Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Anti-Xenophobic Rhetoric

Anti-Xenophobic Rhetoric A poster against an anti-immigrant advertising campaign on the streets of Budapest: "Free to come to Hungary, we have long been working in England!"

In general, all Hungarian leaders, as well as leading representatives of the ruling Fides Party in 2015 followed the rigid anti-immigrant rhetoric launched by Prime Minister V. Orban, refraining from criticizing this xenophobic campaign.

Perhaps the only exception was Minister of Human Resources Zoltan Balog, former Calvinist pastor who expressed displeasure with the anti-migrant campaign launched in June. During his visit to London, he stated that immigration is a global problem, and Hungary was not ready to integrate people of many different ethnic, religious and political groups.

A symbolic act that could be interpreted as action against xenophobia was made by Aniko Levava, the wife of Prime Minister V. Orban. Together with the leaders of religious charitable organisations, she made donations to refugee children in the refugee reception centre. Taking into account the international audience, leading state and government officials, however, constantly stressed the commitment and duty to protect asylum seekers in Hungary for political reasons, as well as those who are persecuted in their countries. At the same time, however, they argued that this right would not apply to economic migrants. In particular, such a statement was made by the President of Hungary and former Fidesz Janos Ader, who during his visit to Italy in early June 2015 stated that those who arrived in Europe only because of economic reasons, most likely, should stay at home, but those who really are in danger need help.

However, in order to understand how this policy was implemented in practice, it is necessary to look at the statistics concerning the procedures for applying for asylum. According to the Office of Immigration and Citizenship (OIN) in 2014, 21% of asylum-seekers came from Afghanistan, 16% from Syria, 2% from Palestine and 1% from Pakistan and Iraq. In total, the number of refugees was 17,426. Only 503 applications (10%) for asylum were granted it. According to the Hungarian statistics, in the first 6 months of 2015 the total number of asylum-seekers was 66,788, of which 35,390 (53%) came from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan During this time period, 240 people received asylum, accounting for 12% of all applications. Thus, following the logic and rhetoric of the ruling politicians, it should be assumed that only 10% of asylum-seekers in 2014 and 12% in the first half of 2015 really were in danger or had political reasons for immigration. Are the rest "economic" immigrants?

All of the above allows us to understand why the main anti-xenophobic rhetoric in 2014 and 2015 was coming from opposition politicians, as well as leaders of various non-governmental organisations. With the exception of Jobbik, all opposition parties condemned government rhetoric directed against refugees. During the parliamentary debate on the issue of migrants February 20, 2015, speakers from the Social Democratic Party, the MSZP, the Hungarian Socialist Party, and several others criticized the government's rhetoric.

For example, Tamash Harangozo, deputy head of the MSZP deputy group, accused Fides of using the current wave of immigrants to incite xenophobia and instil fear and suspicion among voters. According to him, Fidesz used the darkest and most base methods of political propaganda, gross lies, as well as manipulation of figures to foment fear in society.

Former Prime Minister of the Socialist Party Ferenc Gyurcsany, on behalf of the entire democratic opposition, said that Fidesz created tension as a result of the anti-immigrant advertising campaign. He said that Hungary's strength in the diversity of the country, which was strong at the time when it hosted foreigners.

In addition to opposition parties, many human rights NGOs, as well as social groups and movements, raised their voice against government rhetoric. In many cases, their protest was more noticeable than the reaction of the opposition parties. On the eve of the parliamentary debates on immigration, six NGOs dealing with topics related to migration published an open letter to all members of parliament. A letter signed by the leaders of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), Menedék (Asylum) of the Hungarian Association for the Support of Migrants, the Solidarity Group, the Artemisszió Foundation, the Cordelia Foundation and the Land People organisation contained a protest against the policy of the Hungarian government towards refugees. These organisations condemned the rhetoric of the government, which unequivocally defined asylum seekers as "economic immigrants." As the signees explained, the vast majority of asylum seekers were forced to leave their home countries due to difficult life circumstances. These organisations claimed that although it can later be proved that some of them are not eligible for refugee status, most are indeed refugees, and government rhetoric pre-sets the population of the country against all refugees.

In a political blog on the Vastagbőr website, a parody political party called Magyar Kétfarkú Kutyapárt called on all Hungarian citizens to organize a "counter-attack" against government’s anti-immigration propaganda and to resist the demagogy of the government and xenophobic messages. Although MKKP and Vastagbőr originally intended to collect 3 million forints (about 9,500 euros) for this purpose, about a week later it had already received 33 million forints (about 105 thousand euros) in donations from private individuals. As a result, instead of 50 billboards that were planned for MKKP and Vastagbőr, a total of 900 billboards appeared on the streets on July 1, 2015. And, if the government campaign had only 3 versions of billboards, the billboards from MKKP and Vastagbőr had 10 different versions.

The most active among the NGOs was the HHC (Hungarian Helsinki Committee), which stated that "the protest initiated by the government was provocative from the very beginning against asylum seekers, immigrants and foreigners in general." Among many criticisms, the HHC also condemned Prime Minister Orban's statement to close the refugee camp in Debrecen and accused the prime minister of inciting xenophobia because of his personal political interests, etc. The main rally organized by the Group for solidarity with migrants against social exclusion and xenophobia was held on May 19 in Budapest. According to the organizers, about 50,000 people took part in the event. Speakers at the rally criticized the government's campaign against refugees and called for a tolerant Hungary in which neither refugees nor LGBTQ representatives should live in fear.

A definite breakthrough was also achieved on the issue related to the Jewish community – namely, the recognition of Hungary's responsibility for the extermination of Jews during the Second World War. In 2014-2015 years. This issue was repeatedly raised during the construction of monuments to the victims of war in a number of cities in the country. Each time the authorities refused to take any concrete steps to explain their position on this issue. However, in August 2015, the Hungarian government financed the creation of a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in the western Ukrainian city of Kamenetz-Podolsk, where, among others, 18,000 Hungarian Jews were killed and handed over to the German SS by the Hungarian government. In his speech at the opening of the monument, Deputy State Secretary for Priority Social Issues Csaba Latorcai expressed condolences on behalf of Hungary and said that the memorial should be a warning for everyone, showing that tragedies could have been avoided had there been a decision by some then-government officials, but they preferred not to take any decision, having submitted to the demands of the occupation authorities.

In 2017, as it can be clearly seen, government representatives had no intentions of standing up against xenophobia as they were the ones who incited it. There was one known example when a politician of the Fidesz-allied KDNP left the party because in her opinion the government’s treatment of refugees and shutdown of left-wing print daily Népszabadság are not in line with her Catholic values. Katalin Lukácsi, in an anti-government demonstration, said the following: “A lot has happened in the name of Christianity [...] the regime is neither Christian nor democratic.” Politicians from the opposition parties have been trying to give voice to the indignation. However, their voice could hardly be heard, especially not in the countryside.

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