Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Hungary is winning its immigration crusade

International pressure is not what will soften Hungarian hearts. The only thing capable is evidence that aging countries need foreigners

By Leonid Bershidsky  /  Bloomberg View

The government has completely dismantled the country’s asylum system, Gyulai said.

Since the refugee crisis began, Hungary has erected a fence on its border with Serbia. Its preferred method of dealing with people who somehow get through is to “escort” them to the other side of the fence from wherever within Hungary the undocumented immigrant has been caught.

This is not a formal expulsion process that leaves a paper trail: You’re found without a visa, driven to the fence, pushed into Serbia and that’s that. The term the Helsinki Committee uses for this extrajudicial procedure is “pushback.” According to Hungarian police data, 9,136 people were “escorted” to the other side of the fence last year.

Trying to get into Hungary to apply for asylum is increasingly useless. Thousands of people stranded in Serbia would attempt it, but the Hungarian authorities are setting arbitrary daily quotas for asylum seekers allowed to cross to the Hungarian side of the fence.

According to Gyulai, the initial quota was 50, but is now down to one person.

“If a family of five is let in, no one else can come in all week,” Gyulai said.

Once they are admitted into Hungary, the applicants are detained for the duration of the application process in container compounds surrounded by razor wire. There is nothing for them to do, barely any moving space in the containers, and the temperatures in them can go up to 45°C in summer. Media groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are not allowed into the compounds.

Conditions are so inhumane that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday called on European countries not to send any asylum seekers to Hungary under the 2013 Dublin regulation, under which one must apply for refugee status in the first EU country that one enters.

In most cases, weeks or months in a shipping container — 101 people live like this in Hungary now, according to the UNHCR — will be wasted. The rejection rate in Hungary last year was 70 percent for Afghans (they are told that they can move to safer regions within their own country), 74 percent for Iraqis and 60 percent for Syrians.

Even the applicants who succeed can expect nothing from the Hungarian government. They are given 30 days of rudimentary support in an open reception facility strategically placed near the Austrian and Slovak borders. There are no language courses or employment programs. The Hungarian authorities hope that the newly minted asylum recipients will just go away, and they do. Few stay the full 30 days.

The system is designed to last.

I asked Greely Gulyas, head of the Fidesz faction in the Hungarian parliament, why the government was so worried about migrants to a relatively poor country when more attractive destinations are available for them.

“Our living standard is about 69 percent of the Western European one,” he replied. “When it gets to 80 percent, it’ll become a problem, and we don’t want that.”

The finishing touch is coming, probably next month, soon after the Hungarian parliament reassembles. Fidesz, armed with a supermajority, aims to push through what has been dubbed the “Stop Soros package,” which would crack down on NGOs that help migrants.

The Orban government accuses Soros, the financier and philanthropist, of hatching an evil plan to flood Europe with immigrants to undermine national cultures.

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