Refugees, Asylum and Migration Issues in Hungary

2017-12-20

Summary

  • Hungary cannot be considered a target country for immigrants. Since the beginning of 2015 the Orbán cabinet has created the impression in a series of campaigns that Hungary’s place in global migration patterns has shifted fundamentally. The Orbán government has sent the message that Hungary, as a target country, must now face a migrant “wave” coming from outside Europe.
  • Asylum-seekers submitted applications in Hungary only for formal reasons and, almost without exception, they all moved on to Western Europe afterwards, Germany being their primary destination.
  • Hungary occupies a unique position with respect to refugees in the sense that it was heavily involved in the 2015 refugee crisis, yet the country became a frontline country without any immigrants.
  • Migration patterns and politics mutually interact, and this was also the case with the 2015 refugee crisis. In Hungary, the public discourse interpreting the refugee crisis was largely shaped by politics, especially by targeted government campaigns. Hungarian citizens perceived immigration as one of the most important problems facing the country in 2017 as well. In the Standard Eurobarometer survey based on data gathered in May 2017, 27% of Hungarian respondents believed that immigration was one of the two most pressing problems faced by the country.
  • Orbán’s strategy on the refugee crisis aims at continuously generating conflict between the Hungarian government and EU institutions. After the anti-refugee campaigns in 2015, the European Union, George Soros and Soros-funded NGOs became the main targets of government communication in 2016 and 2017. The Orbán government’s primary argument against the EU and George Soros is that they want to settle “migrants” in Hungary. The government organised a referendum and then a national consultation to drive these arguments home.
  • The Hungarian government’s politics fit into the securitisation narrative with regard to both its policies and rhetoric. The government shut down the country’s largest open-door refugee reception centre in Debrecen in late 2015, downgrading the Hungarian refugee system’s capabilities. It also abolished the integration benefit for refugees to send the message that the government believes integration to be impossible. Since 2016, individuals may only file asylum applications in the transit zones at Röszke or Tompa, which are only open during public offices’ opening hours and only a very limited number of asylum-seekers may submit their applications each day. Several humanitarian and human rights organisations have claimed that Hungarian authorities beat, assault and sometimes cause serious injury to migrants. Hungarian far-right paramilitary organisations have also admitted to having played a role in attacking asylum-seekers around the border area.
  • During the refugee crisis, cooperation within the Visegrád Group gained considerable significance for the Orbán government because opposition to the quota system based on the mandatory relocation of refugees created an opportunity for it to promote the V4 as a sort of alternative centre of power to Western EU member states since the beginning of the crisis.

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