This is a Migszol update from 5 August to 5 September. The month has been characterized by increasingly ruthless violence at the Serbian-Hungarian border, ever-growing aggressive propaganda against migrants of all kinds now that the national referendum is drawing closer, and the heated international relations between European states because of the insecure EU-Turkey deal.
Before we begin, it is important to notice that a year ago we were living through a very significant time. It is the anniversary time of what we learnt to call “the migration crisis in Hungary” in 2015.
On 4th of September 2015 thousands of let-down and exhausted people started to march towards Austria, after weeks of waiting and a deadlock at the Eastern Keleti railway station in Budapest. Less than two weeks from that, the southern Hungarian border was closed, accompanied by the infamous unrest with tear gas, counter terrorist units and water cannons. While the unrest back then resulted in arbitrary jail sentences, the bigger picture was just taking shape: by today, Hungary has knit a legal web with holes big enough to justify physical, direct violence in its own territory and clear neglection of an international right to asylum. To mark this sad anniversary, Migszol is publishing an extensive Hungarian- and English language report on the events of last summer this week.
After implementing the push-back law in the beginning of July, border violence by unconfirmed border groups has escalated. Migszol receives reports of volunteers in Serbia witnessing clear signs of abuse on the people they help. Among them are severe bruises, dog assaults and bleeding, on daily basis. The silence by the authorities and lack of all political debate is incredible considering the mounting evidence:
- Testimonies collected by No Border Serbia until August 8
- Video with graphic content from the end of August
- Extensive report on the border violence by Átlátszó
- Graphic images on the marks of violence from the end of August
- Article about the reported abuse cases in Hungarian media
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee published alarming numbers regarding the number of asylum applications: after the pushbacks to Serbia were legalized on July 5th, the number of asylum applications has dropped by 60% and 4396 people have been prevented from entering the country. Migszol has to highlight the grave rights abuse this custom is enforcing: even if the people do not enter using a legal route into Hungary, seeking asylum is an internationally guaranteed human right for everybody and not a crime. Not only are people who are pushed back to Serbia denied their right to seek asylum, they are also mistreated and assaulted.
Migszol will soon publish a detailed report solely focusing on the situation on Serbian-Hungarian border but wants to highlight already that this kind of abuse is totally unacceptable and the people responsible should immediately be held accountable.
We urge everybody to share these links, pictures, tweet them to journalists and email them to colleagues, to increase awareness of this and create pressure the politicians to react on the situation. Follow our updates on upcoming protests and more information. We are happy that more national and international media have written about these brutal assaults at the Serbian-Hungarian border, and welcome any more queries about the topic from journalists and policymakers.
SHERIFFS AND BORDER HUNTERS
The tension and violence at the Hungarian-Serbian border is escalating. Self-organized groups guarding the border have posted pictures of loaded guns and dogs they are using at their patrols. In mid-August there were some 600 people in Horgos and Kelebia waiting for their turn to access the containers at the transit zone to ask asylum – sometimes for weeks, as Amnesty International, Euronews and HVG have reported. Earlier in August a local genius tried to scare people crossing the border by installing hand-made voodoo heads to the the border fence, topped with an idea by a Hungarian MEP to install pig heads, which we analyzed more in depth here, to the fence instead.
Once people get to the Hungarian side, there are more and more vigilante groups patrolling the border and hunting for them – which is most probably the key to border violence, as the official forces can wash their hands from the events and simply silence the topic to death.
The self-proclaimed head sheriff of this all is László Toroczkai, a Jobbik MP and mayor of the border town of Ásotthalom. Toroczkai has been guarding his premises with diligence for a while (see one of his first migrant hunter videos from 2015 here) and earlier this summer discovered that the UN refugee agency is, in fact, helping the refugees who are at the border and also has evidence of the UN agency’s responsibility of littering around. To stir up his battle he has now sued UNHCR for giving “logistical help for the migrants”.
The official side of things is that the National Police Forces have launched a Border Hunter – recruitment campaign, following the controversial official announcement of prolonging the “emergency situation caused by mass migration” (ironic considering the fact that Viktor Orbán recently announced that there are absolutely no migrants coming to Hungary anymore) and thus placing 3000 new police officers with minimal training on the border for the sake of national priority. Public workers are pressured to join the army or the police. To justify all this, on August 27th Orbán topped the story by announcing that there will be a new hi-tech fence at the border, with motion detection cameras, lights and all the modern security delicacies. We expect the border fence to eventually resemble the one on the Spanish-Moroccan border.
In the light of all this, it is hardly a surprise that other borders are getting more busy with action. HVG reported on their article in the beginning of the month about Romania: they speculate there could be a new route from Romania, and on the 2nd of August the police caught 27 people (21 Pakistanis, 4 Afghans and 2 Syrians) at Battonya, on the Southern border of Hungary with Romania. The next day the Hungarian police reportedly returned 25 people to the Romanian authorities. They also caught a Romanian citizen who is also accused of smuggling.
Sweden’s decision to deport back a thousand people to Hungary under the Dublin Regulation has stirred some political havoc among the diplomatic circles of the two countries. Hungary refuses to take the thousand people back. Other Western European countries, particularly Austria, have similar plans as reported earlier in the Hungarian media.Yet, Hungary is playing hard and avoids its responsibility, referring to the fact that people should rather be deported back to Greece as it was the first country of entry in the EU for these people. The fact that deportations from other EU members states to Greece were frozen already five years ago must have slipped the decision makers’ attention.
As what seems to be a response to the pressure imposed from the North-West, Hungary and Bulgaria have started a debate about a bilateral agreement for deportations from Hungary to Bulgaria. This development is of grave concern not only because of the reported death at the Bulgarian-Serbian border or because of the fact that the two countries are the only ones in the region with no functioning integration support, but because of the reported push-backs from Bulgaria further to Turkey and Greece.
Meanwhile in the South, the number of people coming to the Greek islands is increasing again, while their journey Northward seems to get more difficult. The Serbian police has reportedly pushed back around 3000 people on the border of Macedonia (FYROM). There’s currently some 4500 people stranded in Serbia and the conditions in the Hungarian-Serbian border are still devastating – Are you Syrious? has a very comprehensive update on the situation in Serbia. In last week of August there were some 600 people waiting for legal entry to the transit zones to apply for asylum in Hungary.
The teachers of Hungary got their own fair share of the migration propaganda in the beginning of the month, when KLIK, the national educational body of the ministry of human resources, sent a letter to the rectors of all the Hungarian schools. The letter asked them to declare the “number of migrant students who have enrolled to their school” and gave them 48 hours time to reply to the official request. István Pukli, the headmaster of the Teleki Blanka Gymnasium in Budapest, and a face of the Teachers’ Movement, published an open reply asking KLIK to define who is a “migrant” – a word that does not exist whatsoever in the Hungarian legislation. It remains unclear what the purpose of this letter is, and what would result from the replies they got.
On another front, the conspiracy war against George Soros has advanced several steps. We reported already a month ago that Bence Retvari from the Human Resources ministry discovered that “civil organizations supported by Soros” are telling all migrants to claim they are under 18 to access Hungary more easily, which is unfortunately a misunderstanding caused by a language barrier. On 14 August George Soros was hacked, and now the rightwing “Sorosleaks” claims it can be proven he wants to bring refugees to Europe. Magyar Idok continued giving attention to us in the beginning of August and wrote an article about Migszol’s call to action about the border violence – an entertaining read to Hungarian speakers.
The national referendum about the quota system is drawing close and the opposition is finally gathering their frontiers to give a response to the government propaganda, most of them calling for invalidating the referendum by either boycotting or casting an invalid vote. Fidesz is trying to blackmail the opposition parties to saying yes or no to the quota and saying it is not enough to just boycott it. We have summarized earlier what the different stands of the different parties in Hungary are. It seems like the beginning of October will be full of different demonstrations by the parties as well as the civil society organizers.
Unfortunately it looks like the referendum has already had some small successes in “dividing and ruling because the head of the Munkaspart, the Hungarian labour party, said in Szeged that they will vote “NO” in the referendum, because money should rather be used on creating jobs for Hungarians, than on the refugees.