In Hungary, anti-immigration propaganda has been placed high on the leading party’s political agenda since the massive influx of refugees from 2015. The growing xenophobic attitude towards refugees combined with immigration policies’ continuous restrictions has strongly affected the integration project, civil society organizations, and service delivery experts working with refugees.
Despite the hostile environment created at the top level, on the ground, professionals, paraprofessionals, and volunteers are making considerable efforts to find ways to help their clients’ socio-economic integration into Hungarian society. These individuals have a crucial role in addressing refugees’ vulnerability factors, their perspectives, perceptions, experiences, and meaning-making processes, however, seem to be an under-examined area in the refugee literature.
To adequately address refugees’ vulnerability, we need to analyze how service-delivery individuals construct and understand ‘refugeeness’. Furthermore, what kind of methods they apply to resolve their clients’ issues, and how social and institutional context affects their decision-making processes and problem-solving capacities.
For the research, I propose a qualitative thematic text analysis of narrative descriptions written by professionals, paraprofessionals, and volunteers on their experiences with refugees. These texts describe and highlight immigrants’ personal stories from the helper’s perspectives and give in-depth insights into their reality from different points of view.
By studying the coping mechanisms of both refugees and service delivery individuals presented in the texts, one can gain insight into the difficulties and challenges the institutional and political sphere poses on integration. Since the top level is not open to any dialogue with civil society actors, the only space for improvement remains at the micro, person-to-person level. For this, understanding what is happening on the ground is crucial.
This study might not be able to make significant changes, especially at the institutional level. However, the analysis can provide a reflection on service delivery individuals’ experiences, perspectives, perceptions, and meaning-making processes, which can bring forth valuable insight for future professionals and eventually enhance refugees’ experiences in Hungary.
My name is Bernadette Daragics, currently, I am an intern at Menedék- Hungarian Association for Migrants, while I am completing the final year of my undergraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Malmö University, Sweden. In 2016, I spent a couple of months as a volunteer in the Calais refugee camp known as the “Jungle” in Northern France. Since then, I carry the stories of refugees in my heart. That experience has since motivated me in my mission: to improve the lives of vulnerable people by being present and active in various innovative projects addressing their needs.