Opening of a hostel in Hungary for Ukrainian refugees

Nearly 300 Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, are housed in a shelter outside the city center of the Hungarian capital.

It is part of a move by a Hungarian aid organization that the country’s right-wing anti-immigration government has long opposed.

As tens of thousands of refugees began to enter Hungary after fleeing the violence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the non-profit organization Migration Aid rented an entire five-storey building in Budapest – initially designed as a workers’ hostel – to provide temporary accommodation for those escaping. the war.

Tatiana Shulieva, a 67-year-old retired epidemiologist who fled Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine and plans to travel to Egypt, said the night she spent in the hostel was “like a fairy tale fairies”.

“I spent a night here feeling very positive with pleasant emotions because we came from a place where we lived in the basement because we were constantly being shot at by rockets and planes,” Shulieva said. .

Migration Aid, which coordinates the hostel’s dozens of volunteers and day-to-day operations, was established in 2015 in response to the more than one million refugees who fled the war in Syria and Iraq and crossed into Europe, including many via Hungary.

But the Hungarian government, which strongly opposes immigration and has refused to accept asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa, has taken strong measures to prevent refugees from entering the country and limited the ability of civic organizations to help them.

Migration Aid’s support for refugees in 2015 made them the target of Hungary’s anti-immigration government led by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and the object of attacks in government-aligned media who accused the group of act on behalf of foreign actors and facilitate illegal migration.

But Marton Elodi, who runs the hostel for migration support, said the volunteer-run accommodation is currently the biggest facility hosting Ukrainian refugees in Hungary and has overshadowed the Hungarian government’s role in the help those fleeing war.

“As far as the government goes, obviously most people know the story, they’ve been very anti-refugee and anti-immigrant since 2015,” Elodi said.

“Now they kind of accept the help of Migration Aid and they approve that we have more experience than them in these kinds of situations.”

Most hostel guests stay for two or three nights and use the hostel as a waypoint where they can rest and regroup before heading to other destinations in other countries, Elodi said.

Image: AP

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Linda G. Ibarra