Before I tackle the subject of conspiracy theories, here’s a news item that should not be overlooked. On October 8 Pablo Gorondi of the Associated Press reported from Budapest that “troops from the European Union or NATO will be allowed to help defend Hungary’s borders due to the migrant crisis.” According to the decree that appeared in Magyar Közlöny, the Hungarian government will allow as many as 1,000 troops from EU or NATO countries to take part in a border defense operation called “Common Will.”
What on earth, I thought, is going on? Are there any plans on the part of NATO or the European Union to defend Hungarian borders as an expression of common will? Well, that is highly unlikely. No, this is a unilateral move on the part of the Orbán government after it managed to convince two of the Visegrád4 countries–the Czech Republic and Slovakia–to send a few policemen and soldiers to join the close to 5,000 Hungarian soldiers and thousands of policemen who currently patrol the borders with Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Slovakia will send 50 policemen and the Czech Republic 25 soldiers. So, before anyone falls for Viktor Orbán’s latest trick, this is the “common will” of only three recalcitrant East European countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, countries that belong to the European Union and that are members of NATO but that do not act or speak in the name of either the European Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Ever since the influx of asylum seekers Hungarians, and I think not only Hungarians, have tried to find reasons for the sudden upsurge. Hungarian public officials quite openly expressed their doubts that such an unexpected migration of so many people could happen without some central direction. There are several candidates, from the United States to ISIS.
The United States
Of course, the first suspect is the United States. The American government is pouring huge amounts of money into the project of moving millions of would-be refugees to Europe. Specifically to Hungary. The Americans, according to one theory, want to weaken the European Union, though up to now I haven’t heard one half-intelligent explanation of why the United States would want to destroy the European Union economically and politically. As for the United States in some mysterious way directing the migrant traffic to Hungary, the simple explanation is that “they hate us.” That is, Washington doesn’t like Viktor Orbán’s Christian, national government.
Lately the Hungarian extreme right’s pro-Palestinian rhetoric has subsided somewhat in light of the arrival of large numbers of Muslims who, in their opinion, threaten Christian Europe. Those who believe that Israel with the help of its powerful ally in Europe, Germany, is behind the refugee crisis maintain that it is to Israel’s advantage to get rid of as many Muslims from the area as possible. The greatest Hungarian proponent of this theory is István Lovas, who is convinced that Merkel, because of German remorse, is “overcompensating” in favor of Israel. In order to lighten the Muslim burden on Israel, Merkel is ready to take a few million Arabs from the region.
Putin is behind the migrant crisis because it is in his interest to create chaos in Europe and split the Union’s 28 member states over the issue. That’s why he has been supplying the Syrian government forces with weapons and is now intervening militarily in the Syrian conflict. As a footnote, I might add that just today the Czech minister of defense in an interview with Mladá Fronta Dnes revealed that his Hungarian counterpart, István Simicskó, told him that it is likely that Russia is underwriting part of Serbia’s expenses in connection with the migrant crisis. Russian-paid buses have delivered almost half a million refugees to the Schengen borders. The Hungarian ministry of defense, responding to the revelation, is “certain that the Czech politician misunderstood Simicskó’s words” at the meeting of EU ministers of defense on October 8.
Turkey, Iran, Arab states, ISIS
All of the above are accused by the conspiracy theorists of selfish designs. The Turks want to get rid of some of the millions of refugees residing in refugee camps in their country. Iran might be behind the exodus because the refugees are mostly Sunnis. The rich Arab states want to send the refugees to Europe in order to spread Islam. And of course, ISIS should have no objection to the migration of Muslims to Europe since it is expected that they will eventually return to fight for the cause. In addition, of course, ISIS is sending terrorists to Europe hidden among the refugees.
The more likely causes
Back in September Liz Sly wrote a cogent summary in The Washington Post of the likely causes for the sudden upsurge of so many people leaving Syria and Turkey to find asylum in the European Union. As she put it, it is “a complicated mix of war, weather and logistical considerations [that] lies behind the extraordinary influx of refugees and migrants into Europe this summer.”
One of the main causes of this influx of refugees is the escalating war in Syria. Without the Syrians, Liz Sly claims, the number of refugees would not exceed last year’s figures. In her opinion, half of those who are coming now are Syrians. Of course, one could argue that there is nothing new in that, but we must not forget that lately the Assad regime has been suffering from a serious shortage of manpower. Therefore, since the beginning of the year, the government has embarked on a drive to enlist reservists to serve in the army. Many of the young Syrian men fleeing to Europe come from government-held areas and say that they were escaping forced conscription.
Another reason for the sudden surge is Macedonia’s decision in June to lift harsh measures aimed at preventing refugees from entering the country. As a result, a safer and cheaper route from Turkey to Greece and from there through the Balkan countries to Hungary became attractive. Earlier the refugees had to take the dangerous route from Libya to Italy. With the changing route the trip itself became a great deal less expensive. From Turkey to one of the Greek islands is only a 20-minute trip. Now $2,000-$3,000 will suffice as opposed to the trip to Libya and from there to Italy, which cost between $5,000 and $6,000. So, more people can afford the trip. In addition, the refugees are taking advantage of the clement weather of the summer months.
Interestingly, while the Assad regime has been forcing young men under the age of 30 to enlist in the army, it has at the same time been making it quite easy for young men who want to avoid military service to leave the country. “This has confirmed the suspicions of many Syria watchers that Assad has deliberately encouraged the refugee flow … as part of a strategy to empty the country of potential opponents.”
Another reason for many to start their long journey to Europe is the miserable situation in which they are forced to live in Turkey. They are denied work and most of the children cannot attend school. Many of the refugees say that the main reason for heading to Europe is their children’s future.
Last but not least, there is no denying that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement that Germany would offer temporary residence to all the refugees added impetus to the exodus. Some of the people who recently left Turkey told reporters that they saw TV footage of Germans welcoming the refugees.
So, forget about conspiracy theories. In the next few months we will see whether the exodus from the Middle East will slow or not. One thing is certain: it will not be Hungary’s fence that will stop it.