The first stop in the European Union: Refugees keep arriving in Hungary

The refugees keep coming despite the fact that the Hungarian parliament passed amendments to the law on refugees, making it a great deal more stringent. The government is so eager to have this piece of legislation in place that it asked János Áder to sign it as soon as possible. It can’t, of course, solve the refugee crisis either in Hungary or elsewhere in Europe.

A headline in one of the Hungarian papers proclaimed: Leaders of the Catholic Church offer their help to the government in solving the refugee problem. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But then I read the whole article. It was the Czech Catholic Church, not the Hungarian. The latter, as far as I know, has done nothing. The same holds true for the Calvinists. The only exception is the small Hungarian Lutheran Church, which gave a modest amount of money to one of the few charitable organizations involved. And, as usual, Gábor Iványi, head of the Methodist Magyarorszáagi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség, not officially recognized as a church in Hungary, became involved.

There are charitable and kind-hearted Hungarians

Concerned citizens who find Viktor Orbán’s hate campaign against the refugees unacceptable have organized and begun collecting food and clothing for the “unfortunate people” (szerencsétlenek), as volunteers usually refer to them. The first such group was formed in Szeged, close to the Serbian border, where the refugees usually start their journey either to Debrecen or more often toward the West by train. MÁV, the Hungarian State Railways, made the refugees’ stay in Szeged difficult by locking up the waiting rooms for the night. That meant that the refugees, often with small children, had to spend the night outside, trying to sleep on the pavement. It was at this point that concerned citizens, many of them from the university with English-language skills, came to the rescue. At first there were no more than a handful of people, including a professor of medicine who is of Syrian origin, but by now hundreds are at work who have given food and clothing to those in need. The babies received diapers and the children toys.

What the refugees also need, and what the Hungarian authorities don’t provide them with, is information. After they are registered, they receive a document written only in Hungarian that allows them to board a train to one of the refugee camps. But how to get there is sometimes unclear even to the natives. For example, in Szeged the volunteers who call themselves Migráns Szolidaritás, or MigSzol, didn’t know that in order to travel from Szeged to Debrecen one has to change trains in Cegléd. Or, I heard about lost refugees who were supposed to travel to the Western Station in Budapest, but no one told them that because of renovations the station is closed and the train stops elsewhere. The result was that a group of refugees wandered around the station, not knowing where they were and how to get to their destination.

A group similar to MigSzol was formed in Cegléd. The Szeged and Cegléd groups are in constant communication. The Szeged activists phone ahead to Cegléd, telling them when the refugees will arrive, and the Cegléd group waits for them at the railroad station. These groups already have more than 2,800 members on Facebook. They have helped at least 700 people in Cegléd alone.

Amnesty International just released a report titled Europe’s borderlands: Violations against refugees and migrants in Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary which states that “refugees who make the perilous journey [via the Balkan route] are met with both violence and indifference by the authorities.” The refugees, greeted with such kindness on the part of Hungarian volunteers, are extremely grateful.

Neo-Nazis’ hate campaign against the refugees

This is the laudatory side of Hungary but, unfortunately, there are many who loathe the refugees, especially since the prime minister has for months been inciting hatred and fear of the refugees and has repeated time and again that he will defend the country from these intruders.

On Sunday night Jobbik organized a demonstration near the Debrecen refugee camp where Gergely Kulcsár, a Jobbik MP, spoke. As a reminder, it was Gergely Kulcsár who spat on the shoes placed on the bank of the Danube in memory of those Hungarian Jews who were shot and thrown into the Danube in late 1944. Although the demonstration was peaceful, according to one journalist who was present, right after the singing of the national anthem a few people complained loudly about the “black apes” inside the camp.

In Szeged 50 or 60 members of another neo-Nazi organization called the Army of Outlaws (Betyársereg) decided to put the fear of God into those civilians and refugees who are staying around the railroad station. I wrote about this group in 2011. Fortunately, in Szeged, unlike in Cegléd, the policemen guard both the refugees and the activists 24/7. Since there were about as many policemen as outlaws, nothing serious happened although, according to the report, the situation was tense for a while. The Szeged group has been in existence only for eight days, but there have already been three incidents around the railroad station.

Members of the Army of Outlaws arrived in Szeged

Members of the Army of Outlaws arrived in Szeged

The policemen cannot be everywhere, and in one of the villages along the border there is a young mayor, László Toroczkai, who is doing his best to stir up sentiment against the refugees. Toroczkai’s career began in MIÉP, an anti-Semitic far-right group, in 1998, but on the side he also organized a paramilitary organization, Special Unit of the Sons of the Crown, and later the Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (HIVM/Youth Movement of the Sixty-four Counties), a reference to Greater Hungary’s counties. Because of the irredentist propaganda he conducted in Serbia and Romania he has been banned by both countries. In 2013 he was elected mayor of Ásotthalma in a by-election. I wrote a post about Toroczkai’s career, from the siege of the television station where he was one of the leaders of the football hooligans to the mayoralty.

Toroczkai is now in his element. He seems to know English because I’ve encountered him in several foreign-language articles as someone who informs journalists about the situation along the border. He is also busy on Facebook, where he writes not always truthful stories about the alleged atrocities committed by the refugees. One of his posts on Facebook described a situation in which a group of migrants sat down under a tree on the property of a farmer. According to Toroczkai, the mother who was alone in the house with two small children asked them to leave but they refused. An incredible number of hateful comments appeared immediately after Toroczkai’s short description of the alleged encounter. A reporter for a local paper visited the farmer’s wife, and it turned out that the family actually gave the refugees food and water who then peacefully settled in the shade of the tree and waited peacefully for the police to arrive.

And the “experts” in service of the government

But there are more dangerous propagandists who can influence public opinion through the media. One is György Nógrádi, a university professor and an expert on national security matters. He is a great supporter of a fence or a wall. He gives dozens of interviews and is the favorite man of the state radio and television stations. Even the liberal ATV made the mistake of inviting this windbag for a so-called conversation with another expert on national security.

Then there is László Földi, a former intelligence officer, who poses as an “expert on the secret service.” He is certain that the present refugee crisis is actually part of a war between the Islamic State and civilized Europe. In his opinion the leaders of IS want to conquer and convert the entire world. Their first move is to invade Europe. “This is war,” which can be handled only by warlike methods. This nonsense was uttered on, of all places, Olga Kálmán’s “Egyenes beszéd” (Straight Talk). Kálmán, looking grave, kept nodding. Mind you, Földi was also certain that last fall’s demonstrations were organized by the CIA to overthrow Viktor Orbán’s government.

People like Nógrádi and Földi are more dangerous by virtue of being “experts” in their chosen fields. I’m greatly disappointed in ATV, which gave a platform to these hatemongers.

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Geza Kmetty
Guest

I was a refugee in 1956 from Hungary to Austria.The Austrians were generous and welcomed us immediately, even before the international support arrived. I am ashamed how some Hungarians react to the miserable Middle Eastern refugees. Shame…shame…shame on Orban and the Jobbik and the Hungarian neo-naczi extremist thugs. What a shameful performance by a “Christian” ?? Nation!!???.
This is just another nail in the coffin of Hungary’s International reputation..

Sandor
Guest

Ez már jóval több egy szimpla menekült kérdésnél. Európát képesek átformálni többségükkel. Nekünk nem kell a 21. század Amerikája itt Európába.

exTor
Guest

Ez rasszista !!!

MAGYARKOZÓ

Webber
Guest

Ne féljen! Önöknek még a 20. század Amerikája sem lesz Magyarországon.

mold
Guest
@Webber Good, the point is Europe is not the US and people are, rightly or wrongly, concerned with the changes around them. Europe does not ever want to be like the US and Europeans don’t want to become Americans. There’s no problem with that. The FT ran two good long articles based on an OSI research on the white European working class (by Simon Kuper if I recall correctly). Orban is using out, as always, existing problems which the European political elite have failed to solve. In the US immigrants assimilate, in Europe the non-white immigrants rarely do (actually I think that the blacks, Africans assimilate better, but many people from Islamic North Africa and Middle-East essentially refuse to). That’s an issue that has to be dealt with but nobody from the mainstream have, thereby ceding the field to people with no inhibitions such as Orban (Habony, Finkelstein etc.). Should Hungary’s economic situation worsen, and I see signs (budget deficit, fx currency reserves, industrial production is weak etc.) then Orban will surely escalate, be a kind of right wing Syriza (only more effective and more dictatorial, more like Golden Dawn). But since the centre Left abandoned the economic field entirely,… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Mold: Just FYI, Americans don’t want Europe to be like the U.S. either.
The Europe-vs-America dichotomy is so idiotic that I wasn’t even thinking of it.
Instead, I was thinking of Hungary’s – just Hungary’s – economic prospects.

Led
Guest

But Sandor, I believe, did not. He probably meant, in line with the topic of the post, the immigration situation.

Webber
Guest

Look again at what Sandor was replying to, and how (the comment above his)
My sarcastic words were directed at his bizarre, indeed foolish comment – “We don’t need 21st century America here in Europe.”
For those who don’t speak Hungarian, my response was “Don’t worry. You won’t even get 20th century America in Hungary.”
(speaking for all of Europe I will not do)

exTor
Guest
I’m not sure that Webber said what you think (or want to believe) he said, mold. I like your post, BTW. Thoughtful. I wish you’d looze your moniker [‘mold’] however, unless you like the irony of selfdeprecation. Every immigrant group accommodates itself to the dominant culture. The accommodation/assimilation is ultimately done on an individual basis. The use of the example of the US counterpositioned to Europe is a false dichotomy. What happens in the States is the same –ultimately– as what happens in Europe. People fit in as best they can. The difference between Europe and the US is that in Europe there are some who say that there’s a difference between the US and Europe regarding immigrants. From the perspective of immigrants, there is no difference. From the perspective of the new hosts, there is much different. Notwithstanding the fact that in North America many Muslims are getting a rough ride (and have been for a couple of decades), here in Europe it’s tougher being Muslim. Whatever it’s like in Western Europe, it’s worse in Central Europe. If you stand out [read: if you are nonwhite] then you have a tougher time in places like Hungary where the government… Read more »
Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

An ethnic group where individualism takes precedence over group welfare, may not be exemplary in treating the influx of large number of strangers. This year an estimated 40,000 have already made it to Hungary. At least they were not sent back to where they came from as some other countries practice it. Even a country founded by refugees, Israel, according to press reports does not admit African refugees and as the NYT detailed on June 30th, it plans to build more fences to keep ‘others’ out. Similarly, the U.S. is doing the same across its southern border.

The refugee problem is serious and needs to be addressed by the major powers and not left to small countries, with limited resources, and situated on the borders of areas desirable for refugees, to solve.

tappanch
Guest

Although Israel does have a fence on the Egyptian border since December 2013,
let me point out the differences.

Israel has about 60,000 illegal African immigrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan.
While practically all illegal immigrants in Hungary would like to reach other countries like Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the UK, they do not want to stay in Hungary, the immigrants in Israel would not like to leave for Syria, Lebanon or Uganda.

The fence also slows down the inflow of drugs and terrorists. There is an actual war going on between the Egyptian army and Da’esh affiliated groups meters from the fence.

According to the plans, the Hungarian government will spend 25 billion forints, i.e. $0.6 million/km on the fence. (The Israeli goverment spent about $1.1 million/km on a much more difficult terrain)

Guest

Yes it is a serious situation. And of course all of Europe is not handling the problem very well. In any case , this is in the Magyar Constitution:

“We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence, and that our fundamental cohesive values are fidelity, faith, and love.”

Pretty high-minded and a far-reaching ideal in a ‘Christian’ nation. Hungary is supposed to be a country that strives for human dignity. So it is very jarring to see some of the heartless and hateful positions taken against the refugees. And the Church from the looks of things is simply disinterested. They must be sleeping on all that ‘moral’ stuff when it comes to the human family.

Hungary is a very interesting country. Her ‘ideals’ are great ‘on paper’ but she does everything to disabuse everyone of the notion that she really means what she says. It’s like pap for the masses to make them think they’re achieving something good but at bottom all it sows are seeds of hate in that small country.

petofi
Guest

“I’m greatly disappointed in ATV, which gave a platform to these hatemongers.”

What’s the surprise? Olga has for at least the last two years made her program increasingly available to Fideszniks.

She’s sold out a long time ago.

Olga’s little more than an entertainer. Did you see her with Bauer Tamas last night? She kept trying to cut in. When Bauer plowed on, then she finally shut up. When he finished, she curtly ended the interview. Laughable.

del
Guest

That anybody still listens to Laszlo Földi is an absurd joke. I’m sure ATV could invite others as well, but there is a reason why they do that.

Nógrádi and Földi have been reliably pro-Fidesz people and are from the security establishment (both starting out originally as communist spies) and in these days it seems ATV and its owners need to be on good terms with these people.

On the other hand it’s totally normal practice even in the US morning shows to invite hate-monger “experts” (mouthpieces of the government who speak no relevant Middle-Eastern language but sell themselves as Arab experts for example) who assure the American viewers about the imminent threat of the Khorasan group (anybody still remembers them?) or whatever.

The government effectively controls the media and the media is subservient to the government and this includes ATV and the Hit Gyüli which – if you didn’t know – is fervently anti-gay and anti-Islam and thus could found a common ground with Fidesz opposing dirty and poor people from the Middle-East.

David Sade
Guest

Again, all those people quoting the tens of thousands of refugees coming to Hungary… They are PASSING THROUGH, not staying… There is a difference, and mainly because they are only putting a relatively minor burden on the Hungarian state and the Hungarian citizens (if at all…). Congratulations to those decent souls and organisations that have the heart and the will to help those refugees..

Nádas
Guest

More precisely, those migrants WANT to pass through Hungary to Austria, Germany, Sweden and so on, but are legally prevented from doing so under the rules of their temporary refugee status – at least those who are apprehended by Hungarian law enforcement. They are interned inside Hungary (in Bicske and Debrecen) but are allowed a certain freedom of movement within the country. The Austrians return migrants they catch at their border with Hungary, and German police patrol the Keleti station in Budapest around departure times of trains bound for Vienna and Munich.

This is a European problem that is still waiting for a European solution.

apparatchik
Guest
The immigration issue is a real European issue-problem. It’s one thing that in Hungary it’s only a rubber bone on which the media and people can chew on meanwhile forgetting about the corruption and lack of jobs, but there are indeed many immigrants in Europe who wouldn’t assimilate and there is an increasing resentment. It may not be rational, but there is. However, the EU and its governments simply pretend as though there was no problem at all. Same with the Greek debt. Greece indeed committed fraud forging its statistics, avoided for the longest time any rational reforms, it’s indeed a thoroughly corrupt captured state. But it’s insane to pretend that Greece could ever repay its debt even after a huge haircut. The Greek state should reform (in Greece, having been a member of the EU for decades, still to this day there exists no (!) reliable real estate register which Hungary has had for over a 100 years) obviously, but pretending that with more restrictions and cuts they could repay the amassed debt is idiocy. However, doing otherwise would make it obvious that the debt situation of half (of more) of Europe is completely unsustainable. There is no way… Read more »
LwiiH
Guest

You can thank the Austrians that there is a registry in Hungary. 🙂 On a better note, there are new blue billboards popping up all over the place. I noticed the first one on Monday. It say, Welcome to Hungary, closed on Sunday. The next one I saw was on the main road to the airport and that was, “Sorry for our Prime Minister”. But the best was closer to the airport. It read, “Come to Hungary, we got jobs in London”.

On a darker side, I think that the control of the media has made us believe the opposition maybe more incompetent than they are. And, they will be very incompetent as long as we see it that way.

Jubelee
Guest
LwiiH: but controlling/influencing/owning the media is itself a core competence of any potential opposition hoping to overtake the Orban-Fidesz-Habony-Századvég mafia. Orban and Fidesz – even prior to 2010 – controlled even the state media (yes, from opposition, gaining influence through smartly gaming the then-existing system and entrenching their loyalists into editorial positions) and influenced private media in various ways. Plus they set up Hír TV and a host of other media outlets — all from opposition. They are currently taking over the internet. They could do it because they wanted the media power and thought that the media was a strategic issue, there was no mercy and they were relentless. They succeeded. The lack of ideas, strategy, aptitude, even a clue about the media (and its significance such as gaining ever more comprehensive user data about your internet readers/customers) within leftist opposition circles is truly astonishing. Their amateurism is very real (I stumbled upon a group who organized a rather big demonstration early this year, or late last year — and they were like children who had manifestly no chance of surviving against the Finkelstein/Habony media machinery) and the state they are in is actually worse than what you think.… Read more »
Csabi
Guest

Sure, half of this money is stolen again and it’s paid by taxpayers. But these governmental information campaigns (this new one about why the Hungarian “reforms” succeeded and why it was good that Hungary in 2010 chose its “own path”), together, slowly but surely work on the minds of Hungarians.

The left-wing always underestimated the importance of media and propaganda.

Orban just like Putin knew better and no surprise that they are – after all these years – still here with us, popular and powerful.

Liberals also reliably underestimate the resilience of dictatorships (I guess because they desperately want to prove that democracies are better, probably, but also much-much weaker).

http://444.hu/2015/07/08/ujabb-600-millio-forint-kozpenzt-dobunk-ki-hazudozasra-es-kormanypropagandara/

exTor
Guest

[I oopsed and mistakenly added this to yesterday’s posts.]

http://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-foreign-desk/78/play

Just listened to an English-language half-hour radio show entitled Orbán’s Hungary broadcast by Monocle Radio [out of London, England] and picked up by CBC [Toronto].

Hungarians Ágnes Kövér and Péter Krekó provided opinions re Fidesz and Jobbik. Additionally, George Szirtes, who translated Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, provides his view that the allegorical debut novel can be read “without any great effort” with the current Fideszed Hungary in mind.

Each interviewee [ÁK & PK] is pessimistic –Kövér moreso– about Hungary’s prospects in the coming decade, about the likelihood of undoing Orbán’s damage to the nation. Sobering thoughts about what may be for Hungary.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Laszlo Sipos
Guest

Thanks for mentioning ATV.I am a loyal supporter,but lately it has been hard to stomach the guests you mentioned along with others who try to browbeat Olga into agreeing with them.Why they need to have these guys (almost always men) on is beyond me.Lately along with Fidesz people there are more and more Jobbik supporters on her show.They are rude and insulting to her.
I have written emails which they never answer and when I met her at a book event asked her why this is happening.She said that many people are involved with the station and it is not just up to her to decide who should be on her show.This is the only objective TV station left here,even though they now broadcast The 700 Club too as if the state channels,EchoTV and HIR TV don’t promote the right-wing enough.Oh,and now FOX has also arrived !

pamplona
Guest

OT:

Just like the HaHa (search google if you wanna what that was) students, the young leftist activists who organized the anti Net tax demonstrations last fall are slowly but surely giving it up, disappearing citing other important obligations. Never trust the leftists and liberals, they would do anything before uniting and acting with discipline.

http://www.hir24.hu/belfold/2015/07/08/otthagyja-az-orban-ellenes-civieleket-gulyas-balazs/

Tyrker
Guest

For the majority of refugees, especially the Asians, Hungary is not the first stop in the EU.

They usually first set foot on European soil in Greece or Bulgaria.

However, as those countries have no proper refugee registries, Hungary ends up being the first stop on paper.

LwwiH
Guest

Politics.hu reports that they were bing attacked by Russians. I wonder why Russians would be so interested in politics.hu

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