Hungary has shown a change in attitude towards refugees, observers have claimed.
It comes as the country joined other Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland, Romania and Moldova in welcoming over a million Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict with Russia.
The change in attitude has been put down to racism by some, but, according to The Independent, Hungarians, Romanians and Slovakians have been receiving thousands of Arabs, Africans and South Asians seeking asylum.
Katalin, a young Hungarian volunteer, told the newspaper that his co-nationals being racist “is just a perception”, insisting “the people are not the government”.
Imra Szabjan, emergency manager at volunteer organisation Hungarian Charity Services of the Order of Malta supported the idea, saying nothing has changed and “Hungarian people are welcoming”.
Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban points out ‘difference’ between migrants and refugees
Even Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has spoken in favour of Ukrainian refugees, saying this week that his country can “tell the difference between who is a migrant and who is a refugee.”
“Migrants are stopped. Refugees can get all the help,” he said.
Another volunteer, Tamas Reves, helping refugees at Zahony rail station said: “In the previous crisis, a lot of Hungarians thought people were coming here for economic reasons.
“Now they see there is actual war.”
Most Ukrainian refugees arriving in Hungary are reportedly women and children and foreign university students.
Earlier this week, a train packed with mentally and physically disabled young people from Ukraine arrived in Zahony, where they were taken to a shelter by Hungarian volunteers.
And in capital Budapest, the Nyugati railway station has become an improvised humanitarian hub for Ukrainian refugees.
Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and EU aid
Meanwhile, neighbouring Romania has been using a Facebook group, United for Ukraine, to offer free accommodation, transport, food, clothes and medicines to families with children and animals some Ukrainians have not left behind.
Romanians have been sharing details of how many refugees they can shelter in their own homes across the country – from capital Bucharest in the south of Romania to Iasi in the north-east and Constanta, a city by the Black Sea.
Moldovan president Maia Sandu also spoke of thousands of crossings being registered by the country.
“The government has deployed temporary placement centers near Palanca and Ocnita. Our borders are open for Ukrainian citizens who need safe transit or stay,” she said last week.
Meanwhile, the European Union announced that Ukrainian refugees are welcome into member countries for three years without applying for asylum.
Countries in the EU have gone even further than the bloc-wide announcement. Slovakia announced Ukrainians coming to the country will get a “temporary status with free healthcare and legal work possibility.”
“For Ukrainians, public transport is free of charge. There is food and beverages at the border,” government official Livia Vasakova said.