Home is where this story begins, but it is not a happy tale. From the messages I have received, all eyes from around the world are on Hungary. It is a dire situation where Hungary is really caught between a rock and diamond. Hundreds of thousands of people are leaving their homelands looking for refuge. It isn’t that they are seeking asylum in Hungary. They are using our adopted country as the portal to something better.
Though my background and education includes a Masters in Social Work, as does Ron’s and my doctorate is in International and Multicultural Education, I still cannot help but be alarmed for the future of Europe. Countries like Greece are having difficulty sustaining its own economic harmony without swarms of illegal immigrants and refugees pouring through its borders. Even transients cost money. Germany has been the most gracious, taking in the majority, but even they are now shouting out to the rest of the EU “How about some help here?”
Let’s be clear about the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. An immigrant is someone from a foreign country who chooses to relocate to another country. They may or may not have the legal right to do so. Refugees leave their homeland due to fear of imprisonment, death or some other necessity. Fleeing persecution, war, or a natural disaster are the top reasons to flee. Further comparisons can be found here:
With this distinction explained, there are hundreds of refugees in the lower lobby of Keleti Train Station, so many so that the new reports have been stating they closed the station. Our friend Dan had boarded a train for Berlin last week, but the Hungarian police walked the aisles of the train, before it left the station. They were forcing all who did not have travel papers to get off the train. Of course, this was blatant profiling. Germany is within the Schengen Zone as is Hungary. Under normal circumstances, one would not need any documents to travel from Hungary to Germany.
The Guardian online reported “The closure of the station to refugees and migrants appeared prompted in part by pressure from other EU countries trying to cope with arrivals from Hungary. Hundreds demonstrated outside the station, demanding that it be reopened to them and they be allowed to travel on to Germany. Having seen the end of their journey in sight they bought tickets at around €100 a person, only to be denied entry on Tuesday morning.”
“Budapest announced plans to erect a fence along the entire southern border with Serbia to keep out refugees and migrants.” Does this sound familiar?
Today, Ron and I realized how much we have that we don’t need. Knowing how much we have to be thankful for, we filled two huge Ikea bags with shoes, shirts, pants, mattress covers, blankets, paper plates, plastic cups, colored pencils and paper for the kids and brought them to Keleti. Pandemonium does not do the scene justice. There were dozens of people with cameras, hopefully from authorized outlets and not just lookie-lou people. These were in addition to what appeared to be TV news stations. Basically, all those stranded and sprawled out on the cement floor with whatever floor covering they could find, were on display.
One woman came up to us almost immediately to signal she wanted food. That will be the next bundle we bring. Though the Migrant Aid office claims they need cans of beans and other non-perishables, it is beyond my comprehension how they are eating now. There is nothing to cook with in the lower level of a train station. There has been a four faucet pipe installed. People were lined up washing themselves and refilling water bottles.
For a few minutes I felt like Jane Addams, the ‘mother’ of modern-day social work in the US. When those few minutes were over, I just felt impotent seeing the tremendous need.