Hungary Struggles to Cope with New Migrant Arrivals

Posted: 
08/14/15

Hungary - Over 110,000 asylum applications have been registered in Hungary this year, representing a fifty-fold increase from 2012, and a five-fold increase from last year. The total number of migrants registering for asylum in Hungary in 2015 is expected to rise to 140,000 this year.

Most of this year’s arrivals come from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. Over 80 per cent  leave for other destinations in Western Europe within a few days. But the Hungarian authorities are struggling to register all the arrivals and provide basic services at reception centres. Some centres are hosting 4,500 people at a time – double their capacity.

Since early July, an average of nearly 1,000 migrants a day has been registered entering Hungary from the Serbian border. This number has increased significantly in recent weeks, with the registration of nearly 1,500 people a day.

Most have travelled from Greece through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (the FYROM) and Bulgaria, before reaching Serbia. Many arrive sick, exhausted and traumatized by their experiences in their countries of origin and during the journey. They include many women and children. 

After registering on arrival in Hungary, the migrants are told to make their way to designated reception centres. Many have to transit through Budapest’s main train stations and camp in adjacent parks, waiting for trains. Some assistance is provided in the stations by volunteers and the Budapest authorities have now decided to set up migrant assistance areas, providing advice on how to reach asylum reception centres and basic health services.

“Much of the international focus up to now has been on deaths in the Mediterranean. But the 1,200 km overland journey, mostly on foot from Greece, is also very dangerous. Migrants fall victim to unscrupulous smuggler gangs in the FYROM, die in train accidents and often get sick,” says IOM Hungary Chief of Mission Magdalena Majkowska-Tomkin. “After escaping horrors at home, many become re-traumatized by the journey. It will take a long time for them to recover and re-establish their lives,” she notes.

The so-called Western Balkan route has become the principal land point of entry to Western Europe. This is directly linked to the number of migrants arriving in Greece, as most continue their journey westwards along this route.

Hungary is currently building a 175-km border fence along its frontier with Serbia. On 1 August, it introduced changes to its Asylum Act. These include the automatic rejection of all asylum claims from migrants transiting Serbia, on the grounds that Serbia is a safe country. The border fence is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

For further information please contact Balazs Lehel at IOM Hungary, Tel: +36 1 472 25 00, Email: blehel@iom.int

A transit zone at a Budapest train station designed to help newly arrived migrants. © IOM 2015