One country has taken Trump’s anti-immigrant stance to the next level of hatred

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.
Mohamed Elmaazi

Hungary is taking Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance to the next level of hatred. The country has launched a new crackdown on civil society groups and immigrants, with its parliament passing a series of rules criminalising groups and individuals that support refugees and undocumented migrants. And it passed overwhelmingly, with 160 in favour and only 18 against.

Criminalising humanitarianism

The legislative package was labelled ‘Stop Soros‘. George Soros is a Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist who is known for giving money to immigrant rights groups, among others. He has also become the subject of numerous far-right conspiracy theories.

This package passed – on World Refugee Day no less – despite immense opposition from the UN and the EU.

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Amnesty International’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik said that:

criminalizing essential and legitimate human rights work is a brazen attack on people seeking safe haven from persecution and those who carry out admirable work to help them.

Amnesty also noted that:

Those who fall foul of the law can face up to 1 year in prison.

Nothing new in Hungary

Hungary’s position on people fleeing extreme poverty and violence has been iron-fisted since at least 2015. And in 2017, the Hungarian parliament voted to concentrate refugees into ‘detention camps‘.

The right-wing prime minister of Hungary, Victor Orban, won his third consecutive term in April 2018.

Orban: refugees are “poison”

In March 2018, Orban claimed that EU requirements for Hungary to house 10,000 refugees and migrants would “crush the country” financially.

He has also:

  • Blamed the George Soros “empire” for seeking to make Europe a “continent for migrants”, and said Soros would “attack everyone hindering those efforts”.
  • Warned that “some seek to flood Hungary with migrants so that the country changes the same way as many western European cities have”.
  • Called (in a 2015 opinion piece for a German paper) refugees and migrants a threat to Europe’s ‘Christian identity’ and ‘roots’.
  • Said in 2016 that migration was “a poison“.

Anti-humanitarian

According to Amnesty, despite losing a case at the European Court of Justice, Hungary:

continued to refuse to relocate any of its minimum quota of 1,294 asylum-seekers, or to participate in other regional solidarity mechanisms. By the end of the year, it had not resettled or relocated anyone.

Reuters reports that:

Hungarian statistics show 3,555 refugees living in Hungary, a country of 10 million, as of April. Only 342 people were registered as asylum seekers in the first four months of this year, mostly from the Middle East, and 279 were approved.

Nativist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim policies and sentiment are on the rise not only in Europe, but across the world – with Donald Trump’s detention of immigrant children recently grabbing significant attention. This wave is by no means new. But Hungary is definitely at the more extreme end of this developing phenomenon.

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Featured image via Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons

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