Facebook Group Helps Migrants, Refugees Cut Through Red Tape, Enter Camps

The most important service volunteers provide is information.
Migrants begin to file towards the platform of the Eastern Keleti station, after police opened the way in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 12, 2015.
Migrants begin to file towards the platform of the Eastern Keleti station, after police opened the way in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 12, 2015.

Hungarian officials erected a wire fence along the southern border to keep out migrants and refugees, last week, but over 7,000 Hungarian citizens have volunteered to help individuals newly arrived in Budapest.

A group of volunteers calling itself Migration Aid has come together through social media to offer ongoing humanitarian relief. It was founded in July as a Facebook page by Tamas Lederer, a 42-year-old university professor, and first set up in an empty storefront in the lower levels of Budapest’s Keleti train station.

The group has organized thousands of volunteers, with a core group of 150 people who help migrants and refugees on a daily basis, Kata Pali, a 26-year-old graduate student, told The Huffington Post in an email.

As Migration Aid’s profile rose on the Internet, material donations poured in, and volunteers were able to provide food, showers and medicine, as well as games and coloring books for children. Each day on Facebook, the group lists its requested donations according to practical considerations, like raincoats and tents during bad weather or blankets when people are unable to leave the country overnight.

But the most important service they provide, says Pali, is information: the group was founded to provide all the information that individuals need in order to procure their legal papers and to help them get to refugee camps across Europe.

Migration Aid has also utilized Facebook to traverse the language barrier and attract translators who speak Pashto, Farsi and Arabic.

Because of its proximity to Greece, migrants and refugees have long flocked to Hungary as an entry point to the European Union, after passing through EU non-member Serbia. Their numbers peaked at the end of the summer, as more than 5,000 migrants and refugees per day came to the Greek islands, funneling over 1,000 people daily to Hungary.

The situation in Budapest came to a boil when Hungary’s government, which is notoriously averse to foreign migration, briefly blocked migrants from leaving for Western Europe, creating a bottleneck at Keleti train station. This was when Migration Aid stepped up its volunteer efforts. It is still primarily based in Budapest, but dozens of volunteers have now spread out along the route to Germany, providing supplies for the journey.

Although Hungary declared a state of emergency and sealed its border with Serbia, Migration Aid expects to serve thousands more migrants and refugees in the coming weeks, including those coming from Romania.

To support Migration Aid, visit its Facebook page, which is updated daily with suggested items that donors can order online through Tesco or G’Roby. To make a monetary donation to Budapest’s Mikszáth Pharmacy, which provides medicine and first aid items to Migration Aid, see this post.

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