeing people while smoking and laughing at the scenes unfolding in front of their eyes. One Afghan family reported that one of their children, who has meningitis, had her medicine thrown in the river by Bulgarian authorities. From our conversations with people, it is clear that although the number of people crossing the Aegean sea is decreasing sharply, the Balkan route is not sealed completely - hundreds of people come through every day. People we met in the camp also told us about different routes they had taken to reach Hungary.
From Hungary, many move onwards to other countries. We found it especially worrying that we met several people who recounted us stories of their friends who had tried to cross to Austria, were caught, and immediately pushed back to Hungary. Once back in Hungary, they disappeared into the enormous detention system. Surely, in such cases, the legal path to proceed would be to request an actual Dublin deportation from the Hungarian Immigration office. Instead, people are just getting pushed back into Hungary. And while that would be legal, Migszol fiercely opposes the pushbacks and the Dublin regulation alike - what do Austrian authorities say to the fact that deportees are immediately detained, with very little legal and psychological aid in the Hungarian detention centers?
As usual, people were not impressed with the quality and amount of food being served in the camp. A young man was joking about this, saying how the food is better in Macedonia than in Hungary, because in Macedonia international organizations like MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) and UNHCR are present and engaged in humanitarian work, such as giving out food. He also remarked that now, after having finally arrived to the Schengen zone after crossing through Greece, there are no more concerns for the pressing humanitarian issues, no more UNHCR, no more MSF . We had a lengthy discussion also about the information provided in the camp. He told us that he did not receive any information in English or his own language. In general, this is the biggest issue in the camp: you do not receive any information in a language you would understand, and although in theory there are translators in the camp, in practice they are never there. How are you supposed to know how your asylum case is going when all the papers you receive are in Hungarian?
According to their own estimates, there are almost 1000 people in the camp, with at least 2-3 buses packed with newcomers arriving every day. The hygienic conditions are bad. The newcomers, especially the single men, often sleep in the sports gymnasium - if there is more space in the actual rooms, then they are moved there. Tensions are rising in the camp, because it is overcrowded, and the hours that the doctor,the nurse and lawyers spend in the camp are simply not enough to provide aid to all those who need it. Many people stay in the camp only for a few days before going onwards, but many also wish to stay in Hungary. They are tired of living in camps, they are tired of travelling, and would like to settle down. The only quality legal aid available, however, comes from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, who do not have enough capacity to deal with each and single case.
Like last time, we were hassled by the camp security guard for speaking with people at the fence of the camp. We encouraged people to come out of the camp to speak with us, but the security guard did not like that we were distributing flyers and leaflets (about our group and upcoming events) and called the police to ask us to leave. It seems like this is the new trend at the camp when it comes to visitors. Even though we have been coming to Bicske camp for years now and it used to be fine for us to speak with people across the fence, this seems no longer to be the case. Although we are not breaking any rules by speaking with people from outside of the fence of the camp, we decided to leave when the police asked us in order not to cause a bigger problem.
We invited many people to come join us for our next event, the Nepszinhaz Karneval, being organized by Aurora. The people in the camp seemed really happy to read about the event in Farsi and Arabic, but were sadly hesitant about joining us: the reality is that Budapest is too far away for someone living in the camp in Bicske, and the amount of money for the ticket - only 1500 huf - is too much money for them to spend on one trip, since they do not receive any financial support any longer. Some of the people we spoke with had been living in different camps around the country for months, but had never made it to Budapest even once because of the logistics in traveling and the expenses.