Hungary’s NGOs call for more humane treatment of refugees

A few of my friends and colleagues – some of whom are non-Hungarian, but have lived in Hungary – have complained that the coverage of the refugee crisis paints this relatively small Central European country and Hungarian society as a whole in a decidedly negative light. As every major international news network descends upon Hungary, from the Keleti railway station in Budapest, to Röszke in the southeast or Bicske in the west, viewers across the world are learning how to pronounce the names of Hungarian towns that they never knew existed and they are seeing lots of callousness and chaos. But there are, in fact, many NGOs and grassroots community groups (none of whom are much appreciated by the current Orbán government, to say the least, and receive no support for their important work) that have shown real generosity in reaching out to refugees fleeing civil war. This week, they issued a joint statement calling on the government to finally find its humanity. 



Hungarian volunteers associated with the group Migration Aid bring some much needed normalcy to the lives of refugee children in Budapest. Photo: Migration Aid.

Hungarian volunteers associated with the group Migration Aid bring some much needed normalcy to the lives of refugee children in Budapest. Photo: Migration Aid.

The refugee crisis unfolding these days in Hungary has led to a critical situation where we feel it is our duty to speak out. The signatories urge the Hungarian government to handle the humanitarian crisis in the wake of the arrival of refugees according to basic standards of humanity, and to provide real help instead of criminalizing the refugees.

We do not wish to deny that the European asylum system is presently going through a severe crisis, nor to suggest that the key to the solution resides solely in the hands of the Hungarian government. None of the above, however, is ground for exemption from the duty of attempting to alleviate the plight of refugees. That is not a refugee issue or an immigration issue, but a basic requirement of humanity. Providing help to people in need, and doing everything we can for them – this is the moral responsibility of each and every citizen and government.

Yet, because of either inaptitude or deliberate inaction on the part of the government, a crisis has emerged in the streets and on the squares of Budapest, reaching by now the border village of Röszke as well. Handling the situation has been left for months to civil society groups and individuals sacrificing their free time, work, knowledge and money to provide assistance to their fellow human beings in need. We express our respect for and solidarity with the formal and informal civic communities that have done, with incredible determination and perseverance, that which should have been the task of the institutions of the state: to provide humane conditions for those in need.

The situation that developed in Röszke needs to be solved by the state, with the involvement of international organizations. We call on the government of Hungary to act the way a government can be expected to act in a crisis: humanely, fairly, and with due respect for human rights. Instead of criminalizing the refugees, let the government focus on alleviating their suffering and plight.

Signatory organizations:

Amnesty International Hungary

Artemisszio Foundation

Autonomia Foundation

BirthHouse Association

Carpathian Foundation-Hungary

Chance For Childen Foundation

Civil College Foundation

Clean Air Action Group

Cromo Foundation

Danube Circle

Eötvös Károly Institute

European Network Against Racism Hungary (ENAR)

Foundation for Development of Democratic Rights (DemNet)

Green Academy

Greenpeace Hungary

Habitat for Humanity Hungary

Háttér Association

Human Platform Association

Hungarian Anti-Poverty Foundation

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation

Hungarian Europe Society

Hungarian Helsinki Committee

Hungarian LGBT Association

Hungarian Women’s Lobby


Labrisz Lesbian Association

Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities

Living Memorial

Menedék – Hungarian Association for Migrants

Mertek Media Monitor

Migrants’ Help Association of Hungary (Mighelp)

Pangea Cultural and Environmental Association

Protect the Future Association

Rainbow Mission Foundation – Budapest Pride

Rehab Critical Mass

Roots and Wings Foundation

Subjective Values Foundation

Wheel of Future Foundation

With the power of humanity Foundation

Women for Balaton


  1. Avatar Charlie London says:

    This is a heartening post.

    Thank you ‘organisations’ for bringing Hungary back to the sanity of the human race.

    One of the problems has been your media who are following the dictats of your dictator – through self censorship.

    Thus they do not paint a balanced picture. (Unfortunately most Hungarians I have met don’t get the importance of an independent media. And, for example, you can only watch MTV1 in hospitals – propagand central.)

    So your story has been at the mercy of the international media -and state sponsored liars like Zoltan Kovacs whose omnipresence has not your cause. However some newspapers, for example our Guardian, have given you a fair press and have focussed on the contrast (gulf) between citizens actions and government ineptitude – and cruelty.

    Christopher’s blog (here!) has given fair coverage to citizen initiatives too, for example the hairdresser giving free haircuts at Kileti station. This has only been marred slightly by some weirdos on here who do seem to be Hungarian.

    Many of us know too that some charities and NGO’s have to keep a low profile otherwise they are threatened with the dreaded tax raid.

    You are also very brave – I fully expect you now to be put on a blacklist such that Janos Lazar will make your life as a functioning organisation very difficult.

    Anyway – well done. Keep up the good work – and make sure we get to hear of it please. We are desperate to hear anything that counters the bad press generated by your dictator and his cohort of liars.

  2. Thank you very much for all you are doing for our fellow human beings. We really do need better newspaper coverage for those who do not have channel 4 news, face book or twitter etc.
    in Friendship xx

  3. Pingback: Hungary … : Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network

  4. It’s good to cover this side of the story. I live very close to Nyugati and can tell you there have been countless people provisioning the migrants at the station through the NGO that has set up shop there. Expats and Hungarians alike keep up to date through Facebook on what is needed every day and supplies flow in on a continuous basis. Through the many years I have been living in Hungary, I can only say that the depiction of Hungarians in the international media is troublingly biased and unfair. Orban has of course pulled off a public relations disaster, and he has stoked the fears of nativists, but so many people don’t fall into that category. In Macedonia riot police have attacked migrants with truncheons, and in Bulgaria they have been summarily pushed out and rejected, to the point where Bulgaria tops the list of countries that migrants seek to avoid. Hungary has, on the other hand, accepted far more requests for asylum than the UK, and a significant part of Hungarian society is doing the best that it can to provide the services and goods the government has withheld. Like a lot of expats, I’ve spent a lot of time bitching about this government, and about some of the more inconvenient aspects of living in Hungary, but at this point I’m really sick and tired of the one sided reporting that is being done on Hungary in this crisis.

  5. “Hungary has, on the other hand, accepted far more requests for asylum than the UK…”

    Er no!

    • Avatar Charlie London says:

      “The latest immigration estimate for 2014 is 641,000, with a confidence interval of +/-3y8,000. There has been a statistically significant increase in immigration from 526,000 (+/-29,000) in the previous year. The latest immigration figure of 641,000 is the highest in the series but users should be aware that no revisions were made to immigration and emigration estimates at the time the net migration estimates were revised.”

      So you can reply knowledgeably (if you dare) I suggest you look at the official stats here (which is an independent agency – unlike Hungary’s KSH):

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