(Interviewed by Tenna Sørensen, outgoing placement officer at SCI Italia)
Since 2014, Europe has been facing the worst humanitarian crisis of refugees in the aftertime of the Second World War with a majority of people fleeing from war-torn countries such as Syria and Libya. As a response to the influx of non-European refugees, countries all over Europe have ever since been tightening their migration policies – and the same goes for Hungary.
As part of CHAPTER’s final campaign, we took the occasion to talk to Bálint Josá, activist and director of the organization UNITED for Intercultural Action, about the situation in his country. Read on here to learn why Hungary is the most migrant-unfriendly country in the EU.
GOVERNMENTAL XENOPHOBIA, BORDER FENCES AND NON-HUMAN TREATMENT
According to the UNITED director, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, already at this time pushed the limit of xenophobia to a higher level by publicly taking an anti-migrant approach while reasoning it with existing challenges of integrating Hungary’s large Roma minority.
In 2015, Hungary announced its completion of the creation of a 523-kilometer long border fence on its southern side towards Serbia and Croatia. Mr. Josá adds that after this time asking for asylum in Hungary was more or less impossible. In fact, entering Hungary from a state-declared ‘safe country’ such as Serbia would be met in a way in which the Hungarian government would deport asylum seekers back to the border and justify such an act claiming that the asylum should have been asked for in Serbia. In case anyone would still attempt to get asylum in Hungary at this point, there would be no more than two border offices processing only two asylum applications per day:
“So this means that if you are number 2000 to arrive, you have a thousand days to wait until you can submit your asylum claim – and in the meantime, because you are not entering Hungary and find yourself in no-man’s land, you are not obliged to get food, accommodation, healthcare, anything”.
To this, Mr. Josá explains that the European Court of Human Rights on several occasions have sentenced Hungary for non-human treatment of refugees and asylum seekers including also police brutality and dog bites.
“But because they are on the other side of the border, the government declares them not reliable and also they don’t really have a voice in Serbia because the Serbian and Hungarian governments are close ‘friends’” he says.
From 2015 until 2020, the migrant policy of Viktor Orbán’s government made Hungary almost asylum seeker free. However, with the help from several European courts pushing Hungary for a more humane treatment of refugees, people seeking asylum are no longer kept in limbo at the border but can instead have their papers processed inside the country. Still, asylum seekers and other migrants meet heavy unfriendliness from the average Hungarian population with a large percentage being hostile towards refugees entering their country.
One of UNITED’s main activities is to monitor the fatalities of asylum seekers trying to enter the EU through a list of casualties each year:
“So in case you hear a number about the amount of people that died trying to enter the EU, it would be from the numbers that we collect in order to create a little more awareness” – says the director, Bálint Josá.
UNITED for Intercultural Action was founded in 1993 and has ever since been a large pan-European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants, refugees and minorities. Together with more than 560 supporter organizations around Europe – ranging from local grassroots associations to national and international NGOs, UNITED coordinates campaign, organizes conferences, takes part in projects, produces publications and undertakes advocacy work to protest against discrimination and promote their shared vision for a diverse and inclusive society.
Visit UNITED for Intercultural Action’s website here: https://unitedfia.org/about-united/