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Hungarian government offers refuge to Venezuelan Hungarians

February 23rd, 2019

A pro-government columnist welcomes the government’s decision to admit more than 300 Venezuelan individuals with Hungarian ancestry. A left-wing commentator agrees with the decision, but finds it peculiar that humanitarian help should be conditional on ethnic kinship.

On Index, András Földes reported on Friday that the Hungarian government has secretly offered refuge to more than 300 Venezuelan individuals with Hungarian ancestry. (The project was in actual fact made public in April last year when the first group arrived.) According to Földes, the Venezuelan Hungarians do not speak Hungarian, but they were nonetheless offered free aeroplane tickets to Hungary, as well as temporary accommodation, free integration and educational programs as well as work permits. The MSZP accused the government of facilitating migration and spending public money on refugees from Venezuela. Gergely Gulyás the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s office told the press on Thursday that the Venezuelan Hungarians were not refugees, but got Hungarian citizenship along the ius sanguinis principle. In Hungary, as in many developed states, individuals born abroad to expatriates may get Hungarian citizenship. These ‘dormant citizens’ need to prove that their ancestors had Hungarian citizenship and become eligible to be registered as Hungarian citizens at birth.

Magyar Nemzet’s Zsolt Bayer accuses the MSZP of welfare chauvinism and discrimination against Hungarians. Bayer recalls that the Left has for decades criticized government efforts to help Hungarians living beyond Hungary’s borders. The pro-government commentator finds it particularly tasteless to label Venezuelan Hungarians in need who are eligible for Hungarian citizenship as ‘migrants’. Bayer wonders if the Left would use the same hateful language against non-Hungarian refugees as well.

In Népszava, Gábor Horváth thinks that the government was justified in offering shelter to Venezuelan refugees. The left-wing columnist welcomes this humanitarian act but finds it controversial that the government offers help on the basis of ancestry rather than need. Horváth thinks that the same help should be offered to all refugees, not only ethnic kin. Similarly to Földes at Index, Horváth also believes that the project was meant to be kept secret and thinks the reason is that the government’s anti-immigrant propaganda has made it difficult to openly help people in need.

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