Xenophobic campaign complicates efforts to deal with refugee crisis

August 24, 2015

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Hungary is ramping up efforts to deal with the stream of refugees arriving in the country through Serbia. Having just now realized Hungary’s refugee camps are severely overcrowded, the government plans on hiring border guards and additional support staff to deal with the situation. The government also plans to build two new temporary refugee camps in the backyards of two rural Transdanubian villages, a move that has increased Jobbik’s popularity and presence in the area. 

Pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet reports Hungary’s Office of Immigration and Nationality, the country’s immigration agency, is expanding its staff by 485 employees to “manage the increasing pressure of migrants”.

The majority of those being employed will serve as border guards until next August, the newspaper reports.

The immigration agency is also looking to hire specialists in the fields of accounting, economics and operations, plus asylum status case officers, doctors and public health experts.

Hungary has been struggling to cope with the influx of refugees since the beginning of the year. Temporary camps for them have been operating well over capacity and the government has put off hiring staff until now.

The government recently announced plans to construct two additional temporary camps for the migrants in the villages of Martonfa (pop. ~200) and Sormás (pop. ~850) for an estimated HUF 3.7 billion.

Martonfa mayor András Bosnyák has expressed concern about the plan for the village. The camp would provide temporary housing to about 1,000 refugees — a number more than five times greater than the population of the village. The municipality learned of the government’s plan to build a camp in their backyard from the Hungarian Gazette, the government’s official bulletin.

Sormás deputy mayor Zoltán Póczai estimates that around 98 percent of his village’s residents are opposed to the camp being built.

Hungary’s far-right extremist party, Jobbik, has since capitalized on the growing discontent of Martonfa and Sormás residents by taking up their case against the government in the media.

“In the past three weeks the names of Baranya county [villages] of Martonfa and Sormás became intertwined with each other after the national government announced plans to build refugee camps on the grounds of two Transdanubian villages,” wrote Jobbik’s regional director, László Zakó, last week on the party’s website. “Local residents are paving the way for countless demonstrations, petitions, press conferences and meetings [to oppose the plans].” 

The government’s inflammatory and xenophobic national consultation linking “immigration and terrorism” likely played a role in building up discontent in rural communities, the residents of which have until now had extremely limited interaction with refugees and non-Hungarians.