The state of votes
Immigration and common sense
Gát Ákos Bence|translated by: Maria Hviding
The xenophobic position of the Government
Szilágyi Eszter Soewarni| translated by: Szilágyi Eszter Soewarni
Gát Ákos Bence | translated by: Maria Hviding | 2015. October 16. 15:25
With his anti-immigration policy, the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has succeeded in taking control of the public opinion in Hungary. Nonetheless, a stance considered tough from a humanitarian point of view cannot solely be explained by electoral ambitions. The appropriate way to tackle immigration is an important question in Europe, to which the Hungarian government has a sensible response.
Immigration is too complex a phenomenon to observe purely from a human rights perspective. It has a large impact on society in that it influences not only the economy, but also the culture and security of a given country. Furthermore, immigration is a question of sovereignty: does not the power to decide which individuals to allow onto its territory belong exclusively to the State? Naturally, different policies can be pursued. Thus, a state can for example choose to open its borders completely. However, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, borders are a convention, which only exist when they are being respected. Say you have constructed a house, the fruit of years of labour; a house that has been furnished to your taste in order to constitute a haven for your family. It would then be surprising, no to say shocking, if strangers were to appear in your bed or use your garden as a highway. This does not mean that you will refuse to offer your hospitality to more estranged members of the family who are in need – however, it is perfectly reasonable to want to protect one's property and private life. In the same way, it is entirely logical and expected that a government tries to protect its boarders, even if it chooses to do so by putting up a wall. In fact, it is unjust to claim that such a measure is xenophobic, as the government in question is simultaneously providing care for thousands of refugees.
According to the most recent data, around 50.000 illegal immigrants arrived in Hungary over the course of the last 5 months (January-May 2015). Thus, at the EU-level, the country surpasses Italy in terms of numbers of refugees. From this perspective, it is inevitable that immigration has become such an important topic in Hungary. Consequently, putting the debate on the agenda is not only a legitimate decision, but also a sensible one.
It cannot be denied that the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, as a figure of authority, has succeeded in leading the public debate. The news in Hungary are no longer focused on the issues that caused the popularity of the Government to fall these past few months, but on a project proposed by the Prime Minister. Furthermore, the stance taken by the Government enjoys higher popular support than the position taken by the left-wing parties in the opposition, who have shown themselves to be more favourable to immigration. There can be no doubt that the ruling Party has succeeded in dragging the opposition into a standoff where its own victory is assured, at least on a national level. Measures such as posters exhibiting anti-immigration slogans as well as the postulation of a link between immigration and terrorism, while strongly criticized by international organizations, are powerful tools in rendering the governmental position clear to the public. In addition, the highly provocative character of these measures prompts the left-wing opposition to brutal reactions. A perfect example was seen when the activists of the opposition destroyed the above-mentioned posters. One might even go so far as to call it a political trap for the opposition, as the latter's stance on immigration is difficult to explain to Hungarians, who are increasingly experiencing the direct consequences of mass immigration through everyday nuisances such as delayed trains, security problems etc. Some claim the Government is playing a political game in bad taste, which surpasses the limits of the acceptable. Nevertheless, the fact that the Government is capitalizing on the situation does not mean that its approach is not well founded.
The Hungarian Prime Minister, liberating himself from the cumbersome task of adhering to what politicians define as being "politically correct", stays true to his habit of speaking more frankly than his Western counterparts on the topic of immigration. Instead of sweeping dust under the carpet, he draws attention to dangers resulting from illegal immigration and looks for sensible solutions. Unfortunately, in a number of countries, the role of the candid speaker has been monopolised by extremist parties. The problem is that the solutions proposed by these parties are as extreme as the parties themselves. The Hungarian Prime Minister is pursuing a long-term strategy; trying to avoid the social tensions that will inevitably facilitate a rise in the extreme right. If Hungary had shown complacency in its management of illegal immigration by accommodating a population that it cannot integrate properly, the support to extreme right-wing parties would increase rapidly. Indeed, it is of absolute importance to prevent the proliferation of nationalist- or terror-organisations.
Without a doubt, Hungary will once again face problems in achieving consensus with the Western European political elite on the topic of immigration. One of the reasons for this difficulty lies in the connotations that the term "immigration" has in certain Western countries. For example, when a Frenchman hears the word "immigration", he thinks not only of illegal immigrants, but also of the immigrants who arrived in France decades ago, as well as their descendants. Such a definition of immigration risks entangling the problem of illegal immigration with the question of the integration of a minority already present in the country. In the case of Hungary, the discourse of Victor Orbán regarding immigration does not suffer from polysemy, but is strictly confined to illegal immigration. Thus, the Hungarian Prime Minister is able to hold a more prudent discourse by speaking more openly on the issue. For Hungary, immigration is only a source of potential problems that could lead to social tensions in the future on the contrary of sates such as France with a significant minority derived from earlier immigration, where the problem is already present.
Finally, the strict policy led by Viktor Orbán on illegal immigration does not only reveal national dangers. He also points out certain injustices of the international order. Often, rich and developed countries have an important role in developing and maintaining poor living conditions among large parts of the population in developing countries. Precisely these living conditions, marked by extreme poverty and war, drive the population to leave their homes and head for the neighbouring countries of the European continent. A large number of civil wars and coup d'états have been influenced by the international politics of major Western states. Given the fact that Hungary does not have a colonial past and in addition has less weight in international politics, it is not intellectually honest of the Western states to put the former in the centre of a blaming policy in the context of immigration and asylum.
Szilágyi Eszter Soewarni | translated by: Szilágyi Eszter Soewarni | 2015. June 19. 12:09
The policy on refugees is currently a controversial topic in Hungary. Nevertheless, Hungary has not always been this negative to welcoming migrants. Our first king, István I (Saint Stephen), emphasized the importance of diversity and hospitality as early as the first millenium. The king welcomed immigrants and foreigners, whose skills would enrich the country and could be taught to his people. Nowadays, the Hungarian Government doesn’t give a warm reception to foreigners - especially to refugees.
Hungary - in proportion to its population - receives (after Sweden) the second highest number of asylum seekers in the European Union, mostly from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán describes this fact as a problem that should be dealt with. Regarding immigration, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, said that "this problem needs to be solved outside Europe by efficiently using development funds for projects that improve living conditions, so people will not want to leave their home countries." According to the Immigration and Citizenship Office, the number of refugees arriving in Hungary during the first five months of this year exceeded 50.000 (the tendency: 2.500 registered migrants in 2012, 18.000 in 2013, 42.000 in 2014). According to estimations, less than 800 migrants arriving this year were eligible for refugee status, while the rest were classed as economic immigrants. In addition, Parliament’s Defense and Law Enforcement Committee chairman, Lajos Kósa, believes that the German, Austrian and Swiss authorities wish to apply the Dublin Regulation (a European Regulation which states the EU member States’ responsibility to examine an application for asylum seekers within the European Union). If this turns out to be the case, many of the refugees will be sent back to Hungary, further increasing the number of refugees in the country.
It seems that the Orbán Government is defending outdated values, which instead of letting us be an open-minded, adroit nation, discredit the country on the international scene. The Government supports a Christian Europe rather than a multicultural one and it declared that one of the biggest dangers of the present immigration policy is that migration may change, irreversibly, the civilizational profile of the European continent. The Government stated that everyone who comes to the country should "respect our laws and culture", and that "Hungary belongs to Hungarians". When it comes to multiculturalism, Orbán defined this "as the mixing of various civilizations and the co-existence of Islam, Asian religions and Christianity". He declared that the Government is going to do everything to make sure that Hungary escapes this, "because this co-existence in Europe doesn't work". If diversity and tolerance towards those in need (like refugees) should be the essence of the European Union, with declarations such as this, it is not surprising that Hungary is not a popular member of the Union.
The Government does everything to gain support. It has put together a so-called survey, on immigration, economic immigration and terrorism. Most of the questions are biased and support the Government’s propaganda. Therefore, many citizens chose to protest by returning empty forms.
The next step was to launch a billboard campaign with messages such as: "If you come to Hungary, you cannot take Hungarian jobs", or "If you come to Hungary, you must respect our culture". As the text was in Hungarian, it is obvious that the billboards were targeted at Hungarians, and not at the refugees. The billboards gave rise to protests and opposition from both parties and citizens - several boards were battered. To prevent further vandalism, the Government - who seems to have no lack of funds as soon as it's power is put into question - sent plain clothes officers to guard the billboards. Instead of wasting money on additional policemen for this derogatory campaign, we should ask who the real vandal is. A citizen, whose taxes are spent on propaganda and who decides to protest against it, or the people who created this mess?
Gát Ákos Bence|translated by: Maria Hviding
Szilágyi Eszter Soewarni| translated by: Szilágyi Eszter Soewarni
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