September 8, 2015
Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus
Click here for Part 1
How to become a refugee
Early in the morning from Hungarian forest near the town of Ashotthalom a group of dark-skinned people with backpacks on their shoulders walk out on the road. All of them illegally crossed the border last night, and now they have nothing to fear. They are guided by GPS in their phones. Their main task is to meet the first police officer and hand him a sign in English: “Asylum”, if there is no one in the group who speaks English. In official language, this is called “expression of intention for asylum”.
From this moment, they have the right for a 72-hour stay in the country. And not only. A right for a bed at the refugee center, three free meals a day, second hand clothes and shoes and free train tickets across the entire country.
Zoltan, muscular tall guy in camouflage, brings me to one of the encampments of refugees. Zoltan belongs to the group of Hungarian volunteers, nationalist (or Patriotic) oriented guarding the border, who are trying to prevent the infiltration of refugees. But he’s not a policeman, and in fact he has no power. But I don’t envy those refugees, who will fall into the hands of his organization. In the best case, they will be sent back across the border.
In a clearing in the forest under the protection of the police conveniently settled refugees from different countries. One of them, a young Afghan Ammanula, tells me that for two and a half months he was travelling from Kunduz through Iran and Turkey together with his friends in hopes to get settled in Germany. He shows me convincing blisters on his feet.
Nearby is a group of young Syrians who look like perfect Europeans. Blonds with light eyes, fluent in English. Together with them, a daring young redhead girl, smoking one cigarette after another. She, like her comrades, is a Syrian-Sunnite, but proudly carries herself among women in hijabs. All of them are on a mission to get to Sweden. The redhead is disturbed by the fact that all of them have already been fingerprinted. “I heard that they can return us back to Hungary, even if we get to Sweden. This is a new contract between the Schengen countries. You must stay where the fingerprints were taken.” (She is absolutely right, but I reassure her that this agreement exists only on paper).
Hungarian forest near the border. Immigrants who crossed the border illegally at night, are waiting for help
Tanned Sunni from Idlib named Jamil with two children asked me when they will be picked up by a bus and taken to a resting area. He is extremely annoyed by this “disorganization”. It is hard to believe that this man illegally crossed the border last night. He behaves like a passenger at the bus stop, annoyed by the fact that the buses are not following the schedule. He demands that I speak with the police. And they are terribly exhausted from the stream of refugees: “We don’t have enough transport to take them all to Szeged train station. In the morning six full buses left. We are waiting for them to return to pick up the rest.”
Tea and Halal chorba (meat soup) for immigrants from a charity
Hungarian city Szeged. Railway station. Wooden house, where everything is ready for the reception of refugees by the volunteers of charitable organizations. Water, fruits, sandwiches and “Halal chorba” (meat soup). “Why Halal? – I ask a thick, good-natured woman who is cleaning the sidewalk in front of the house. — Shouldn’t the refugees get used to European life?” “Of course not! — she exclaims. – It might offend their religious sensibilities. They are very vulnerable”. I carefully find out that the woman is not married, like most “volunteers”, but she finds joy and inspiration in “serving poor people”. Video
Detailed instructions for refugees at the railway station in Szeged, Hungary.
Bio-toilets, showers, water fans for refreshment, free Internet and detailed instructions about how to behave with the authorities are prepared for the refugees. Everything is sparkling clean, a tray is lined with apples, volunteer faces shine from the forthcoming pleasure of meeting with the “victims”.
What happens next, offends me deeply. Several buses stop at the station, packed full of young men. Stepping outside, they immediately begin to talk on the phone and connect the latest gadgets to the Internet. Carelessly, not paying any attention to excited, flushed, “volunteers”, they grab bottles of water, sandwiches, plates with soup. They don’t even say “thank you”! Video
Female volunteer handing out water bottles to the refugees
“Crazy old women, — shared his impressions Junet from Pakistan. — Why their children or grandchildren don’t watch them? Why let them freely out on the street? Everywhere, wherever we arrive, we are met with these crazies”. I’m choking with rage and shout: “They are doing this out of generosity! To help you out!” Junet is a bit confused. “Yes I do not argue that they are kind. But where are their husbands? And is it decent for older women to hang out on the streets in the evening and chat with young men? We went through entire Europe, and people here are strange. We even saw young women, who gave us sandwiches. They are almost naked and they are all not younger than twenty. In Pakistan no one would even marry them at that age. But why are you alone? Where is your husband?”
“Two steps away from you, — I say vengefully. — He is the photographer”.
Junet glances at the imposing figure of my husband, Croatian journalist, and immediately changes the tone.
“That’s right, – he approves — Women should not be left alone”. But then complains: “Just don’t take the pictures of me. I forbid it. I have too many borders to cross. I wanna go to London, because there are a lot of Pakistanis. When I get to England and invite my two sisters, I will not allow them to go out unaccompanied. For the youngest (she is already fourteen years old) in England they already found a decent groom. Let her be a second wife, but with a respectable man.” “But nobody in England will register this marriage!” — I resent. “No need. The main thing for us is a blessing of Allah at the mosque. And then it is profitable. As soon as children come, for the British she will be considered a minor single mother. You have no idea how much money she will get! And medicine, transport, food, education – all for free. The British — are our former colonizers. They will pay for everything. Inshallah!”
*Part 3 coming soon!*