Last week, a local newspaper reported that two Afghan refugees found themselves in the area surrounding Beba Veche – a Romanian village near the borders with Serbia and Hungary. This was kind of a big deal for Romanians because – in contrast to central and southern European countries whose streets and train stations seem to be currently full of weary people who've just fled war and death – our country has yet to see any noticeable amounts of immigration. Engaging with the immigration crisis, struggling to contain it and getting really angry about it all just like our Western sisters and brothers, would be a reason for Romanians to finally feel European. The whole country rejoiced.
And then we found out that the two Afghans had ended up in Romania by mistake. Apparently, they were trying to get to Hungary via Serbia but took the wrong turn exactly where the Hungarian and the Romanian border meet, ending up in Beba Veche. The Romanian Border Police caught them three metres from the border, and told them they were in Romania. So they did what every Romanian does in his heart every time we come back from a trip to the West: They started crying. The whole country empathised.Later, at the police station, the two Afghans were told they could not get into Hungary so they asked to be sent back to Serbia, instead of staying in Romania. Which is exactly what happened yesterday, based on the agreement of readmission between Serbia and our country. Romania had just missed it's chance to receive its only refugees.Not that the incident did anything to deter local authorities from zealously perfecting their hosting skills. At the beginning of this week, the Romanian Border Police performed a series of refugee reception exercises in the villages neighbouring Serbia. They actually set up and then took down about 50 tents overnight, to make sure they were prepared in case somebody ever came.Additionally, the Romanian city of Târgoviște (which isn't even near the border) has been preparing to receive 5,000 refugees since August; The Ministry of Internal Affairs is working on a bill that would impose stricter penalties on refugee traffickers and the Police are scouting for 6,000 new employees. "We are looking to up our resources in case there is a crisis situation," said the Romanian government's spokesperson, Corneliu Calotă, in a press conference.When asked, the local townspeople claimed to have no problem with refugees coming into their villages because none of them want to stay there. "They want to live in Sweden and Germany anyway," one guy said.In another interview, a group of refugees in Budapest didn't even want to hear about moving to Romania because according to them the country is simply too poor.Luckily for us, earlier in the month the European Union asked Romania to shelter 6,359 refugees. So we can still feel European.