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Local priest offers to shelter asylum-seekers transferred to makeshift camp in Körmend

It’s winter and the Hungarian government is shipping asylum-seekers from reception centers around the country to a tent camp in Körmend.

MigSzol, a group of Hungarian and foreign volunteers that provides aid to asylum-seekers, says Hungarian authorities have taken another 20 people to the makeshift tent camp near the Austrian border. Conditions there are deplorable, according to MigSzol. The Körmend camp is the worst in Hungary and its occupants are forced to sleep in tents under conditions that threaten their health. Night temperatures are freezing.

“In some cases [the asylum-seekers] were asked to sign a document that they agreed to be transferred to another camp, but no translation was provided,” MigSzol said on its website on Monday.

Authorities have reportedly given the asylum-seekers stoves and wood to burn, but Gépnarancs quoted local priest Zoltán Németh as saying: “Many are unfamiliar with these stoves, they do not know how to use them. That is why they are cold at night. They are exhausted — psychologically, physically and spiritually exhausted.”

Conditions at the tent camp are so inadequate that the priest is personally sheltering eight asylum-seekers in his parish’s community house after they asked his help. Among them are an African Baptist, a Kurd and a Syrian Moslem. The latter reportedly tries to keep in touch with family in war-torn Syria via telephone.

Other Körmend residents have also offered to provide shelter for the freezing asylum-seekers.

Poor conditions at the Körmend camp have been reported on earlier. This year, Hungarian authorities decided to close down the reception camp in Bicske, outside Budapest, drawing criticism from NGOs and human-rights organizations because the camp had buildings instead of tents.

The government has made no secret of its antipathy toward asylum-seekers arriving in Hungary. Since 2015, the government has spent tens of billions of forints convincing Hungarians that asylum-seekers pose an existential threat to the country’s culture, its Christian heritage and the future of the nation.

Because Hungary is a Christian nation

Despite the administrative hurdles put in place, some religious leaders have taken an active role in providing assistance to the asylum-seekers, organizing food and aid.

Others, however, including Sándor Szenczy of Hungarian Baptist Aid and the Hungarian Catholic Church’s Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary Péter Erdő, have shunned the opportunity to show compassion for asylum-seekers arriving in the country, opting instead to toe the government’s line.

The irony of the situation in Hungary is that it now makes news whenever a religious leader goes out of his way to assist those so demonized by the government over the better part of the past two years.

Benjamin Novak :