Hungary launches anti-migrant quota campaign
By Eszter Zalan
Hungary’s government has launched a media campaign against the EU’s quota plan to distribute asylum seekers across the continent, with a rights group criticizing the adverts for spreading false information.
Full-page adverts appeared in newspapers this week, and a television ad has began to run attacking the EU’s quota plan, against which Hungary filed a case at the European Court of Justice on Thursday.
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The full-page messages claim: “The quota increases the terror threat!”. Other campaign messages include: “An illegal immigrant arrives in Europe on average every 12 seconds”.
A government website campaigning against the quota plan says Hungary, with a population of 10 million, would be forced, without consultation, to take in as many as 160,000 people, roughly the population of its third largest town, Szeged.
However, under the current plan Hungary is only slated to take in 1,294 people from the total of 160,000 to be relocated from Italy and Greece.
That figure might slightly increase to around 2,000, as member states agree on how to distribute 54,000 asylum seekers that were originally processed by Hungary, but Budapest turned down the offer because it opposed the principle of relocations.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a leading human rights NGO, said in a statement on Thursday (3 December) that "the Hungarian government is treating its citizens like idiots" by telling them it expects 160,000 migrants to come to the country. It accused the government of stoking fear to diver attention from its own controversial issues.
A Hungarian government official denied the advertisements would be misleading, claiming the 160,000 figure in the campaign does not refer to the already agreed relocation figure, but what might be Hungary’s share with the same level of migrants flows and in case of a permanent relocation scheme planned by the European Commission.
“They wouldn’t be arriving from tomorrow on, but we have seen creeping legislation happening in the EU before, and there is a real danger it will happen again with the permanent relocation plan,” government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs told EUobserver Friday (4 December).
The new ads fit into an almost year-long campaign by the government on migration and terrorism.
It launched a petition against the quota in early November that it says has been signed by over 900,000 people by the end of the month.
Hungary has also conducted a public consultation earlier this year that asked Hungarians to answer 12 questions on whether “the mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism”.
The questionnaire was criticized by liberal MEPs in April for being manipulative.
The government, which has also run an anti-immigration billboard campaign before, has claimed that 85-90 percent of the people who took part in the survey opposed the relocation quota plan.
Along with far-right Jobbik, the opposition Socialists, the parliament’s second largest group, also reject the quota plan.
According to official data, 391,000 migrants have crossed via Hungary to western Europe in nine months, before Hungary shut its borders with southern neighbours Serbia and Croatia.