Hungary secretly accepted 1,300 refugees in 2017

January 15, 2018

Hungary might have secretly accepted some 1,300 refugees in 2017
“Let’s stop Brussels!” | Photo: Nagy

Despite the government’s xenophobic anti-immigration propaganda of last year, Hungary secretly accepted 1,300 refugees in 2017.

Deputy undersecretary with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kristóf Altusz revealed the number in an interview published in the Times of Malta on January 10. According to Altusz, such cases were not publicised by the government as it could put the beneficiaries in danger.

In the interview, he also claimed that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s talk  about “Muslim invaders” is just political language and although it “might sound a bit hard for the Western ear,” in Hungary it is “not all that striking.”

“If someone wants to seek shelter in Hungary we are open. But let us not mix definitions. Economic migrants are not refugees,” Altusz claimed and added that “those requiring refugee status can come to Hungary.”

HírTV reported that at a Friday press conference, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó refuted Altusz’s claim, stating that:

“People deemed asylum-seekers or protected persons by the Geneva Conventions have nothing to do with illegal immigrants that the European Union intends to settle here based on the resettlement quota. The two have nothing on Earth to do with each other. Based on the Geneva Conventions, we accept asylum-seekers, not in secrecy, but this is an ongoing procedure that every country performs virtually non-stop. […] When somebody comes here and submits an asylum application, then it must be reviewed.”

Jobbik spokesman Péter Jakab said the governing Fidesz party has undertaken the “hustle of the century” when accepting refugees into the country despite campaigning against resettling migrants in Hungary. Jakab said that if Orbán is unwilling to answer questions about the accepted refugees, he then technically admits that he enforced the EU resettlement quota behind the people’s back.

On Saturday, Jobbik chairman and prime ministerial candidate Gábor Vona announced that Jobbik would try to set up an extraordinary parliamentary meeting where Orbán should disclose who these 1,300 refugees are, how they got to Hungary, where they came from, and where they are right now.

According to HírTV’s reporting, Politics Can Be Different (LMP) MP Márta Demeter said at a Saturday press conference: “It would be good if Fidesz wouldn’t constantly lie to the Hungarian people. They constantly scaremonger, [they conduct] a tens of billions [of forints] worth anti-immigration campaign, and then admit they accepted 1,300 people. I think they owe an explanation to the people.”

The same day Fidesz MP Gyula Budai voiced the ruling party’s standpoint in the case, saying: “Gábor Vona is mixing things up, I think there is no secret here. This is a rather simple question, based on the quota, Hungary has not accepted a single migrant. Regarding the number of those who were accepted based on the Geneva Conventions, Hungarian laws and courts determine who we accept.”

On Monday morning in an interview with HírTV, Vona said his party seeks to set up a special parliamentary meeting to vote on establishing a parliamentary committee of inquiry. Vona said that since Fidesz’s whole campaign was built on the promise that the government would protect Hungary from migrants, the government should appear at the special parliamentary meeting “if it does not have any secrets or anything to be ashamed of,” and “if this case is not Viktor Orbán’s Őszöd speech”. “If Orbán starts to hide, then it raises much more serious questions, the Jobbik chairman said.

In order to set up an extraordinary meeting, Jobbik would need the signatures of 40 MPs and the presence of Fidesz MPs. Even though LMP might support Jobbik’s initiative, it is rather unlikely that Fidesz will be cooperative.

Meanwhile, Hungary, along with the Czech Republic and Poland, is facing infringement proceedings as even after a final ruling by the European Court of Justice, the government is reluctant to conduct the asylum procedures required by the EU. It is worth noting that both Fidesz and government officials keep referring to the EU resettlement quota as an obligation that forces Hungary to compulsorily accept some 1,294 “migrants”. “Brussels” forcing “illegal migrants” on Hungary has become the center of the government-dominated public debate about the EU quota.

However, the quota agreement only requires EU Member States to process asylum applications in proportion to a respective country’s population and economic strength (which is 1,294 procedures in Hungary’s case). In theory, Hungary could reject all 1,294 asylum applications and still fulfill the quota’s requirements.