Hungarian Mishaps and Other Misfortunes

Tangled Barbed Wire
Creative Commons

Hungary has been a maverick country in recent years. The state’s government has been fighting the EU on several fronts, such as regulations, the new constitution of Hungary and its amendments. Recently, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that we should consider opening up the debate on reinstating the death penalty. Currently, Hungary is also on a witch-hunt against immigrants. All in all, it isn’t going so well…

The number of people fleeing wars and catastrophes and seeking refuge in the EU is drastically rising. So far more than 50 thousand people crossed the Hungarian border illegally, already exceeding last year’s estimations. However, Hungary is in most cases only a transit country – immigrants usually use it as a passage to reach Western Europe. What’s even more worrying is that this desire to travel West is true for many Hungarian citizens as well. They don’t want to stay in Hungary anymore. They hanker after Western Europe. They seem to have lost hope, constantly struggling with finding well-payed jobs and fed up with the illiberal government and the even worse far-right party that is likely to take reign in the near future.

Many of the Hungarians remaining in the country are welcoming the government’s maverick politics and strict stance against immigration as they fear that the “dirty” immigrants will “take our jobs” and “rape our daughters” – as recent populist government campaigns were happy to suggest. Let’s remember that a strongly anti-immigrant rhetoric that often depicts immigrants as filthy, disease-ridden criminals is openly entertained by the ruling party – Fidesz spent 970000 Euros from the taxpayers’ money to produce a little over 300 posters with xenophobic slogans (as “If you come to Hungary, you must not take the jobs of Hungarians”) .

On the other hand, a joke party managed to raise a bit more than 10% of what the government had spent for its campaign and produced 500 posters of their own, with satirical texts, ridiculing the policies of Fidesz. The fact that a joke party managed to produce more posters for a portion of the costs shows the extent of the corruption in the country. Needless to say, the government did not have an open application call for the production, but gave the job to its cronies.

Fidesz is already the target of a lot of criticism both international and domestic. Over a year ago, Prime Minister Orbán declared that he is building an illiberal state modeled on Russia, a country which he venerates. The admiration of Putin and the distrust of the USA and the EU lead to the so-called Eastern Opening, a policy whereby Hungary opens towards the East rather than the West.

Topping the recent controversies, the government started building a fence on the border with Serbia to ward the immigrants off. The construction, stretching over 170 kilometers, is a new arrow in the government’s quiver of demagoguery. Costing a huge amount of money, a chunk of which will probably end up stuffing pockets of some other cronies.

The fence is being built 25 meters from the actual border line, on Hungarian territory, so anyone who faces this obstacle is already in the country and can thus apply for refugee status. Regardless of this blunder, in order for the fence to be any noteworthy physical barrier it must be guarded at all time otherwise people would climb it over, dig under or just cut through it without greater difficulty. Either way, the anti-migrant fence is bound to eventually end up in total disrepair or continue to cost taxpayers a lot in order to maintain it.

All that the fence will do is manifest Hungary’s separation from Europe. People should welcome immigrants as not only they do not “take our jobs”, they are often the ones responsible for creating them. The solution to the problem of immigration is not building our own walls to stop the migration but helping the people who are running away from their homelands to restore them (this applies to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and so on). Europe should be a welcoming place that celebrates diversity and finds great pride in the fact that many individuals chose this continent as their home and want to embrace its values. Let’s hope these long-standing values will prevail.

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