The Harbor of Torn Lives

Author: Főadmin Date: 2015. július 20., hétfő 10:10

The idea of providing social services and a child protection institution for refugees was formed in the autumn of 2013, when the co-workers of the Office of Immigration and Nationality (in Hungarian: BÁH, Bevándorlási és Állampolgársági Hivatal) contacted Hungarian Baptist Aid because of the difficulties of the placement of refugee families. The program was established after several discussions and is almost completed now. 

We could accomplish the project by the support of European Refugee Fund (ERF), in which BÁH joined as a consortium partner,” Gellért Ghyczy, social co-worker said, “It was accomplished by the Baptist Integration Center, maintained by Hungarian Baptist Aid. Within the framework of the program, we developed services that are for refugee families and individuals. It is important to emphasize that the program is unique as there have not been social and child protection services specifically for refugees before. The professional work and operation here adapted to special circumstances.”

Within the program two locations were created to temporarily shelter families: 40 refugees each. Due to the legal capacity constrains, there had to be two institutions started. Coming from the reception centers, in the homes, there are refugee families or people with protected designation statuses.

Next to the services that are defined in the legislation, the institution provides additional support such as psychological help, the opportunity to study the Hungarian language, and improving programs for children.”  Gellért Ghyczy continued his explanation,  “With the help of New Europe Foundation, secondary school students spend their mandatory community services here helping the work of our co-workers. Until the end of this year, we will put the materials together that provides information about the current social problems, and that will give the base of the presentation-series that will be brought to other secondary schools.”

In the beginning of the program’s implementation, HBAid realized that not only families, but also single people need accommodation and help. This is why HBAid’s several other institutions accepted single refugees or protected people, almost twenty of them live in HBAid’s two temporary homeless shelters. HBAid provides social and child welfare services and help to close to 100-120 people to start their new lives. Today HBAid works with full capacity. This is why as opportunities come, the capacity for single people will be expanded in the future. 

Beyond the institutional provisions, we represent our organization in several forums and help the refugees and protected people. Now it became regular that we are asked to help in solving different problems, such as in the Russian-Israeli dual citizen elderly lady’s case. The lady wasn’t entitled to any of the services in our country and at the same time could not go back to either of her homes. The BÁH could not find a solution for her, but we could and placed her in Pécs, in one of the nursing homes that we operate. She is having a good time there. The Reception Center in Debrecen also contacted us about a man from Mali, whose head was hit by a cricket bat during a fight and nearly died. After his recovery, he had seizures, and he was put into the psychiatric department of the Reception Center. They weren’t able to communicate with him because he speaks a very rare tribal language called Songhai. At the Center they said that nobody talks this language in Hungary, but we  managed to find someone and went to Debrecen. We were also contacted for the accommodation of the man who was severely injured on his head during a bombing. People thought that he was dead and they put him in a funeral pit, but a doctor realized that he was still breathing. After his recovery he came to Hungary, and, for some reason, was placed in the Psychiatric Institution in Szentgotthárd. We have already met with him and now we are in the process of moving him out from there.

These examples show that HBAid has become an important and active member of the community that provides for the refugee and protected people. HBAid also participates in the work groups that are organized by the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources (in Hungarian: EMMI, Emberi Erőforrások Minisztériuma) that reviews the Child Protection Act giving suggestions to improve the welfare system. Their job is to formulate suggestions that improve the provision of refugees and protected people.

We maintain a tight and excellent relationship with UNHCR, which is the UN Refugee Agency. We are present at all their events and forums. We also regularly consult with the co-workers of the Hungarian Ministry of Interior and EMMI.

The excellent relationship between BÁH and HBAid was indicated by a cooperation agreement that was signed by Sándor Szenczy on December 5th, 2014 in which the two organizations expressed that they would like to cooperate in the support of refugees and protected people. 

The Baptist Integration Center operates its temporary shelter for families in the 13th district of the capital, where Kurdish Iraqi, Afghan, Albanian, Cameroonian, Togo, Ivorian, Cuban, Syrian, Palestine, and Armenian refugee families lived in the beginning of this year. Most of them arrived through the network of human smugglers to Hungary. The temporary shelter, by an external fund and with the students of Berzsenyi Dániel Secondary School, who have to perform for their mandatory community service, came up with community building programs. The first occasion was on February 10th in the afternoon, when the refugees from different cultures, got acquainted with the Cuban cuisine. While Ottera cooked, with the help of Hungarian youth, the meal called ‘Moors and Christians’, which is a Cuban special food with rice, black beans, chicken, and pork, the children created carnival masks downstairs, and the older children could listen to a presentation about the Hungarian carnival folk traditions.

Eszter Markó, social worker said that the temporary shelter, founded last year, has now filled up completely. The program will be followed by other joint events. There will be various craft and outdoor activities. The goal is to form a refugee community that accepts each other, to improve their life situations, and also to introduce Hungary to them, where they found temporary shelter. The refugees arrive mostly through human smugglers crossing illegal borders. Their primary goal is not Hungary, but Western Europe.

Since we opened our doors, we are exploring uncharted territories as the institution is unique in the social history of the country,”  Eszter Markó said. “Most of us had no routine, but we learned by doing. Now we know how to handle tension and conflicts deriving from religious and cultural differences. Sometimes adolescents have a wandering background as they went from one to another country, and they were exposed to a variety of impacts. Their behavior comes from the fact how they lived during their wandering.”

Yes, they are wanderers. There is a story about a girl who started off from Eritrea when she was 17 years old, and she arrived to Hungary crossing Sudan and other North African countries most of the time making her journey on foot. There were places where she settled down for couple of years, but some occasions she only stayed for couple of months. Everywhere she went, there were different rules and norms and different surrounding systems that she needed to adapt to survive. She was separated from her mother in Sudan, and ever she has not heard about her since. In the beginning of this year, she left for Germany from one day to the other without prior notice. 

She arrived expecting a baby and she gave birth to her child last March,” – Eszter said. “While she lived with us, for almost a half year, she learned how to take care of a child.”

But not everybody continues their journey to the West. Eszter is proud of the Cuban family that moved to a rented home from the shelter; they were the very first to try their life among us. Their weather torn ship found a harbor to dock.





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