“Forced settlement endangers our culture and traditions.” This is one of many fearmongering anti-migrant messages included in an 18-page booklet – just part of Hungary’s tax-payer funded anti-migrant campaign designed to counter a binding EU relocation quota, which asks Hungary to take in a mere 1,294 asylum seekers.
The booklet, which the government has sent to 4.1 million Hungarian households, argues people should vote “no” in the October 2 national referendum with respect to the EU relocation plan.
The booklet contains distorted facts about Europe’s refugee crisis, portraying asylum seekers and migrants as dangerous to Europe’s future. It links migration to increased terrorism and refers to non-existent “no-go” areas in European cities with large migrant populations, including London, Paris, and Berlin, where authorities have allegedly lost control and where law and order is absent.
The booklet builds on a nationwide government-financed billboard campaign that began in July with messages including, “Did you know that Brussels wants to settle a city’s worth of illegal immigrants in Hungary?” and “Did you know that since the beginning of the immigration crisis the harassment of women has risen sharply in Europe?”
This government-sponsored disinformation campaign has cost the Hungarian taxpayers €16 million. Imagine if this money went to improve conditions in reception centers for asylum seekers, or to establishing integration programs for recognized refugees.
Not only is the Hungarian government whipping up negative and hostile sentiment against asylum seekers and migrants, it is also making life as difficult as possible for those trying to enter the country. In August, the government announced that it would build a second “improved” fence on its border with Serbia, designed to block asylum-seekers entering the country. It also started recruitment for 3,000 new “border hunters” to patrol the border together with the already existing 10,000 police and army. The country’s abusive border regime routinely denies protection for those in need and pushes asylum seekers back to Serbia, sometimes violently.
The European Commission has remained virtually silent in the face of these developments, despite the fact that they contravene European standards. For the sake of a Common European Asylum System, that should change.
Sixty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Hungarians obtained sanctuary from persecution in other parts of Europe and North America. If the Hungarian government reminded itself and Hungarians about that history, it might help create a more positive and welcoming attitude towards those from Syria and elsewhere seeking safety in Hungary today.