The Misleading Propaganda of the Anti-Migrant and Anti-EU Campaign in Hungary


The results of the upcoming referendum in Hungary regarding the resettlement of migrants will not be much of a surprise. The surveys conducted by Hungarian pollsters unanimously show that Hungarians will mostly vote “no” for the question: “Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the compulsory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary, without the approval of the National Assembly?”. But why are Hungarians so much against the refugees, and against the resettlement of them – or, as they say, “The Quota”?

The government of Hungary spent the last few years informing the people with flyers, political surveys and billboards, that the “illegal immigration” is becoming a bigger problem day to day. During this process, lots of misleading or simply incorrect facts came out, not only abut the migrants, but even about the EU itself. On one of the billboards they say that “Brussels makes us” to take care of a city-worth of immigrants. Nevertheless, it is only a small piece of the whole puzzle.

In the past few years, Viktor Orbán’s government sent the people five political surveys with questions on current issues. These were the so-called National Consultations. In 2012, before sending out the surveys about Hungary’s new constitution Orbán said that in his opinion, a National Consultation is much better than a referendum, because in a referendum people have to say “yes” or “no” to a 40 pages long document they might have not read at all, but with a National Consultation they can choose their opinion about 12-13 important issues.

In 2015, a National Consultation was held in Hungary about the migrant crisis, in which the refugees were referred to as “illegal immigrants”, or “subsistence immigrants”. Moreover, the survey connected the question of migrants to terrorism. Before the returning deadline of the National Consultation, during conferences, lectures and in the media, politicians and invited professors talked about the migrants, and the topics were for example: “What kind of venereal and/or terminal diseases do the migrants have?”. The other important issue in the national consultation was the EU’s policies. As an attachment to the survey, there was a letter from Orbán, in which he said that the complacency policies of Brussels have failed, and this policies have partly caused the migrant crisis. Furthermore, there occurred also questions about the Hungarian border protection and control. The government built a fence on the borders of Hungary, saying that Hungary and Europe need protection from the migrants. As far as I am concerned, there is a basic error in their reasoning: The issue of defending borders and the issue of seeking asylum are two separate matters.

In 2016, the Hungarian government launched a website about the quota, which says that there are more than 900 “no-go zones” in Europe. These zones are the districts of cities, which the authorities are not able to control because of the migrants. According to their sources, 751 of these zones are in France (but they listed even a zone in Berlin). Some Hungarian journalists questioned their sources and actually went to some of these “zones” and they have seen that in some of them there is nothing to worry about. On the government’s site, there are other statements about the migration, for example, “The Compulsory Resettlement Quota Increases Terror Risk” and “The Compulsory Resettlement Quota Threatens Our Culture”.

In the summer of 2016, when the propaganda of the referendum began, the billboards in Hungary switched their colors to blue. Out of €10m financed by the government, there are thousands of light blue “Did you know?” informational posters in the country with “facts” such as “Migrants are responsible for the assassinations in Paris” or “The number of harassment cases against women has been dynamically growing in Europe since the immigrant crisis”.

The Hungarian government often uses this method to show their opinion on billboards, but this time on some of them, they simply lied. There is a poster saying that Brussels makes us to take care of a city-worth of immigrants. A Hungarian satirical party, called the Two-Tailed Dog Party has raised €100,000 from their sympathisers and has responded with a satirical poster campaign. One of their posters says: “NO Brussels makes us to take care of NOT a city-worth of NOT illegal immigrants” or “Brussels is a city” or “If you repeat something a lot, it will seem right” ten times on one poster.

On the top of all that, in the last days, the government has started to distribute 18 pages-long “flyers” about the referendum. These small booklets containing statements, such as “Brussels will fine the countries €252,000 per one non-received migrant, but gives only a €460 per Hungarian for funding developments yearly”. The estimated costs of the flyers are €387,000. The flyers’ structure ia well-organised – for example, the title of a page is “Europe can’t protect its borders” and the title of the next is “Hungary protects its borders”. Moreover, other facts and information are mentioned in these flyers such as no-go zones and terrorist attacks, so basically nothing new.

In conclusion, we can establish that the Hungarian anti-EU and anti-migrant propaganda is living its golden age but we must acknowledge the fact that it has deeper roots. In the past few years, we were bombarded with shocking facts about terrorism, the refugees and the EU. As a result, it would not be surprising if the referendum would be an unanimous “no”. The opposition criticised the referendum, because even if the “no” answers win, it will not necessarily engage the government to create a norm about this. However, it can be used in the future as the mandate of a norm about something similar, which had already happened with the National Consultations.

Kornel Nemeth
Free Market Foundation