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Civic Nation Unity in Deversity

Xenophobic Rhetoric

Xenophobic Rhetoric The leader of the radical nationalist party "Jobbik" Gabor Vona.

During 2015, Hungarian sentiments were dictated by the refugee crisis. This topic has been actively used by the Government, the ruling Fidesz party and the far-right Jobbik party, in order to benefit from the xenophobic and anti-immigrant attitudes. As a result, statements by leading government officials and politicians prompted political discourse in a more xenophobic and radical direction.

The initiator of radicalisation in January 2015 was Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing populist party Fides. When mentioning asylum seekers in Hungary, government officials and politicians of Fidesz used the terms "economic immigrants" and "illegal immigrants" intentionally and consistently, suggesting that all migrants left their homeland for economic reasons and they only pretend to be refugees. They did not make any distinction between people coming from the war zone and having a prospect of refugee status and people who do not originate from crisis areas and whose chances of obtaining refugee status were rather low.

Thus, the government was guided by political motives, forming an image in the society of a "common enemy" against which the government is taking decisive action to protect the nation. In order to dominate the public debate, the government has done everything possible to split the political spectrum into two camps: those who supposedly serves the national interests, and therefore opposes immigration and refugees, and those who support the migration and, consequently, are "betraying Hungarian interests".

The anti-immigration policy of the government and the ruling Fides Party was launched by Prime Minister Orban in January 2015, when he took part in the procession dedicated to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. On this day, he told the Hungarian news agency (MTI) that immigration is a bad thing for Europe, as it brings only trouble and danger to the peoples inhabiting it. "We [the Hungarians]," he said, "do not want to see a significant minority with different cultural characteristics among us. We want to preserve Hungary as Hungary. "

Just the next day, Antal Rohan, leader of Fidesz parliamentary faction, made anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant statements about how Muslim communities are changing the internal order of the Christian countries of Western Europe and that it is not in Hungary's interest to accept economic migrants with traditions that are completely different to Hungarian.

On the initiative of Fidesz, Hungarian parliament held a debate on February 20 to discuss the refugee crisis. During the discussion titled "Hungary does not need economic immigrants," Fidesz MPs took advantage of the sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiments, including the most popular and widespread prejudices against refugees: they used crude terms to describe refugees and demonise them. In the views of Fidesz legislators, immigrants are pretending to be refugees, massively abuse international law, spread diseases, commit arson, commit thefts and violent crimes.

After a sharp rhetoric, the government turned to action and launched the so-called "National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism" in April 2015. According to the government, the "consultation", which consisted of a questionnaire with twelve questions sent by mail to every citizen over the age of 18 (more than 8 million questionnaires were sent), was aimed at preparing stricter immigration regulations. In the preface to the questionnaire signed by V.Orban, asylum-seekers were again described as "economic migrants". It was argued that "economic migrants cross the border illegally, pretending that they are refugees, while in fact they are looking for social benefits and jobs."

According to the prime minister, a growing number of "economic migrants" creates a new type of threat for Hungary. "Since Brussels failed in dealing with immigration," it was written in the appeal, "Hungary must follow its own path. [...] We do not need economic migrants that threaten the jobs and livelihoods of the Hungarian people." After this prejudicial introduction, citizens were asked to answer questions and return the questionnaire to the government. In fact, these consultations that were presented as a survey or a scientific poll, were essentially means of undisguised voter pressure. For example, question 3 of the questionnaire said: "According to some information, immigration, which Brussels is failing to handle, is connected with growth of terrorism. Do you agree with this opinion? "; Question 12: "Do you agree with the Hungarian government that instead of supporting immigrants, it is necessary to support Hungarian families with children?"

The consultations were criticized both domestically (for example, by opposition parties and NGOs) and internationally (for example, by the European Commission, various members of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, UNHCR). During the plenary discussion on the situation in Hungary in the European Parliament on May 19, the first vice-president of the European Commission Franz Timmermancz said that "public consultations based on biased even misleading questions on prejudices about immigrants cannot be considered as fair and objective basis for the development of a sound policy. Framing immigration in the context of terrorism, portraying migrants as a threat to jobs and people's livelihood is malicious and simply wrong. It will only encourage misconceptions and prejudices".

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, stated that the content of the questionnaire was "unacceptable" and was aimed at supporting "intolerance against migrants". He called on the government to adopt a "more humane approach to migration issues that fits with the principles of human rights".

On May 8, the UNHCR Regional Representative for Central Europe, Montserrat F. Ville, spoke against the growth of xenophobia in Hungary and expressed concern about the wording of the questionnaire, stating that “questions deliberately put refugees and asylum-seekers on the same board as the so-called economic migrants and mistakenly blame refugees for alleged threats to Hungary and Europe.” In general, the anti-immigration campaign of the government in 2015 used populist and xenophobic rhetoric, which resembles messages of extreme right-wing politicians in other European countries. The Hungarian government linked migration with terrorism, crime and unemployment. Government officials accused migrants of spreading diseases, committing crimes, stealing jobs from Hungarians. A very good example was presented by Laslo Pósán, a Fidesz MP, who said during a press conference in April that political correctness is only suitable for suppressing real problems and for listing crimes committed by refugees in the Debrecen refugee camp. He posed a rhetorical question: who would be happy if his / her child was surrounded by "six black Africans of menacing appearance and behaviour" while traveling home on the bus?

The next act of anti-immigration campaign of the government was an advertising campaign, launched in June. Billboards appeared all over the country and contain three types of messages:

  1. "If you come to Hungary, you must respect our culture."
  2. "If you come to Hungary, you must respect our laws."
  3. "If you come to Hungary, you cannot take Hungarian jobs."

Despite the fact that government officials insisted that the campaign was aimed at migrants and traffickers, billboards appeared only in Hungarian and only in Hungary. This fact leads to the obvious conclusion that this advertising campaign pursued purely domestic policy goals. Public media, which in many cases were influenced by the government, reported the refugee crisis in a biased and one-dimensional manner that fomented hatred and xenophobic sentiments. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (WCC) objected to this practice in a letter addressed to the chairmen of the state media in June 2015. According to the HCC, the state mass media refer to refugees as scapegoats and present them as disgusting and terrible people who harm Hungary.

Government officials often used the topic of Roma integration as an excuse for why Hungary is not able to accept any "economic migrants". A striking example was the comment of the Minister of Justice Laslo Trócsányi, who, during a discussion of the European Union's migration quota system, said in an Inforádió interview in May 2015 that Hungary cannot accept any more "economic migrants", since the integration of 800,000 Roma already creates a huge burden for the country.

Bela Lakatos, a member of the Fides Party and leader of the Roma community, called Trócsányi’s comment unacceptable. In his opinion, his statement incites anti-Roma sentiments, suggesting that due to the large amount of money spent on Roma integration, the country is not in a position to finance other social programs. Opposition parties, except Jobbik, called on the Minister of Justice to resign. In response, the minister said that he "immediately rejects" outrageous" and "groundless" accusations against him. Trotsani said that caring for the Roma population in Hungary is a priority and "moral duty”. He added that he was proud of the fact that Hungary has adopted the European strategy for the Roma integration during its EU presidency.

Xenophobic rhetoric against the LGBT community was also reported on the part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In May 2015, answering a question on why the Hungarian government made no statements on the International Day on combatting homophobia, he said: "Hungary is a serious country. It is principally based on traditional values. Hungary is a tolerant country. Tolerance, however, does not mean that we will apply the same laws to people whose way of life is different from our own. We make a clear distinction between them and us.”

Another major incident occurred in connection with the annual LGBT parade called Budapest Pride. A month before this event, mayor of Budapest Stván Tarlós and mayor of the 8th district of Budapest Máté Kocsis (both members of the ruling Fidesz party) made negative comments about this parade. According to Kocsis, this event should not be held in the zone of the world cultural heritage, instead it should take place in the parking lot of a wholesale market, for example. A week later, Mr. Tarlós said that "he does not understand why the parade is a good thing,” and that he is afraid that this event is not worthy of the historical site that is Andrassy Avenue, where it was held. He added that he found the whole phenomenon in general “unnatural” and “disgusting”.

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