A NEW JRS PROGRAM STARTS IN HUNGARY
16-20 Sept. Jean-Marie Carriere SJ, JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) EU director has visited Hungary on the occasion that the Hungarian Jesuits have officially launched their refugee program. This occasion made it possible to reflect and plan together.
From January to mid-September 2015, over 210,000 persons were registered in Hungary as asylum seekers, arriving from Serbia. It was an unexpected exodus en masse. The mix of nationalities changes from week to week: over the year, the largest groups are Syrians and Afghans, and smaller percentages of Iraqis, Iranians, Kosovars (before April) and others.
Almost all asylum seekers continued their journey further into the EU: Hungary was only a transit country, where the population was unprepared for this kind of deep humanitarian crisis.
- Given the sudden influx of asylum seekers and the Hungarian circumstances, the civil spontaneous solidarity in the country was truly strong. Although unprepared, but many individuals, communities, civic and religious groups were serving on the streets during these three months: We would like to thanks for all of them for their generous hospitality!
- The presence of the migrants has awakened the heroic experiences from the tragic XX. Century when on the one hand side hundreds thousands of Hungarians were expelled and on the other side Hungarians offered asylum for Jews and Poles during the II.WW and for Germans in 1989.
- Nevertheless the Hungarian population has not faced immigrants in such a scale in the last centuries. (The country has only the historical experience of the tragic 150 years of Muslim Turkish occupation which represents up to now the most heroic and vivid memory from its history.) This society was under Soviet rule for forty years and is still curing the wounds of that period. Hence, large groups of Hungarians are afraid of the migration crisis, of the potential alleged risks of terrorism and of the possible clashes between cultures.
- It is important to underline that meanwhile in these difficult months there was no organized violence, no significant far-right atrocity in Hungary (with only one exemption of the football hooligans); none of the camps was attacked.
After the migration en masse the situation has changed drastically on 15th September upon the completion of the physical closure of the border with Serbia, and with the entry into force of the new legislation. We witness a smaller proportion of refugees, entering the country in the era of the new legislation. The Jezsuita Menekült Szolgálat (JMSz) as a new JRS branch in Hungary foreseen that a certain number of registered asylum seekers will be granted the status of refugees, therefore being awarded a contract of integration by the Office of Immigration and Citizenship. JMSz’ efforts are focused on reflection and on the preparation of a long-term integration programme of these people.
- Building upon the experiences of our Roma mentoring program, JMSz started to develop a language and lifestyle mentoring model-program in Budapest (Fót), mostly for minors without adult. For this purpose, JMSz will further develop the already existing model of the School of Possibilities (an existing Roma mentoring program) assisting refugees with personal mentoring. It is foreseen as a model program easily adaptable for other organizations and places.
- JMSz will offer the legal assistance to refugees who intend to settle down in Hungary.
- JMSz set up permanent professional working groups to support our work.
- JMSz processes, adapts and shares the experiences of international programs of JRS.
- JMSz organises professional and informative programs at the House of Dialogue in Budapest for a deeper and more differentiated understanding of the refugee issue. JMSz offers workshops for professional groups of opinion leaders as journalists and teachers.
- JMSz prepares educational materials for high school students for a deeper understanding of the migration issue as well as to facilitate possible Christian responses. It is a part of the efforts to make the Catholic Social Teaching better known in Hungary.
II. CIVIC COOPERATION
- To attain the above-mentioned goals JMSz initiates and supports wide-range cooperation and network-building. The JMSz is co-operating especially with the Maltese Charity Service and with the communities of the Szentjánosbogár, Taize, Saint Egidio, Fokolare, Schönschtadt and the Szociális Testvérek.
- JMSz initiates a common online cooperation form in order to help the concerted efforts of churches, civil groups and the state by an e-cluster for coordination of voluntary efforts in these rapidly changing situation
- In July, Jesuits started actual service on the streets. JMSz has supported its partners with fundraising and presence, based on the actual needs.
- JMSz prepares fundraising for Christian communities under persecution and for the JRS in the Near-East.
- JMSz is urging a common action of Hungarian churches since many have voiced the need for a stronger, common stance on the part of those churches which are able to genuinely represent the religious, European and Hungarian values that are usually referred to by the participants of public discourse.
III. INTERNATIONAL – JRS-JMSz – COOPERATION
- The Hungarian Jesuits have launched their JMSz program as a part of the JRS network in early September. The JMSz is supporting all humanitarian actions based on human dignity and the Catholic Social Teaching.
- JMSz supports the position of JRS especially regarding:
a) the need to help legal resettlement;
b) the need for European solidarity in order not to shift protection obligation to third countries that cannot ensure proper standards of protection;
c) the need for safe and legal ways to access protection in Europe.
d) the need to reflect on how the migrants en masse would impact and transform our society at an anthropological, social and spiritual level.
e) We are urging the Hungarian government and the whole European Union to seek international solutions: let the EU be the ambassador of peace in the midst of international conflicts and assume greater responsibility in assisting the development of the third world.
The EU is the grave insufficiency of humanitarian help for refugees, as often required by UNHCR. We are urging the EU to finance more substantially the refugee camps.
- The JRS-EU could improve the JMSz’ capacity:
a) The Hungarian program is taking part in the JRS-EU, taking already part in its meeting of regional directors in September.
b) The Hungarian JMSz is inviting the specialist from the JRS’ rapid-response-team in order to be better integrated in the network.
c) We suggest building twin-offices for better local cooperation.
d) The JMSz is interested to take part in the JRS awareness raising project “Best practices”.
Budapest, 20. September, 2015.
Tamás G. Forrai SJ Jean-Marie Carriere SJ
Provincial, Hungary director, JRS-EU