In the face of the current refugee crisis in Europe, we recently called on our members to inform us about any initiatives they are involved in, with the prospective of joining forces with other individuals from our network. Upon this call we received a brief report from our member Terézia Nagy:

In recent months, tens of thousands of refugees – mainly Syrians and Afghans, but also coming from other crisis areas – travelled through Hungary arriving from the Serbian border.

The Hungarian government failed to provide effective assistance, so many self-organized volunteer groups were formed (e.g. MigSzol Szeged) which are helping refugees at railway stations and transit zones. I often went to the Serbian border and to migrant detention centers (e.g. in Röszke), sometimes as an interpreter, volunteer or as a sociologist and I examined the processes.

The volunteer groups also gathered information about where their help, additional volunteers and donations are needed informally. Similar levels of joining forces barely happened in Hungary.

From 15th September the asylum procedure has changed, however it proved to be inefficient, the famous fence was built at the Serbian Schengen border. Since then, the route of the refugees diverted westward but still goes towards Hungary. Those who try to cross the Serbian-Hungarian border often are often sentenced to expulsion but those who arrive at the Croatian border sections are transported to the western border.

Depending on the context but unpredictably, the refugees are registered. When they arrive in major groups and the western borders are open, they will not be registered. During registration, circumstances were unhygienic, inhumane and untenable, and there was no opportunity for assistance. The situation was made bearable by the NGOs and individuals.

Refugees not having access to sufficient legal assistance – especially after 15th September – is another problem: they cannot claim their rights. Also the refugees’ healthcare is unorganized and depends only on civil volunteers.

Another problem is that donations, which started in mid-September from Europe and Hungary, were often in chaotic conditions as self-organized local groups have been unable to organize that. It has improved a lot since then. Right now we are struggling to make the donations and volunteers arrive to the right place according to the changing routes, changing rules and conditions of border crossing.

What is definitely needed are independent observers and experienced professionals in charitable fundraising and coordination. In addition, healthcare support is also required which can handle different cases from war injuries to flu and has the right equipment as well. Continuous demand of small bottles mineral water, infant formula, fruit, biscuits, bandages, raincoat and diapers takes place at the Hungarian, Croatian, Slovenian and Serbian areas. On the Hungarian side, fundraising has been suspended, clothing donations were gathered in large numbers.

Terézia Nagy (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is vice-chairperson of the Southern Great Plains Region Social Scientific Research Association and invited lecturer at Faculty of Arts of the University of Szeged.