Tuesday, 22 April 2008

MENÉDEK promotes integration with refugees’ self-portrait

By Hakeem Babalola
News Report

As part of the celebration for the Refugee Day, MENEDÉK Hungarian Association for Migrants exhibited paintings and pictures of Refugees at the Millenáris Park on June 18 to educate Hungarians in a campaign to make them more open to different races and cultures.

Although the turnout was below expectation, the organizers used the occasion to inform the audience about the significance and consequence of xenophobia which they say is getting momentum across the European Union.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Dr. Kőszeg Ferenc, former Hungarian Helsinki Committee President, told the audience that integration is the key issue in the future which will usher peace between the refugees and the Hungarian public. “This is why little thing like exhibition of pictures and paintings of refugees are very important”.

The guest speaker noticed that the asylum policy is better compared to what manifested in the 1990’s. He said that the procedure is fairer now than up till late 1990 when there were thousands and thousands of asylum seekers, especially from Yugoslavia. He attributed this to the proportion of asylum seekers which is relatively low now.

Dr. Kőszeg went on to pat Human Rights Movements on the back saying, the advent of different Human Rights Organisations in Hungary has contributed immensely to improve the situation of asylum policy. “The MENEDÉK is doing a lot for the integration of refugees and intolerance”.

He explained further that before Hungary joined the EU, those seeking asylum in Hungary were always ready to be trafficked to the European Union zone where they hoped to get better treatment, adding that at least 80% of asylum seekers left the country.

However, the asylum procedure has changed drastically since Hungary joined the European Union in 2004. The new rules categorically prevent the possibility of seeking multiple asylums in the European Union territories. This has made it difficult for asylum seekers in Hungary to flee to other EU zones.

“It doesn’t work anymore because according to the EU rules, everybody has to have the procedure in the country they applied first, and the person must be integrated in that country”.

Many participants also believed that pictures say a lot about the issue in question which is basically to integrate the refugees to the Hungarian society where they could enjoy most of the things that led to their escape from their different countries.

Várdi Zófia, an artist, who spent five days with the Refugees in Bicske, said that she liked the idea of Refugees Self-Portrait Project, adding that “everyone says Hungarians are not very open so this is a great opportunity to learn about integration”.

Várdi described her experience as really shocking and interesting because the refugees have terrible stories of their escape, adding that it was difficult to get to know the refugees but after the initial scepticism, they opened up and they were happy that others are genuinely interested in them.

The refugees most of whom are from Iraq, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Pakistan, expressed different emotions in their paintings or pictures.

Omar from Somalia who now lives in Bicske would like peace to return to earth where everybody could help each other. Sarah from Iraq cries for freedom. Khada from Somalia is happy that Hungary has finally given her good life including getting married to Hada, her lover whom she met on Somalia Chat.

Lara, 16, from Iraq is happy that she could now wear whatever she likes unlike when she was in her home country where she didn’t feel pretty because “everything is forbidden”. Her brother Al-Jari Rami, 19, says “it is simply good for one to have the right to speak freely without fear of being killed”.

Val lives in Bicske and his message is simply “A Tear Drop for Iraq”. Eleonora from Kosovo cries to heaven, “This is my portrait”. Shahzad from Pakistan uses mountains, sunshine, boat, trees and parrot to tell the story of his home country.

The pictures and paintings by the refugees are expected to be placed in the metro, on post cards and billboards around the country in the hope to reach at least 1.5 million Hungarians.

Many asylum seekers from African countries have refugee status in Hungary.Some are still living in Hungary while some have since re-located to other European Union countries, especially England where they hope their lives would be better.

Copyright 2008


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great report Hakeem. See you soon, Marcell