The Hungarian government’s shameful treatment of asylum seekers

On Sunday, March 5, 2017, a report from Belgrade was published in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. It claimed that refugees “with visible traces of Hungary’s brutal policies” had told the Swedish journalist about severe beatings with batons by Hungarian policeman. The officers also used attack dogs. Their stories were confirmed by Andrea Contenta of Doctors Without Borders. According to him, the number of incidents has multiplied of late. There was at least one day when 20 people needed medical attention. One of the asylum seekers ended up into the emergency room of the nearby hospital. Accompanying the story were photos of the men with visible wounds and bruises.

In no time all the major newspapers of Europe and the United States picked up Aftonbladet’s story, which was followed by a worldwide condemnation of the Hungarian government’s treatment of asylum seekers. A day later the Hungarian ministry of interior released a statement that Magyar Nemzet described as an “ill-tempered personal attack.” In it, the ministry “categorically repudiated the unproven accusations that appeared in the international and domestic media” leveled against the Hungarian government. The ministry called attention to the fact that such accusations usually occur when “Hungary is forced, in the defense of the European Union and its own citizens, to strengthen its borders.” The press release also noted that Doctors Without Borders is supported by George Soros. As for the few possible incidents, Hungarian prosecutors have already investigated eight cases, six of which turned out to be bogus. The denial of these reports continued today when Zoltán Kovács, a government spokesman, declared that the report of Doctors Without Borders is nothing more than a pack of lies.

But that was not all. On March 7, two days after the Swedish newspaper story, the Hungarian parliament passed a new piece of legislation that will force all asylum seekers into detention camps. UPI’s report specifically recounted that “although [the law] was fiercely criticized after its submission last month, the legislation won near-unanimous approval … by a vote of 138-6.” This lopsided vote was the result of the abstention of MSZP members of parliament, a sign of their usual ambivalence when it comes to the migrant issue. While their cases are being decided, asylum seekers, including women and children over the age of 14, will be herded into shipping containers surrounded by a high razor-fence on the Hungarian side. These camps will be wide open on the Serbian side. Therefore, Hungarian government officials can declare with some justification that the people inside these camps are not incarcerated; they just can’t step onto Hungarian soil.

On the very same day that Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik members of parliament voted for the bill that was to receive worldwide opprobrium, Viktor Orbán delivered a short speech at the swearing-in ceremony of 462 new “border hunters.” In the speech he called the new recruits’ job a “calling” in “the service of the country and the defense of the Hungarian people.” He pointed out that even if there is at the moment no migrant pressure at the borders of Europe, Hungary must be prepared for repeated onslaughts of migrants. It is for that reason that the Hungarian government will build a new fence which, according to some reports, might be attached to a source of low-voltage electricity. He described “migration as a Trojan horse of terrorism,” which assumes that all migrants are potential terrorists. Or perhaps one could go even further and interpret this sentence as akin to the contention of those American Islamophobes who say that Islam is not really a religion but rather an ideology of terrorism.

Another memorable Orbán line from this speech addressed the dichotomy between human rights and the law. Those migrants who cross Hungary’s border break the law. “This is reality which cannot be overwritten by all that rarified claptrap about human rights.” Orbán certainly doesn’t beat around the bush. Human rights are not something he worries or cares about. In fact, he is ready to transgress them in the name of “reality.”

A day later Magyar Nemzet reported that Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, expressed his “deep concern” over the detention of asylum seekers in guarded camps which, in his opinion, violates the obligations spelled out in the European Convention of Human Rights. And he is not alone. Two rapporteurs of the Council, Tineke Strik and Doris Fiala, asked János Áder to refuse to countersign this new law that most likely is in violation of international agreements. Zeid bin Ra’ad al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, considers it “a far cry from international norms” and recommends its withdrawal.

As far as the European Commission is concerned, there seems to be a shift in its position toward this latest outrage. At first Margaritis Schinas, the chief spokesperson of the Commission, informed inquiring journalists that the Commission would not make a statement now but would wait until the law comes into effect. A day later, however, another spokesperson, Natasha Bertaud, told Népszava’s correspondent in Brussels that Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration, will be dispatched to Budapest “to conduct serious negotiations with the Hungarian authorities about the amendments to the Asylum Act.”

By now I don’t have much hope that any international organization, be it the United Nations, the Council of Europe, or the European Commission, will be able to influence Hungarian policies either on the migrant question or on the transgression of democratic norms. Here and there one can hear from European politicians that the Hungarian government’s behavior should at least have financial consequences, but so far Brussels has been unwilling to punish Hungary for the actions of its government.

There are times when Viktor Orbán, despite all his bluster, quietly falls into line. Like today, when he cast his vote for the reelection of Donald Tusk as president of the European Council. Orbán abandoned his best friend and comrade Jarosław Kaczyński and voted for “the icon of immorality and stupidity,” as the Polish foreign minister called Donald Tusk. There are steps which even Orbán is reluctant to take.

March 9, 2017
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Member

” ‘the legislation won near-unanimous approval … by a vote of 138-6.’ This lopsided vote was the result of the abstention of MSZP members of parliament, a sign of their usual ambivalence when it comes to the migrant issue.”

Hungary is not worth saving.

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Grant Boyd-Gibbins
Guest
Utterly perplexing. The attitude towards assylum seekers was stoked by the poster campaign in 2015, but it wasn’t derived from it entirely. There is a degree of xenophobia which so widespread that it’s an easy button for the ruler to hit again and again, simultaneously raising his domestic popularity. As someone who tried (in a trivial way, in the overall scheme of things) to help the migrants on the hard journey from war to safety and a better future, and considering the demographics and skill shortages that Europe, and particularly CEE, face, it’s a damn shame that nobody with the public’s ear has assumed the role of explaining the benefits of diversity and immigration to the sadly ignorant and abandoned poor of Hungary. The tragedy is that the country so much needs to learn so much, and a good leader could do so much to illuminate the masses, but there is no sign of a likely change next year, and the country will continue along the same trajectory to irrelevance and deepening poverty. But here’s the thing I just cannot understand: the ruler is a clever enough man to know what he should do to benefit his homeland in the… Read more »
Guest

“Why wouldn’t he want to make a name for himself as a great and compassionate leader?”

This is the $64.000.000.000 question.

Member

“Compassionate” is not a big seller in the Hungarian poltiical market. Off the top of my head, Matyas Kiraly is the only great leader I can think of whose reputation fits the bill.

The big vote-getters are pettiness, one-upmanship, and stoking fears buried deep in the Hungarian psyche. This kind of thing is certainly not unique to Hungary – Donald Trump is successfully using this formula, for example.

What is interesting is the ability of people like Trump, Orban and their minions to sustain support using tit-for-tat taunts that would be too immature for the average playground bully. When Fidesz caucus leader Lajos Kosa delivers his august statements in Parliament, there is always a gaggle of smirking yes-men sitting behind him. Peter Szijjarto used to be the smirker in chief; now that he’s at the Foreign Ministry, the position has been taken over by Gergely Gulyas. Many Hungarian voters respond positiviely to this kind of behavior; in most mature democracies, it would be fodder for late-night comedy shows.

So – compassion has no place in this kind of polity. Where’s my $64 billion?

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘Hungary not worth saving’

A picture is a thousand words.

The bent mentality that gave impetus to the image is twisted but yet it shows how close and sync in with another one.
One which has been repudiated our civilization today. But there are always places where ‘roots’ still show the potential for certain amoral behavior.

Here a client of a slave trader notes in his letter an individual who is in a work house and ‘for sale’. He also wishes to work in the client’s mills:

‘Will you please ascertain whether it is so and what the fellows habits are and best terms on which he can be purchased and obliged?’

Ferenc
Guest

for becoming a “compassionate leader” one needs to have a least a little bit of compassion!!

on a compassion scale (0-10) I rate OV: ZERO (or even less)

e-1956
Guest

Hungarians are compassionate.
The great leaders are numerous: Many kings, and the peak was reached in 1800s.
The policies and PERSONAL charisma of Ferenc Deak have produces real Enlightenment in art, science, culture.
This can make every Hungarian proud.
Orban’s act is an import. Completely rejected by 99%.

Ferenc
Guest

“completely rejected by 99%”
Really, so why Orban got ca.44% of the votes in 2014 and still 98%, oh sorry correction ca.40%, in last year’s referendum?

PS: looking forward for the day when your 99% will be real

Observer
Guest

e-1956

Everything is almost exactly the opposite of your claim, save for Deak and the progressive era of inclusive political culture in the second half 19th century ( which did not last long though).
Orban is the product of exactly this deeply complexed, provincial and prejudiced strata that produces the worst wannabes who would turn with any wind and trample on anyone to achieve some perceived recognition and glory.
From personal experience I find the Hungarians the most anti social people in Europe, although I don’t know all groups e.g. the Retro Romans, the Sami, etc.

pappp
Guest

“Why wouldn’t he want to make a name for himself as a great and compassionate leader?”

It’s very simple. Most Hungarians just hate and/or fear the “migráncsok” – though admittedly this is partly the result of Orban’s propaganda.

I talked to quite a few people lately and most of them simply don’t want any brown-skinned (Islamic) people anywhere near them. Period.

No Hungarian politician can appear as a compassionate leader re the refugees because it’s political suicide in Hungary.

Orban is socially conservative, anti-Islam and is unabashedly populist – his stance on the refugees is in line with his personality and politics. There’s no surprise in this.

Member

“Why wouldn’t [Orban] want to make a name for himself as a great and compassionate leader?”

Because he is a petty, corrupt, megalomanic psychopath –and not too bright: just has a knack for resonating with the lowest common denominator in Hungarian “culture.” Trump fits the same description, but he can only resonate with the deplorables, who in the U.S. make up only at most half the population. So in the U.S. there will be push-back. In Hungary (with MSzP abstaining on immirgration), forget it: The deplorables predominate in both the Cis- and Transdanubian depths of of the Carpathian Basement.

But as the Keleti Station Crisis showed, there are some decents too. It would be for them, and them alone, that Hungary would be worth saving.

Ferenc
Guest

Here’s the English translation of the Swedish article referred to in the post http://budapestsentinel.com/articles/hungarian-police-accused-of-beating-torturing-refugees/

The question: does Hungarians and Europeans accept their borders to be “protected” with usage of mentioned methods?

Istvan
Guest
I guess there is no reason for Eva or myself as American Hungarians to critique Hungary’s treatment of refugees. The USA is now fully part of the same club, virtually every US immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) detention facility is operating at capacity while carrying out expedited expulsions. Here is a link to a pretty liberal article on our expansion of ICE detentions here http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/02/trumps-immigration-detention-center-expansion It is factually correct. The difference between being locked up in Hungarian shipping container and our overcrowded ICE detention centers is becoming a matter of relative deprivation. Here in the Chicago area the primary ICE detention facility in Broadview Illinois is overwhelmed and it is now contracting with a county prison in central Illinois to store additional undocumented aliens. ICE is now arresting Polish construction workers who are illegally working using visitor visas and it has created a labor crisis for smaller contractors in Chicago. The Pew Research Center estimated that 475,000 unauthorized immigrants live in Illinois with most in the Chicago metro area. This puts Illinois among the top 10 states in terms of large immigrant populations. Only New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and California have higher numbers. It is estimated that about… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Istvan,

I guess there is a sound reason for Eva, you or any civilized person to vehemently criticize the disgusting treatment of the migrants by the Orban regime.
My anti mass immigration views notwithstanding, one cannot treat people like this, even convicted criminals are treated much better in Europe. Appropriate and measured action is the keyword, instead these people are used mainly as a ball to kick around in the domestic political game, never mind their suffering, injuries or death.

bimbi
Guest

Bernie Sanders is reported in the Guardian as having made a very strong speech criticizing Trump:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/10/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-lies-democracy

Why is that relevant here? Well, in just about every place, you can cross out “Trump” and write “Orban” instead. The methods are the same. Our guy just got a seven-year lead. Voters in Hungary should hang their heads in shame:

Fool me once, shame on him, fool me twice, shame on me!

TKT
Guest

Is this website financed by George Soros?

Member

Further descent into the depth of the vent of tyranny:

Police banned a demonstration where people wanted to whistle during Orban’s speech (far from Orban’s ears) on March 15 [1848 revolution day]

Everybody knows the ban is [still] unlawful, but it will be the end of March by the time the courts rule on the case.

https://444.hu/2017/03/09/a-rendorseg-nem-csak-a-sipolast-de-a-siposztast-is-megtiltotta-az-egyutt-nek-orban-beszede-alatt

Member

Orban’s son-in-law will probably “buy” Mr Pharaon’s castle in Hungary. Pharaon left Hungary around November 1, 2016. The fugitive terrorist financier, who had excellent relationship with Orban & his family in recent years, allegedly died in Lebanon in January 2017.

https://444.hu/2017/03/10/a-helyiek-szerint-a-tiborcz-orban-csalade-lesz-pharaon-egykori-seregelyesi-kastelya

Guest

Is this just a coincidence – am I the only one who finds this suspicious?

After all that’s happened around this guy and his Hungarian business associates …

Member

Pharaon is 76 1/2 years old, so he can be dead or alive. The timing of his death or “death” is definitely suspicious.

Member

The Pharaon – Orban [Tiborcz] – Erdogan [Polat] web in October 2016:

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http://magyarnarancs.hu/belpol/a-szaudi-szomszed-101257

Member

Another article:
https://444.hu/2016/11/24/orbanek-amerikai-csapdaba-setalhattak-bele-amikor-beengedtek-pharaont-magyarorszagra

According to these articles, Pharaon was also connected to the Saudi secret services, the CIA, and US presidents Carter, Bush Sr & Jr.

pappp
Guest

You misunderstand tappanch, the castle has always been Orban’s. There was never any doubt about it.

Pharaon was always just a Strohmann. Pharaon could invest (invest the money of his investors) in Hungarian real estate with the understanding that in due course the portfolio was going to be repurchased at a higher price. Basically Phararon took no financial risk because his job was anyway just to own the properties on paper until Orban’s family could take them over.

Orban uses many fronts (basically everybody who receives state/EU monies has to be ready to act as a front for Orban), he can’t always use Mészáros.

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