BUDAPEST — Though the European refugee crisis has largely faded from the international media’s spotlight, thousands of asylum-seekers continue to enter Europe by any means possible with the hopes of starting a new life. In the face of this ongoing humanitarian crisis, the grass roots organization Migration Aid in Hungary has harnessed the power of social media as a means of delivering aid and guidance to thousands of refugees.
Migration Aid was founded in June 2015, at the height of the European refugee crisis, by a handful of concerned citizens in Budapest that desired to help people in Hungary. The organization originated as a closed group on Facebook, which was utilized as a virtual planning board for orchestrating aid delivery that included food and supplies distribution, as well as various specialty groups with coordinators assigned to handle legal matters, storage, logistics and any other issues. The organization set up centers in the railway stations of Budapest and the surrounding area, and quickly grew to more than 600 volunteers.
Two years have elapsed since the group’s inception, during which time Migration Aid has helped feed, clothe and provide direction to thousands of refugees, but the situation faced by asylum-seekers in Hungary remains extremely tenuous. Hungary’s geography has forced the country into a central role in the crisis, as it is popular among migrants hoping to settle further afield from the Middle East in Northern and Western Europe. Between January and August 2017, 2,491 asylum applications were registered in Hungary alone.
The European Union has endeavored to establish a comprehensive and effective means of responding to what has become the largest global displacement crisis since World War II. In September 2015, the European Commission announced a minimum quota of refugees that each EU member country would be expected to host, with the intention of fairly distributing the burden of providing for the record numbers of migrants streaming into the continent. It was also in September 2015 that Hungary closed its borders to refugees, however, and began strictly limiting their movement throughout the country.
Furthermore, Hungarian officials have resisted compliance with the quotas and policies made obligatory for all members of the EU. In March this year, the Hungarian government implemented a law requiring that all refugees whose asylum applications were pending be housed in detention centers. It was subsequently discovered that the housing units available at these detention centers are comprised of shipping containers, and that refugees are being forced to pay for their stay. The United Nations Refugee Agency urged the EU to stop sending asylum seekers to Hungary, declaring this mandatory detention a violation of international law that guarantees people access to asylum.
Additionally, prime minister Viktor Orbán petitioned the European Commission president this year to exempt Hungary from the migrant relocation quotas, a request which was denied and earned the Hungarian government a lawsuit for failure to comply.
In the face of the conditions now being imposed on refugees, Migration Aid has developed new strategies to help people in Hungary. Recognizing the need for information dissemination pertaining to the new laws and regulations, the organization developed a new application named InfoAid, which seeks to provide information to asylum-seekers in their native language. According to Migration Aid’s website, the InfoAid app seeks to provide the following types of information:
- What rules apply to them
- Where they can receive care and how to get there
- Where there is safe drinking water in Hungary
- Where and how they should buy train tickets
- Where they can receive medical care
- How they should collect the waste they generate
- Where, when and why they have to register and what exactly it involves
The InfoAid app currently supplies information in English, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi. Migration Aid is currently seeking the help of volunteer translators so that they can keep up with the need for translated information, as well as expand their offerings to include Greek and Pashto. Thanks to internet technology, anyone around the world with relevant language skills wondering how to help people in Hungary as they endeavor to find a safe haven after fleeing violence and oppression can act as an invaluable source of aid by donating their time and skills.
Migration Aid also accepts donations, which are fundamental to the organization’s ability to help people in Hungary. Now more than ever, the innovative and progressive efforts that this organization continues to make on behalf of refugees in Hungary is a tremendous source of hope and comfort to many.
– Savannah Bequeaith