Sunday

11th Dec 2016

Opinion

Pig-head propaganda: Hungary's war on refugees

  • Schopflin, an MEP from Orban's party, said pigs’ heads should be put on border with Serbia to deter Muslim refugees (Photo: Ashley MacKinnon MacKinnon)

“What crime did we commit for 40 police officers to surround us? It’s like they think we are terrorists or criminals,” 48-year old Khatoon, a Yazidi woman from Iraq who had several family members who were murdered or taken hostage by the jihadist group Isis, told me.

For a month, she had been forced to wait in the mud at the Hungarian border to file her asylum application.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Khatoon’s analysis is spot on. Over the past two years, I have documented abysmal conditions in camps, detention of children, abusive legal changes designed to deny asylum seekers access to protection, and brutal pushbacks at the Hungary-Serbia border.

The authorities are undoubtedly hoping the abuses will deter others.

Throughout this period, the Hungarian government has stirred up xenophobic sentiments against refugees and migrants and has gone to great lengths, and cost, to spew hateful messages nationwide.

Along with restrictive new laws making life difficult for asylum seekers and refugees, anti-migrant rhetoric by decision makers and high-ranking politicians is commonplace.

Asylum seekers and refugees are called “intruders,” and “potential terrorists,” bent on destroying Western civilisation and Christianity. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban himself in July referred to migration as “poison.”

The government refuses to participate in a binding EU agreement requiring member states to relocate asylum seekers equitably across the Union.

Hungary, a country of some 10 million people, has been asked to accept a mere 1,294 asylum seekers, but the government has railed against even this small number and is trying to overturn the deal in the EU Court of Justice.

Orban has also called a national referendum for 2 October, asking Hungarians whether they want the EU to impose refugee quotas in Hungary without the consent of the Hungarian parliament.

Did you know?

A nationwide, government-financed billboard campaign began in July with messages including: “Did you know that since the beginning of the immigration crisis more than 300 people died as a result of terror attacks in Europe?” and “Did you know that Brussels wants to settle a whole city’s worth of illegal immigrants in Hungary?”.

Another poster said: “Did you know that since the beginning of the immigration crisis the harassment of women has risen sharply in Europe?”.

This state-sponsored campaign of xenophobic disinformation is costing Hungarian taxpayers the equivalent of over €16 million - or approximately €12,000 per asylum seeker Hungary has been asked to take.

Imagine if this money had instead been spent on improving conditions in reception centres and establishing integration support programmes for refugees and asylum seekers in line with Hungary’s EU obligations and shared responsibility.

The government’s anti-refugee propaganda has been amplified by pro-government media. MTVA, the state-controlled TV station, frequently used news breaks during the European Football Championship in June and the Olympic Games in August to devote airtime to anti-migrant “news” items, depicting asylum seekers and refugees as criminals, terrorists and people who come to mooch on Western welfare systems.

The horrors these desperate people are fleeing – war and oppression - are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the context of the European refugee crisis, neither in the media, nor in political discourse.

Instead, the chorus of anti-migrant voices is growing. Recently, Gyorgy Schopflin, a ruling party member with a seat in the European Parliament, suggested on Twitter that pigs’ heads should be placed on the border fence with Serbia to deter Muslim refugees from entering Hungary.

Laszlo Toroczkai, vice-president of the far-right Jobbik party, who is also the mayor of Asotthalom, a village on the Hungarian-Serbian border, proudly posts pictures on his Facebook page showing images of asylum seekers and migrants lying face down on the ground with hands zip-locked on their backs and with captions such as “Hungary vs. Intruders” plus a football-type scoreboard.

Hungarian civil society initiatives and alternative media are doing their best to counter the hate.

Countering hate

The Two Tailed Dog Party, a group that has registered as a political party to spread its views through satire, opened a counter-campaign mimicking the government one with its own messages such as: “Did you know that the average Hungarian sees more UFOs than refugees in a lifetime?”.

The EU has so far been silent on the current xenophobic anti-refugee campaign, as well as on Hungary’s brutal beatings at the border.

Meanwhile, Khatoon, whose name I changed for her protection, is still waiting in the mud to file that asylum application.

She has been made to wait there by a government that spares no expense to deter people from entering Hungary.

Their approach has created a miserable and legally unsound situation for those lining up for months to file an asylum claim and untenable conditions for the few who get protection. She has the odds stacked against her.

Lydia Gall is a Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, an international NGO with its headquarters in New York

News in Brief

  1. Council of Europe critical of Turkey emergency laws
  2. Italian opposition presses for anti-euro referendum
  3. Danish MP wants warning shots fired to deter migrants
  4. Defected Turkish officers to remain in Greece
  5. Most child asylum seekers are adults, says Denmark
  6. No school for children of 'illegal' migrants, says Le Pen
  7. Ombudsman slams EU Commission on tobacco lobbying
  8. McDonald's moves fiscal HQ to UK following tax probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  2. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  3. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debated on the Future of the EU at the Winter Mingle
  4. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  5. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  6. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  7. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  9. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  10. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  11. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  12. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  2. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  4. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  5. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)
  6. Access NowTell the EU Council: Protect our Rights to Privacy and Security
  7. ACCAThe Future of Audit Means Adaption to Today’s Global and Digital World
  8. Swedish EnterprisesNew Rules for EU Anti-dumping Measures
  9. European Jewish CongressTakes Part in Building Resilient Communities
  10. UNICEFUniversal Children’s Day: UNICEF Calls for Global Action on Child Rights Violations
  11. Counter BalanceThe EU Bank Cannot be a Key Player in Europe's Response to the Plight of Refugees
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsEvidence of Human Rights Violations and International Crimes in Crimea