Tough conditions in Hungary counteracted by solidarity and a hot cup of tea at new reception centre

Published: 24 May 2016 17:01 CET

By Andreea Anca, IFRC


Remembering the recent arrival of a group of migrants at a new camp in Western Hungary, gives Red Cross volunteer Eva Szoke goose bumps.


“We were stunned into silence when this latest group of people turned up the other night,” she says of the 47 young men from Afghanistan and Pakistan who checked into the Kormend camp recently.


The group was exhausted and hungry after suffering several days on the road. The men had navigated border crossings, been arrested and detained and were eventually transferred by bus to the open reception centre where a Hungarian Red Cross team was waiting for them.


As the men shuffled through the centre to take hot tea, food and toiletries provided by Eva and four other volunteers, the centre’s existing 150 residents lined up to welcome the new arrivals.


Some took out mobile phones and played Afghan and Pakistani music in a bid to make the new arrivals feel at home. They also took charge of the sleeping arrangements, ensuring new comers could bed down in the most comfortable bunks inside the cluster of army tents.


“These people need help and I am here to help them if I can,” says Eva. “They are human beings and really nothing else needs to be taken into account when it comes to helping people in need.”


The Red Cross is currently providing clothes, first aid, psychosocial support and food to people in Kormend, which has a capacity of 250.


Since the closure of the Western Balkan route in February and the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal on 20 March, there has been an increase in the number of people entering Hungary.


In 2015, the country became one of the main transit points for migrants travelling across Europe. After sealing its borders with Serbia and Croatia last autumn, the number of people crossing the border had dropped drastically. But numbers have risen in recent months to a daily average of 174 between March and May, with the majority of people placed in either detention or open reception centres, like Kormend.


The Hungarian Red Cross has scaled up its operation in Vamosszabadi - the country’s biggest reception centre. Staff and volunteers provide water, hygiene kits, first aid, psychosocial support and information, as well as a Restoring Family Links service which reconnects migrants with lost loved ones.


Note: The IFRC launced an appeal of 3,58 million Swiss francs in September 2015 in support of the Hungarian Red Cross response to the most pressing needs of the on-route migrants. In April 2016 the appeal was revised to reflect the evolving situation of stricter border regulations, being reduced to 1,07 million Swiss francs. Read more about the Hungarian Red Cross migration response here.