FINDING SAFE PASSAGE
here’s a recent article that I wrote about the fantastic refugee ministry that I work with in budapest. part of my job as an english communications associate for the reformed church in hungary is writing english articles about various things happening in the wider church, and with my connection to the refugee ministry of the RCH, I was the perfect person to sit down for a chat with my boss, dora, to discuss the amazing resettlement process that is happening for refugees who are trying to find safe passage to europe. if you’re interested in reading more articles that I’ve written, you can click here to head to the RCH’s english website or you can click here to sign up for their english e-newsletter!
As refugees fleeing conflict zones continue to desire refuge within the European Union, many European countries are still opening their proverbial doors and doing what they can to support these newcomers. In the past, Hungary pledged to resettle 20 refugees per year for three years, beginning in 2013; while this quota of 20 people per year was never fully used up, refugees in need of safe passage have slowly been coming. There is currently an agreement between the Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality and the NGO offshoot of the Refugee Ministry of the RCH, the Kalunba Social Services Association, to resettle Syrian refugees in Hungary; this work consists of practical support, such as free Hungarian lessons and assistance in finding housing, as well as much needed psycho-social support.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines refugee resettlement as, “the selection and transfer of refugees from a state in which they have sought protection to a third country that admits them – as refugees – with a permanent residence status.” Within the EU, this means moving refugees from countries outside the EU bloc to an EU member state. The European Resettlement Network says that resettlement is, “a protection tool for refugees whose lives and liberty are at risk; a ‘durable solution’ for refugees alongside local integration and voluntary repatriation; and an expression of solidarity with those developing countries that host the majority of the world’s refugees.” Their website explains that virtually all costs that EU member states accrue, both pre-departure and post-arrival, can be financially supported through programming set up by the European Commission.
“The program is amazing!” says Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy, head of the RCH Refugee Ministry, “It really is safe passage!” Refugees who are stuck in Syria’s surrounding countries are interviewed by UNHCR and are then suggested by UNHCR to various governments who have agreed to resettle a certain amount of people. Governments then go to interview and screen these people in person, and, once the government gives the ‘Okay’, then organizations like Kalunba are in a position to prepare the journey for them; this consists of getting health checks, collecting pre-departure information, arranging flights and transportation, and also preparing flats for them upon their arrival. “The journey is all set up for them and they arrive straight to their flats and already have a community here who knows about them and awaits them. The days after their arrival are spent arranging papers, going through the orientation procedure, and beginning Hungarian language lessons with us,” Dora says.
Due to the detailed nature of the selection process, initial interviews with the UNHCR and the corresponding government that has agreed to resettle the refugees often take place during one year and the refugees do not actually arrive in country until the following year. The group that interviewed in 2014 arrived in the spring of 2015: six hopeful faces that now live in Hungary and are helped by Kalunba. The last refugees from those interviewed in 2015 just arrived in March of 2016, bringing the total number for the year 2015 to twelve persons.
The Kalunba team is made up of recognized experts with vast experience in the field of asylum who work to build a highly responsive, innovative, and committed support organization ready to respond to practical problems with practical solutions, and to do so with maximum efficiency. By giving the highest standard of care at the moment when it is most needed, they strive to create lasting values and foster their clients’ ability to manage their everyday lives in Hungary. This resettlement program that they have partnered with the Hungarian government to run is just one way that they are working to support to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.