The Hungarian Catholic Church and refugee care

A Katolikus Karitász ukrán menekülteknek segít a Keleti Pályaudvaron
Catholic Charity helps Ukrainian refugees at Keleti Pályaudvar
Photo:: Lambert Attila/Magyar Kurír

Caritas Hungary, on behalf of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference (HCBC), launched an emergency relief operation as an answer to the Ukrainian crisis immediately after the outbreak of the war. It immediately prepared its logistic centre in Eastern Hungary and its volunteer teams near the border to supply and care for the refugees. In order to ensure a long-term and targeted relief effort, Caritas Hungary has held several consultations with the management of Caritas Europa and Caritas Ukraine on the dramatic situation.

In the winter of 2022, Caritas Hungary was among the first to send 3 truckloads of aid to the border to receive refugees. The consignment included 100 mattresses, blankets, baby food and non-perishable foodstuffs, among others. In order to provide long-term assistance, the aid organisation has set up temporary centres in Fehérgyarmat and Nyíregyháza, together with local diocesan caritas organizations, to care for the refugees.

Over the past year, the organisation has been working on various ways of dealing with the crisis and providing long-term assistance. The aid centre in Barabás, run by the Caritas, received hundreds of people a day during the first months of the war. Today, the number of people registering here has exceeded 12,000. In the first period, thousands of refugees were assisted at Budapest's Eastern Railway Station, while 9,000 people have received help from Caritas since mid-May 2022 at the transit shelter set up at the Budapest Olympic Centre. Thousands of people have been sheltered in parishes, community centres, private homes and pastoral care centres, for shorter or longer periods. The relief supplies were delivered by the Caritas to Transcarpathia and to the inner regions of Ukraine. So far, six aid consignments have been sent to the inner regions of Ukraine, with a combined value of more than HUF 500,000,000.

Due to the economic crisis which has been going on for years, and the war, the population of Ukraine is in a very difficult social situation, especially the population of Transcarpathia. Therefore, more than 300 tons of durable food, hygiene equipment, disinfectants, aggregators, heating panels were delivered to this area by the Caritas, and three district hospitals were supported with medical instruments and equipment. In addition to these activities, the HCBC also supported the work of organisations in Transcarpathia with 8 minibuses and transport vehicles.

In order to provide long-term assistance, an Integration Centre was opened in Budapest in June to help Ukrainian refugees settled in Hungary with housing, job search, administration and children's schooling. In addition to this, there is also a place for expressing warmth and love: the Caritas organised a joint Christmas celebration and summer camp for Ukrainian and Transcarpathian children living in Hungary.

The work of the Integration Centre in figures:

  • The value of the assistance provided to support refugees arriving in Hungary exceeded HUF 1,000,000,000 in the past year.
  • Nearly 1,300 families have received housing or livelihood support, or material or voucher support worth HUF 60,000,000.
  • More than 100 families have received rent or housing allowances
  • 91 children in 50 families received schoolstart grants
  • 100 children from Ukraine went on holiday to the Caritas Camp in Balatonakali
  • The Christmas event in Budapest was attended by 45 families, 194 people in total.
  • In addition, information and psychosocial support and children's activities are provided for refugee families.

Programmes to support refugees will continue. During the one year of assistance, the diocesan Caritas Centres of Caritas Hungary’s national network have also been involved in the care of refugees and great social co-operation has been achieved.