About 200 protesters including many foreigners demonstrated in central Budapest’s Deák Ferenc tér on Monday following repeated anti-immigrant statements by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Fidesz caucus leader Antal Rogán in the wake of the terrorist attacks in France.
The protest was organised by MigSzol, or Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary, which describes itself on its website as an independent organisation struggling to realise political and social rights for refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary. MigSzol says: “We are working for a Hungary where there is no need for such titles as ‘refugee’ and ‘immigrant’. We fight against human identity being determined by bureaucratic categories.”
Hungarian liberal publicist and philosopher Gáspár Miklós Tamás told the demonstration that the West was largely to blame for immigration, and the government of Hungary is “not only criminal and revolting but stupid and ridiculous as well”.
Margit Barna of MigSzol said: “Viktor! May you be welcomed in the halls of power-crazy, xenophobic leaders. This is an old tradition; a sold tradition. The tradition of work camps instead of receptive local communities, and in place of the tradition of responsible leaders, the tradition of feared and hated leaders.
“The reason we are here is to say that Viktor Orbán and his fellow party members do not speak in our name. Hungary is not equivalent with megalomania or the invasion of country and spirit by the servants of a power-crazed leader.”
In his weekly radio interview last Friday, Orbán spoke on the difference between migration within the European Union and migration from outside the bloc. He said that within the EU member states people were free to move about as tourists or workers. Thus it was not possible to speak of “immigration” or “emigration” within the bloc because “one mutual desire created an economic area within which we move”. Therefore it was “absurd” to speak of people emigrating from Hungary to Germany or London.
“They cannot emigrate since we ourselves wanted to create a mutual economic area within which one can freely work,” said Orbán, calling attention to the fact that the term immigration applies to people coming from outside the EU.
He said that on the basis of EU law if somebody enters Hungary without a permit, and says he is a political refugee or asks asylum and shows a piece of paper proving this, then he can no longer be treated as an existential immigrant, when, in reality, this is the case.
Orbán said “we are talking about hoards of educated people”, and who, unlike before, have been prepared by lawyers and legal experts and know precisely what they must do upon arrival to qualify as asylum seekers rather than illegal immigrants.
“This is a Christian country,” he asserted. “We have mercy in our hearts. Obviously, we should help those who are being persecuted.” But Hungary “must say no to existential immigrants and make it clear to them that they will not make their livelihood here”.
“Here in Hungary, contrary to Europe’s customary political correctness, we need to speak clearly and to the point. We have to speak the truth: we do not want Hungary to be a target for existential migration.”
The number of refugee applicants had reached 43,000 in 2014, which was an “alarming” trend.
Orbán said Brussels was not going to protect Hungary and the problem was for the Hungarians to solve. “We must defend ourselves. We must fight for Brussels to change the rules and not impose unnatural rules on us.”
Fidesz spokesman Bence Tuzson said this week that the ruling party is calling for common EU policies for handling refugees because mass migration could generate cultural conflicts in the long run. If immigrants arriving in Europe develop a “unique subculture” that degenerates into a deviant culture, for instance as a result of unemployment, then their communities will turn into “hotbeds for crime”, Tuzson said, adding that the demographic challenges faced by Europe need to be tackled with the help of family policies rather than migration.
Hungarian regulations need to be changed too, for instance by compiling a list of safe countries “from where immigration is not justified”, he said.
Gábor Vona, the leader of radical-right party Jobbik, said there should be signs put at the borders of Europe saying “We are full!”. He demanded stopping Europe’s and Hungary’s military activity in the Near East and Asia because it is “increasing the level of terrorist threat towards the continent”.
The opposition Együtt and PM parties criticised Orbán for his remarks. Együtt called him a liar, and insisted that most Hungarians working abroad had decided to do so because they had no work at home. PM said Orbán had disturbed commemorations of the liberation of the Budapest ghetto through “inciting xenophobic hatred”.
Choose your enemy: Schiffer
The EU countries must decide whether they want to fight terrorism or immigration, green opposition LMP co-leader András Schiffer has said after meeting Croatian green party ORaH leaders in Zagreb. Schiffer said emigration currently represents more of a problem for Eastern European countries than immigration. He added that Croatian politicians including ORaH head Mirela Holy had warned Western European governments and Hungary that instead of raising a scare about immigrants, they should realise that ongoing events for instance in Bosnia and Herzegovina represent much more serious security threats. Schiffer also said LMP would like to see an increase in the proportion of renewable energy in Hungary and a decrease in “extreme energy dependence”, primarily on Russia. It was crucial for the liquefied natural gas terminal on the Adriatic seaside to be built without delay and reverse flow on the Hungarian-Croatian gas pipeline guaranteed. “I am convinced that this is a matter of national strategy for both Hungary and Croatia,” he said.
Asylum applications shoot up
The number of applications for asylum in Hungary jumped dramatically in 2014, the director-general of the immigration office, Zsuzsanna Végh, said this week. Whereas there had been 2,157 applications in 2012, there were 18,900 in 2013 and 42,777 last year, which had even taken the immigration office by surprise. The increase last year was recorded from the summer and mounted further in November, with 9,000 applications, and December, with 13,000 alone. Végh noted an outstanding migration pressure faced by the EU in 2013 and last year, and said the main triggers were a deteriorating security situation in crisis regions and economic hardship. Last year, based on the number of applications submitted in November, Hungary ranked fifth after Germany, Sweden, Italy and France. Hungary had the second-highest ratio – 2.9 asylum-seekers per 1,000 citizens – in November after Sweden (7.78/1,000). Applications for asylum were submitted by individuals from 79 countries, half of them by Kosovars. One fifth of the applicants were Afghans and 16% Syrian. A typical route for illegal migrants reaching Hungary is from Turkey via Serbia and another major one is via Romania and Ukraine.
Justice Minister László Trócsányi has called for a common register of European citizens imprisoned on terrorism charges in EU member states. Trócsányi had talks with his French counterpart Christiane Taubira and other French politicians in France, with the two ministers agreeing on the importance of justice cooperation in combating terrorism. He said the central register he proposed could be established while respecting data protection. Prison overcrowding had been discussed and he had requested his French colleague’s support for a central European initiative aimed at using EU funds for building new prisons. Regulations on hate crime and victim protection also featured on the agenda. Trócsányi said he met MEPs of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), the French partner party of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz, to brief them on the political and economic situation in Hungary as well as values set in the country’s fundamental law. He expressed his concern that the enforcement of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality at a European level were not appropriate. Trócsányi told them that the issues of political refugees and migration were separate. Those persecuted on political grounds must be handled as refugees, whereas migration driven by economic consideration must be “reconsidered”. The issue must be addressed at a European level considering that the principle of free movement of persons refers only to EU citizens.