‘Unlimited xenophobia’ or fighting terrorism? Hungary launches controversial anti-migrant campaign

Friday, July 22, 2016

© Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

There is an obvious connection between terrorist attacks in Europe and the refugee crisis rattling the continent since 2015, the Hungarian prime minister said as his government launched a media campaign aimed at rejecting EU refugee quotas.

"It is clear as two and two makes four, it is plain as day. There is an obvious connection [between terror attacks and the migrant crisis]," Viktor Orban told reporters after a meeting of the Visegrad Four group of central European leaders in Warsaw on Thursday.

"If somebody denies this connection then, in fact, this person harms the safety of European citizens," he said, as cited by Reuters.

READ MORE: Hungary sets date for referendum on EU migrant quotas, PM favors ‘no’ vote

Hungary is among several central and eastern EU members – including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland – that are highly skeptical of Brussels’ handling of the migrant crisis.

Orban has called a referendum in Hungary on whether to accept the EU’s mandatory refugee quotas, which he opposes.

As the October vote draws closer, the Hungarian government has launched a media campaign against refugees and migrants. A series of ads in the ‘Did you know?’ campaign links refugees to various negative statistics.

“Did you know that since the beginning of the migrant crisis, more than 300 people have died in Europe in terror attacks?” one of the ads reads.

“Did you know that the Paris attack was carried out by immigrants?” says another, in reference to the November 2015 gun and bomb massacre in the French capital which left 130 people dead.

The ads will be printed by newspapers and magazines, broadcast on TV and radio and plastered on billboards all over Hungary in the coming weeks, the government said. Its goal is to inform the public about the possible consequences of immigration, according to State Secretary Bence Tuzson.

Hungarian opposition has accused the government of scaremongering. The opposition news website 444.hu said the campaign was "solely aiming to spread unlimited xenophobia across the country," according to AFP.

At the referendum, Hungarians will vote on Brussels’ plans to distribute some 160,000 refugees and migrants among the 28 EU member states, a ruling which was passed last September. Hungary was among four nations which voted against the step and has legally challenged it.

The perception that the migrant crisis is linked with terrorism is shared by a majority of Europeans. According to a recent Pew poll, 60 percent of people in the EU believe that the more refugees flock to their countries, the higher the threat of terror attacks becomes.

Even the EU’s prime champion of the refugee cause, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that “the refugee flow was used to smuggle terrorists” at a party rally this month.

Last year the turmoil resulted in renewed border controls within the EU and fences being erected along borders in the countries most affected by the influx. Austria, which is among the preferred destinations for refugees and migrants, is preparing to erect a 100-km fence along its border with Hungary by gaining permission from all private landowners. The measure would be introduced should last year’s situation resume.

The European system for handling asylum seekers, the Dublin regulations, collapsed under the inflow of a million refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe last year. The European Commission is currently trying to overhaul it to redistribute the load from the first arrival countries, Greece and Italy, to other members, but Euroskeptic governments such as Orban’s are opposing the proposed solution of mandatory quotas, saying it violates national sovereignty and threatens cultural identity.

A stop-gap deal with Turkey was signed by Brussels in March, but the solution is partial, and has been highly criticized by human rights groups. It is also under threat due to the current political instability in Turkey and Ankara’s row with Brussels over the benefits it feels it should receive under the deal.



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