Report from the Serbian-Hungarian Border

PART 1 – Coordination of the “pick-up area” –

A completely different atmosphere permeated the campsite on the Hungarian side of the train tracks Saturday morning. We estimate double the amount of people on location than Friday, both in terms of the asylum-seekers arriving from Horgoš and the activities of volunteers and humanitarian organizations providing them with much needed services. Coordination had begun between UNHCR, Save the Children, MSF, Caritas, many other international and local organizations, and most of all civilian volunteers who first set up the campsite and provided services to new arrivals.

Processes are being implemented to streamline activities of the campsite, or « pick-up area » as we have heard it being referred to as, separating food and clothing distribution, medical services, and areas for sheltering single men and families. The transformation of the site from a civilian initiative to an institutionally coordinated system is evident from the reorganization of space. Whereas there continue to be individual or small group initiatives to provide specific services to those arriving, the coordination of many of these spaces is being centralized through a volunteer information booth where groups of individuals from different parts of Europe, mostly Austria and Germany, and some Swiss, can get information on where help is most needed. Much of the volunteer coordination is still being run by individuals who have come down to help, regardless of organizational affiliation.

Police operate in parallel, present in the pick-up area to control the loading of busses that bring asylum-seekers into registration camps, which will be the subject of a further post. Anywhere between 20 and 40,000 people are expected to arrive this weekend according to UNHCR. The Hungarian government is planning to close the border fence on Tuesday, the same week a new law making crossing the border illegally an offense punishable by up to three years in prison (AFP) is set to be implemented.
Volunteer coordinators are calling out to anyone who is able to come down to the border and help, they are in need of 200 volunteers to manage the influx of individuals and families.