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Hungary: Population Movement - Emergency Appeal Operations Update n°2 MDRHU004

Situation Report
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Appeal history and minor changes to the Emergency Plan of Action:

This Emergency Appeal was initially launched for CHF 3,582,099 on 17 September 2015 to assist 120,000 people for seven months. Due to a decrease in the influx of irregular migrants and refugees to the country, the Hungarian Red Cross (HRC) revised the Emergency Appeal from January 2016 until 5 April 2016 with a lower budget of CHF 1,072,713 to meet the needs of a total of 5,000 people and a timeframe extension up to 30 June 2016.

The Operation Update no. 1 reflected on the timeframe increase from 17 September 2015 to 30 June 2016 with an amended budget of CHF 1,071,934. As a result of the border control changes along the Balkan route, the number of the irregular migrants and refugees has sharply decreased. Therefore, the Emergency Appeal had to be revised and corrected in order to respond to the changed needs and situation of the target group. After the longer revision process the HRC started to scale up its presence in two Reception Centres (open facilities) where asylum-seeker and recognized refugee families (Vámosszabadi) and single men (Körmend) are placed. Service-provision from the end of June at the Röszke Transit Zone was also initiated.

This Operation Update no. 2 indicates the challenges and further needs that the forthcoming winter season and the uncertain future of two reception facilities (Bicske, Körmend) managed by the Office of Immigration and Nationality (OIN) bring and plans on how to move forward. As a result of the high proportion of women and children among the asylum-seeker and refugee population, the HRC identified a need for strengthening the quality of its psychosocial support (PSS) services and more intensely assisting these vulnerable groups. The continuation of the distribution of complimentary food items and non-food items (NFIs) is also planned with a special focus on the winterisation of these activities. As a response to the negative attitude of the local society, the HRC is planning to participate in the Youth on the Run programme in order to adapt it to the Hungarian context and implement it later on.
With this Operations Update no. 2, the operation`s timeframe is extended from 30 September to 31 December 2016.

The planned number of beneficiaries to be reached from October to December 2016 is 4,500 people through activities such as PSS, hygiene and health promotion, First Aid, restoring family links (RFL) information, advice and bracelets, distribution of food and non-food items, recreational and handcrafting activities for minors and women. Increasing the quality of the PSS activity is also planned by hiring PSS coordinators, qualified in social work and experienced in child protection/ sexual and gender-based violence/ trauma-informed services/case management/referral pathways.

A. Situation analysis

Description of the situation

According to the UNHCR statistics1 , 25,890 asylum applications were submitted to OIN between 1 January and 4 September 2016. Despite of the decrease, the number of asylum-seekers still remains high in comparison with the same period of 2014 and 2013. As the ‘8 km rule’ was introduced on 5 July 2016, the number of asylum claims significantly decreased. 2,862 asylum claims were registered by the Hungarian authorities between 4 July and 4 September 2016.

As the proportion of asylum-seekers arriving from wartorn countries (9,672 from Afghanistan, 4,219 Syria, 2,908 from Iraq in 2016) is high, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is considered to be largely prevalent among the beneficiaries. Therefore, according to predictions the HRC’s PSS service is essential.

The number of people waiting to be admitted into Hungarian Transit Zones is fluctuating (31 July: 740, 7 Aug: 630, 14 Aug: 540, 21 Aug: 410, 28 August: 203; 3 September: 240) and remains unstable. The average length of waiting for refugee families to gain access to the Röszke and Tompa Transit Zones is approximately 43 days.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) also refers2 to UNHCR statistics regarding the number of irregular migrants apprehended by the Hungarian police at the Serbian and Croatian border fences that had permanently increased. The HRC considers that this tendency will be constant despite the second fence that will be built3 at the same border sections.

According to the HHC, the number of people accommodated in the facilities of the Office of Immigration and Nationality were 1,237 on 25 July (696 people were detained in closed facilities and 541 were hosted in open reception centres). As of 5 September 2016, 618 asylum-seekers and recognized refugees were accommodated in OIN facilities (399 in open and 219 in closed facilities)4 .
With regard to the current international and national situation, the Hungarian Red Cross is extending the operation for additional three months.

The main reasons are the following:

a) Instability of the EU-Turkey deal

Under the EU-Turkey agreement, migrants arriving irregularly from Turkey to Greece are expected to be sent back to Turkey. The deal diminished the number of arriving migrants, however, its implementation and future raised and still raises many doubts and criticism. The fragile Turkish political situation, the failed military coup and the following arrests question that Turkey is still a safe country to send migrants back to. The growing number of migrants and refugees coming from Syria and Iraq to Turkey, and the more frequent terrorist attacks also put the EU-Turkey agreement in a really fragile state. If the deal does not hold in the future, there is a high chance that the migrants and refugees will flow into Europe again in an irregular way.

b) New arrivals of refugees and irregular migrants in Serbia

According to the UNHCR update on the Serbian situation , the new arrivals of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants continued to rise between 22 and 25 September 2016, to approximately 5,000. Even though 86 per cent of them were placed in governmental facilities, the UNHCR encountered asylum-seekers already camping at or arriving to the Hungarian border zone from Serbian Reception Centres.

c) Extended state of emergency related to mass migration declared by the Hungarian Government

According to the Governmental Decree issued on 5 September 2016 in the Hungarian Official Journal (Magyar Közlöny6 ) the state of emergency related to ‘mass migration’ had been prolonged until 8 March 2017 and extended to the whole country. This situation also refers to the high possibility of another influx of irregular migrants and refugees and serves as another essential reason for the length of the extension proposal.

d) Need for strengthening the quality of PSS related to the high proportion of women and children among refugees and the results of police abuses

Between 1 January and 30 June 2016, 26 per cent of all asylum applicants were children and 20 per cent of them were women . According to the UNHCR data, 63 per cent of asylum-seekers at the border site of Hungary were women and children on 24 July, arriving mainly from Afghanistan (64 per cent) and Syria (25 per cent). Due to the high numbers, the HRC would like to put an emphasis on assisting these two vulnerable groups.

The recent push-backs by the police from Hungary to Serbia also increases the number of people stuck at the border sections. According to the police, there were 4,937 official incidents of apprehended entries between 5 July and 31 August, and an additional 3,486 people got pushed back to Serbian territory9 . As a result of the violent measures applied by the police, there is a potentially increased need for psycho-social support and also for First Aid services for refugees. The HRC plans to address this issue by hiring experienced PSS coordinators (qualified in social work) to identify victims of abuse and to deliver high-quality, trauma-informed services to them.

e) Upcoming winter season

Another main reason for submitting this extension proposal is to ensure that the National Society`s humanitarian assistance remains uninterrupted during the most challenging period of the year. The HRC plans to implement the winterisation of its activities and distribution of donations. After reviewing the contingency stock, the aim is to distribute blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes (especially socks) and raincoats.

f) Unclear future of the tent camp in Körmend and possible closure of the Reception Centre in Bicske

Despite the presence of HRC colleagues at the tent camp in Körmend and their continuous effort to get information about the future of the facility specifically during the wintertime, until now no confirmation was received about its closure or further maintenance.

The Hungarian Red Cross’ humanitarian assistance consists of distribution of food, hygienic and clothing items, FirstAid, ‘basic’ psychosocial support, RFL information and advice and leisure time activities in the open facilities of Körmend and Vámosszabadi. At both facilities, basic medical needs are covered by the authorities (nurse and doctor) on workdays. The HRC is in charge of First Aid that is provided after the OIN medical personnel’s daily shifts and on weekends (especially in Körmend).

Daily food parcels and hygiene items are distributed by the authorities, complimentary food parcels and drinks are covered by the HRC.

According to the online media, there is a significant chance of the closure of the oldest reception centre that also functions as an administrative headquarter of other OIN open facilities by the end of this year. It would certainly mean a reallocation of people among other asylum institutions and could also affect the HRC’s activities.