They arrived throughout the night. From midnight until 4am a steady stream of families, groups, individuals, originally from Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Eritrea, reached the latest milestone in their long journeys towards the safety of Europe, Keleti railway station in Budapest. They arrived exhausted, frightened, hungry and thirsty. Many had injuries to their feet from hours of walking over previous days and weeks. The cold weather and rain of the past days in Serbia and Hungary has caused many of the old and the young to develop coughs and fevers.
The volunteers work tirelessly, no matter the hour of the night, compelled by the human need of those they find arriving in their city. Food, water, blankets and a tent for the night are handed to each family in turn. Those with medical issues join a long line snaking out the door of the health clinic waiting to speak to the small team of volunteer doctors and nurses.
By early the next morning the new arrivals have gathered in the hundreds at the entrance to the station, eager to continue their onward journey. Lines of police calmly keep the crowd back from the trains. Fathers lift their children on their shoulders for a better view, others sit on the floor to wait for whatever will come next.
Eventually the time comes for the train to depart. The police lines are reinforced. Families gather their belongings and pull their children close, uncertain yet full of hope that now will be there chance to make the next step on their long road towards safety. And then the rush forward as people are allowed through for the first time. The signs of relief and hope etched on each face that makes it through the line onto the waiting train. This train will take them to the border with Austria, the next barrier for them to cross. But for now there is only relief that the journey will not be delayed any longer at this junction.
For those who do not make it onto this train, the long wait continues. Sweets distributed by the volunteers keep their spirits up as they settle down again until the next train arrives. By the evening the vast majority of those who arrived last night will have made it onto trains and left Budapest. Only the very sick and those too tired to continue remain for more than a few days. Yet, the volunteers know from their colleagues at the border with Serbia that by the morning hundreds more people in need of help, will have arrived.
To continue providing even basic humanitarian help to those arriving in Budapest requires large amounts of supplies. Many ordinary people in Hungary have been incredibly generous, donating clothes, tents, and money, but it cannot match the needs of those arriving.
International Medical Corps’ team of logistics experts spent the day at the station, supporting efforts of our partner Wings of Help (Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen) as they delivered three truckloads of supplies to help the volunteers continue for a few more days.