Hungary’s migration migraine

By Andrew L. Urban.

Budapest, October 3, 2016: It’s the morning after the referendum on migrants being sent to Hungary by the EU. The question was: “Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?”

Yes, a loaded question, reflecting the view of PM Viktor Orbán’s Government.. Just over 40% turned out to vote, of whom some 98% voted ‘no’. As the turnout was under 50%, the referendum is legally invalid.

I watched much of the post mortem by commentators and politicians on tv: it was interesting from both sides in that it pretty much mirrors the views held by Australians … and others in the West. The Hungarian Government (FIDESZ party) argues that its “about retaining our right to decide on an important issue. Immigration policy – to decide who enjoys the right to live in our country – should not be dictated to us, or to any member state, by Brussels. We aim to keep the right to decide on that for ourselves as a matter of national interest.”

The opposing campaign – which many on Australia’s political left will recognise – describes this position as racist and/or inhumane, which fundamentally misunderstands the view shared by the ‘no’ voters. It is neither racist, since it is Muslims who are in question and religion is not a race. Nor is it anti-religion, incidentally, nor is it inhumane. It is self protection, both physical and cultural.

The notion that it is humane to keep borders open to the mass of migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa is a soft hearted but immature and simplistic feel good position. It is only useful as a flag waving topic for demonstrations. There is no responsibility attached to it, to manage the issue in real life. As I wrote here back in May 2015 when I was also in Hungary as the first mass movement arrived on Europe’s doorstep (including Hungary’s southern border), there are several questions that are left unanswered by such a policy. And some consequences that are ignored.

First of all, the two primary reasons for the resistance to mass Muslim Migration are a) the fear of terrorists slipping through with the genuine refugees and the economic migrants; and b) the well observed lived experience of cultural conflict with Western societies. To ignore or deny either of these is childish and foolish, if you will forgive the insult.

It is also exceedingly dangerous. Agitating the divide in the community about what is today’s globally most relevant, pressing and challenging issue – mass migration – is not helpful. The debate needs to be reset in different terms. Not about whether to be humane and let every asylum seeker go wherever they please, but about how to effectively help those now in the millions who are either dislocated by war, seeking refuge from oppression or hankering for a better life in a decent home with money for food and clothes.

How does it help the million refugees who flooded into Germany (hello, Angela Merkel invited me) to end up on society’s rubbish tip in some derelict housing estate, struggling on welfare, unable to fit in without language or work skills, tempted by crime, unable to join the society whose culture, whose mores and terms of reference e are so different to the one in which they grew up. Ask the young Algerian men in the banlieus of Paris how wonderful it is to live in the West without money, ostracised and crime dependent, one step from jail … before or after it.

It is surprising how well meaning, intelligent people don’t think through the consequences of their humanitarian intentions when it comes to this issue. Nor consider some of the most basic questions:
Do we cap the inflow? If so, at what number? Is that humane to those who are excluded? How do we integrate so many at once? Do we fully understand and accept the risks?

The eggs are now scrambled, so we can’t go back to the start and devise a coherent, sophisticated and well resourced plan that brings together all the nations in the region who SHOULD participate, notably those whose Muslim culture is a suitable host. A plan which would see migration clearing houses established, funded by all the nations that can afford it. It is not only the few countries of Central Europe who must share the burden.

Most importantly, the plan should have strategic goals in how to humanely manage such a crisis. And we must be realistic. For example, it is foolish and dangerous to encourage economic migration: Africa could half empty, with dire consequences, for example.

Hungary’s migration migraine has not been eased by the referendum, and the world watched on (60 international tv crews crowded the result announcement press conference), recognising that it is not just a Hungarian issue.

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