SOS Refugees

Practice Aim

To provide a complex assistance for refugees at various stages of the asylum procedure: Healthcare and social care to refugee families and minors at various locations (refugee reception centres, families' temporary shelters, and reception facility for unaccompanied minors).

Target Groups

Families with small children

Identification of stakeholders that made an identification of the practice

Márton Bisztrai, Menedék – Hungarian Association for Migrants

Criteria actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”

Combination of medical attention and social work

Name and leading organization (contact details provided)

SOS Children’s Villages

Target VG and type of host community

Families with small children, in and around Budapest

Application setting

A multidisciplinary team was set up that provided healthcare and social care to refugee families and minors at various locations (refugee reception centres, families’ temporary shelters, and reception facility for unaccompanied minors)


To provide a complex assistance for refugees at various stages of the asylum procedure


1 year 6 months (1 December 2015 – 31 May 2017)

Requirements/ accessibility issues

it required the training of the team (including volunteers) and transporting them to various facilities dispersed in the country.

Performance procedures

focus on unaccompanied minors (2200 individuals during 1.5 years) but also training of staff at facilities

Difficulties or constrains for its implementation

Most NGOs were banned from entering the reception facilities in 2017


Complex care for minors and families, capacity building for reception centre staff


For more information see (in Hungarian)

1. Relevance of the development of initiative in its specific context (analysis of the need for such an initiative in its specific context, support from the leading institution to such initiative, partnerships, target groups: please list and describe the target population, support of local / national / international , financing…)
The SOS Refugees initiative was thought of before the influx of asylum seekers in 2015, but the crisis deemed the program extremely necessary. This initiative consisted of a mobile team, including social workers, psychologists, intercultural mediators, and occasionally pediatricians, all working together to give holistic answers to the personal problems of clients. The specific social work and medical care were very much needed, especially in terms of communication. The leading institution for this program was SOS Children’s Villages, who financed the program as well, and Menedék was the implementing partner. There was no other support, but there was cooperation from state authorities such as the immigration office and official health providers like hospitals and doctors. In addition, housing for refugees was partially funded by the Budapest Municipality Homeless Shelter Institution, which is actually funded by the EU Integration of Migrants and Refugees.
2. Visibility of the action (What are the means of communication used? Are they effective? If so, why and how are communication objectives achieved? What are the objectives? If not, explain)
The means of communication utilized were translators and intercultural mediators, which helped build the bridge between service providers and clients on a daily basis. It was effective because connections were maintained on both ends. The translators and mediators would visit the clients, meet them, and bring them to the doctors’ offices. There weren’t really any specific communication objectives, but overall it was just to stay in contact with the clients and improve their health and living conditions. It was important to get more detailed information about their health conditions and provide this to the proper authorities. However, the question remained whether or not the ones receiving the information were dealing with the problems effectively.
3. Transferability (How the model can be implemented by other institutions / other countries?)
The model for this program can be implemented anywhere at any time. All that is necessary are the proper resources and the right, qualified professionals–social workers, intercultural mediators, translators, and medical professionals including pediatricians. The different work must be combined with each other very closely, and there needs to be transparency among the service providers. This has already been implemented in many countries in Europe, and the idea did not originate in Hungary. It was just a project that needed to be done to help those in need.
4. Sustainability (If the initiative or initial project has already finalized, how continuity is ensured beyond the initial life of the project? If the initiative or project is still ongoing, what will be the developments in the coming years? what are the mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of the initiative beyond its expected life )
Unfortunately, there is no continuity for this project since NGOs were banned from visiting the closed reception centers at the border. However, if there is a will and a budget, anyone can do it. General sustainability has no relation to being banned. This model could be run in any reception centers or urban settings. Menedék had considered restarting the project with the same model–combining different fields like social work and medical care–in an urban setting but it was too difficult as there are many other organizations running housing projects in Budapest, and they may not have been okay with an interruption.
5. Innovative character (Describe briefly the factors favoring the success of the initiative and the innovations introduced by the initiative)
The most successful element of this initiative was the holistic perspective, having different types of professionals there at the camps to assist in whatever capacity was necessary. There were no specific innovations that came out of this project, as these things exist in other countries too. More ideas could have been used from other similar projects in other locations, but it was very limited. The main goal should be prevention in terms of health, and unfortunately, no one is really doing that in Hungary.
6. Impact (How the initiative changed or produced an impact on the targeted beneficiaries, in its context and beyond – lessons learnt)
The SOS Refugees initiative had an overall positive impact on the people that were helped. They were given better care than what they were receiving in the camps, if any at all, and hopefully the programme was able to improve the health condition of some people. Maybe they had a better experience with the medical system thanks to the doctors and nurses that helped, and as a side effect perhaps they felt more human in their surroundings.
7. Ease of implementation(Optional field. Please specify how easy (or not) was to implement the initiative. Please identify the factors that contributed to the smooth implementation and/or the difficulties encountered)
It was very difficult to implement this programme. The doctors involved could only do so much–they could prescribe medicine, conduct check-ups, give vaccinations if needed, but there was still a gap that remained between what was detected, and what was actually cured. Doctors could not always do things like certain procedures at the camps until the official system understood the diagnosis. This could take a long time. Also, if an operation was needed, some of the doctors involved in the programme were not qualified to do so.   
8. Tools and resources for implementation(Optional field. If possible, please specify, enumerate and describe the human, material and financial resources allocated to the implementation of the initiative)
9. Other/additional information (Optional field. Please share any other relevant information regarding this initiative)
These gaps between the official health care system and standards of health care setup are extremely important and must be addressed. The doctor is obligated to say if an operation is needed, even if they are not able to do it themselves. They must give a diagnosis if one is necessary, but it is hard to say when or if someone will be able to get to the hospital from the camp.