US Congressman Ted Poe: HUNGARY AND THE REFUGEE CRISIS

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Mr. Speaker, before the Paris attacks, pundits sitting in far-flung capitals of the world were throwing lobs at Hungary for turning a blind eye to the plight of Syrian refugees. Now that we know that one of the attackers posed as a refugee to get into Europe and then stayed in a refugee camp as he made his way from Greece to Paris, I'd like to do something I know the pundits won't do: go back to an old story to make sure they got it right.

First, the outside world's opinions of what Hungary should or should not do are wholly irrelevant. Hungary is a sovereign country that ultimately will make its own political decisions based on its interests and concerns on a case-by-case basis. Whether Hungary lets in refugees from a conflict that it had absolutely nothing to do with is a purely Hungarian question. Just like we wouldn't want Canada telling us what to do, nor does Hungary want countries like Germany telling it what to do.

The fact of the matter is that the refugee issue is complex. There are two sides to the morality argument. Yes, there is a moral argument to helping those fleeing war, but let's not forget about the moral argument for a government keeping its promise to its citizens that it will protect them. Refugees pose serious economic and security concerns to the countries of Europe. Modest estimates suggest that Germany, who has touted a welcoming posture towards the refugees, will find itself spending as much as 10 billion euros in 2015 to accommodate these newcomers. If Hungary were to spend even half of that amount, it would cost the country upwards of 7% of its annual budget.

While Germany may be financially capable of weathering the financial storm precipitated by the influx of refugees, Hungary's economy may not. Despite notable improvements in recent years in both trade and investment, Hungary's unemployment rate sits now at 10.5%. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development notes that, although Hungary successfully exited from recession in early 2013, the recovery of its economy is modest at best. The OECD notes Hungary must ``maintain fiscal discipline,'' underscoring Budapest's need to invest in its own people and economy--not spend billions accommodating others.

Putting the economic factors aside, it is quite obvious that taking in Syrian refugees comes with a whole host of security concerns. ISIS has openly boasted in recent months that it is sending operatives to Europe under the guise of refugees, intending to fulfill the terrorist organization's threat to stage attacks in the West. European and American intelligence officials report that ISIS has set up a wing that specializes in launching terrorist attacks abroad, providing guidance, training and funding for attacks that kill the most civilians possible. Earlier this month British media outlets reported that the Tunisian leader of an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group was smuggled into Europe posing as a refugee in October before being arrested and deported to Tunisia. Unfortunately, we have seen the bloody aftermath of the attacks on Paris, which were carried out in part by an ISIS terrorist who entered Europe as an asylum seeker.

The Hungarian Government does not think all of the refugees are terrorists. But the grave security concerns should not be written off for the sake of humanitarianism. Hungary has a humanitarian obligation to its own people too. Hungary has called on the European Union to set up the necessary institutions and orderly processes to handle this massive influx of people into the bloc. Hungary and its neighboring eastern and central European countries should not be expected to bear the burden of this sea of refugees. More than anything, these countries should not be judged for making decisions based on their own interests. That is simply their right.

And that's just the way it is.

Permalink: http://poe.house.gov/2015/12/hungary-and-the-refugee-crisis

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