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Migration and border patrolling in focus

March 10th, 2017

As Parliament decides to detain all asylum seekers while their claims are processed, two left-wing analysts accuse the government of violating basic human rights. A pro-government columnist, on the other hand, accuses the Left of levelling unfounded criticism against the government which, he believes, is defending the security and culture of Hungary and Europe.

On Tuesday, Parliament approved the government’s proposal to keep asylum seekers imprisoned in narrow container camps along Hungary’s border fence with Serbia, while their applications are considered (see BudaPost January 16). The amendment was voted into law with the votes of Fidesz and Jobbik MPs. LMP voted against the bill, while the MSZP abstained. On Wednesday, the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship announced that he would visit Hungary to discuss the amended asylum legislation with Hungarian authorities. The UNHCR expressed concern, while international human rights organizations voiced outrage. The Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that Hungary is defending the country’s as well as Europe’s borders and accused the UN refugee agency of calling for laws to be violated.

In the meantime, the Swedish liberal Aftonbladet daily, quoting the Doctors Without Borders organization, accused the Hungarian border patrol service of beating up undocumented migrants crossing Hungary’s southern border fence. Similar criticism was levelled against the Hungarian authorities by the Migszol pro-migrant organization. The Hungarian government dismissed the allegations which, according to government officials, were  ‘fabricated’ by NGOs funded by the Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros.

On Wednesday, PM Orbán in his speech at the graduation ceremony of new border patrol officers said that “Hungary is under siege”. He added that “migration is the Trojan horse of terrorism and called for a resolution to the crises which lead to mass population movements. He said that Hungarian border patrol officers protect Hungary’s as well as Europe’s security and culture. PM Orbán underscored that Hungary’s borders need to be defended but at the same time, border patrol officers need to respect the human rights of migrants.

Népszava’s Róbert Friss finds the amended asylum law utterly immoral. The left-wing columnist accuses PM Orbán of fomenting anti-immigrant sentiments and turning the issue of migration into a purely security issue, ignoring all humanitarian aspects. Detaining asylum seekers is not only a moral crime, but also a clear violation of EU norms, Friss contends. He concludes by noting that the new legislation is a shame on the whole country.

In Magyar Idők, Gyula Haraszti dismisses the allegations that Hungarian border patrol agents beat up undocumented migrants. The pro-government commentator claims that the accusations of the Migszol and the Doctors Without Borders organizations have not been substantiated and that ‘no evidence’ to support the allegations has been provided. Haraszti concludes that those journalists and NGOs that accuse Hungarian authorities – or even the whole country – of inhumane behaviour are guilty of defamation and should be considered as “criminals”. Haraszti finds it particularly nauseating that left-wing and liberal Hungarian news outlets cite the Swedish daily as if the allegations of a Western daily would make the unsubstantiated accusations any more credible. He mentions that the organizations that accuse Hungary have ties to George Soros. Haraszti speculates that such allegations indicate that “speculators who fish in troubled waters and facilitate the mass migration and the undermining of the European legal system” are becoming increasingly desperate as their interests are harmed by Hungary’s sealing off the borders.

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