MigSzol has been campaigning for both appropriate living standards and more integration of asylum seekers for almost three years. We therefore sent an open letter to the mayors of 40 larger Hungarian towns and the mayors of Budapest urging them to show solidarity with Martonfa as well as the people seeking asylum. If other towns around Hungary would each accommodate a small number of people, we suggested, it would be great for everyone: the inhabitants of Martonfa would be relieved and the refugees would have a better opportunity to integrate. Further, a small number of asylum seekers would hardly be noticed in these larger towns.
We sent this letter to mayors around Hungary; we received two replies so far: one was from the mayor of Martonfa himself and the other was a rather dismissive comment, labeling refugees as illegals with no right to compassion. The lack of support this initiative received is puzzling. Not only does it show that there is a lack of readiness to seriously engage with the current challenges, it also shows a lack of solidarity with the citizens of Martonfa. Apparently, Hungarian mayors still live under the illusion that if they just look away long enough, the people seeking asylum in Hungary will just disappear.
It has been announced by the Hungarian government about ten days ago that a refugee camp (accommodating 1000 people) will be built in Baranya county; just few hundred meters aways from the village of Martonfa which has 220 inhabitant. For the people in the village, it is like awakening from a bad dream; they just got it from the media that the government will force them to take five times more refugees than their own village population.
The Migrant Solidarity Group is constantly telling that the Hungarian government should provide adequate accommodation for the asylum seekers at places where the local people have experience with people arriving from faraway countries, or at places where the locals are already prepared and informed about their new neighbours.
It is absolutely understandable that the residents and Mayor of Martonfa are worried about losing their old routine. Who could blame them for that when number of people moving into their neighbourhood would rise five-fold, furthermore, the decision makers failed to treat these citizens as human being, although their everyday life will be seriously affected by that. And who shall not fear, when the Hungarian government, which made that decision, runs a xenophobe campaign for months by wasting taxpayers’ money and presenting these potential new neighbours like criminals and parasites.
It is a comprehensible reaction that the residents of Martonfa are desperately seeking help from those who could go against the government and offer help for them. Lots of Hungarians and leaders of other settlements assured them about their sympathy and support their hopeless fight to stop building the camp there. Nevertheless, the government is determined to create this camp and most probably their plan will be executed because it is just a lie that they would like to listen to the people’s opinion by making the propaganda called “national consultancy”. In fact, the government does not give a damn about the citizen’s views who will be concerned.
Those who might think that they sympathize with the people of Martonfa do not make more than saying that they also would not like the idea to get a refugee camp in their vicinity with a population far bigger than their own community.Such comments do not help Martonfa in a great deal though. What’s more, it was maybe a relief for many settlements that it was somebody else who had been forced to undertake such decision without a reference to the local people.
The MigSzol would note that the other settlements and their mayors could demonstrate their real support if they would commit themselves to receive a few asylum seeker families, or 5-10 single asylum seekers, either men or women.
These asylum seekers must be accommodated somewhere. Hungary is the member of the EU which is one of the most developed region of the world. It does not mean that we benefit from the economic advantages only but we also have moral responsibility to host those less fortunate people who had to leave war-torn countries and we should do it in a decent and civilized way.
Even if they stay only two days with us, and the same applies to those who decide to stay in Hungary as feeling it safe and need to wait for months to get their asylum application processed.
The only viable solution to relieve Martonfa and offering the best for the asylum seekers would be if some other villages and towns and their mayors will publicly announce that they are willing to receive asylum seekers until their asylum application processed. If a village with 220 inhabitant would accept one family seeking asylum, a town with 10,000 residents would receive 10-20 asylum seekers, or a district in Budapest with 50,000 living would set up a shelter for 100 persons that will not change the everyday life of the local community. This could prevent creating overcrowded camps and adding to the tension like it happened in Bicske, Vámosszabadi or Debrecen. Accommodating the asylum seekers in this way be helpful as they would not stick out among the locals due to the proportional allocation.
By undertaking this really compassionate gesture these settlements would give a real chance for people who had to flee from their home country. Instead of being subjected to very expensive police surveillance and living in a village where people look at them suspiciously, our proposed solution would make them able to live in the community with having direct and mutual contact with local people.
These settlements and their mayors could show a nice example with using this proportional allocation and protest against the dictatorial and humiliating way the government follows. Also, they could relieve the residents of a pretty and friendly village, Martonfa.
Therefore the MigSzol would like to ask and encourage the really compassionate people and mayors for receiving asylum seekers, according to their capacities. The current Hungarian laws make it possible for the asylum seekers to stay in private accommodation during the asylum process, and such private accommodation can be arranged by local councils too.
Creating two camps with 2,000 bed places in tents or containers and using unimproved plots without electricity or running water can not be the appropriate solution when empty buildings could be made available for those who had no other choice than fleeing to Europe from terrific circumstances.
And the Hungarian government, by realizing the pressure from these settlements, might decide to withdraw the original plan of squeezing people into inhuman camps and upsetting village communities. The Hungarian government may consider the option to open smaller shelters and using the Hungarian tax-payers’ money and the EU funds for setting up these type of accommodations.
If we really mean to advance with solutions which are considering both the local communities and asylum seekers, we can also make this government treat us as human beings.
11th August, 2015, Budapest
Migrant Solidarity Group