Hungary. According to COUNTRYAAH, Budapest is the capital of Hungary which is located in Eastern Europe. The country became the focal point of Europe’s refugee crisis in 2015. As hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa streamed through the Balkans through Central Europe towards Germany and Sweden, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán led a growing immigration and refugee resistance in the EU.
Orbán was criticized for his undemocratic policies against the media, among others, when Chancellor Angela Merkel came to visit in February. Following Merkel was followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose contacts with hostile and EU-critical forces in Europe were seen as attempts to divide the EU and weaken the will for sanctions against the Kremlin for the war in Ukraine. Orbán and Putin had found each other, and Orbán criticized his EU colleagues for the sanctions against Moscow.
The opposition had vainly demanded that Orbán’s nuclear agreement with Putin from 2014 be made public, but now the Fidesz government party in Parliament passed a secret stamp for 30 years. Russian Rosatom will build two new nuclear reactors in Hungary, financed by Russian loans. The critics felt that the lack of detailed plans could make the project twice as expensive as planned EUR 12 billion and thus open to large-scale corruption. The EU also criticized parts of the agreement, including Moscow being the sole supplier of nuclear fuel.
In the spring, Orbán raised the issue of the reintroduction of the death penalty, which had been abolished since 1990. Orbán seemed to want to go right when his party lost ground in opinion to the right-wing extremist Jobbik. The death penalty was criticized by the opposition, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, where Orbán in turn criticized the EU’s plan for compulsory refugee quotas.
When Orbán arrived shortly after the EU summit in Riga, he was greeted by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker with: “Dictator!” Juncker said in an interview that those who face the death penalty have no place in the EU. Orbán backed off, explaining that the EU and NATO are Hungarian families.
After more than 50,000 refugees and migrants have entered Hungary since the beginning of the year, the government in June decided to set up a four-meter high fence along the border with Serbia. At the same time, the idea was to let the asylum seekers who wanted to go further north.
Parliament decided in July that refugees traveling through so-called safe countries could be deported when they arrived in Hungary. Parliament also gave the go-ahead for the construction of border fences against Serbia. Large police forces were mobilized to the border, where more and more refugees arrived. For now, barbed wire was rolled out after the 17-mile border with Serbia.
Since Germany expressed its willingness to accept all Syrian refugees, even though they have passed through other EU countries, the migration flow through Hungary, where few wanted to seek asylum. In September, there was chaos at the Budapest Central Station when police stopped refugees from boarding the trains to Austria and Germany. The station became a makeshift refugee camp with thousands of people sleeping on floors or in tents, with volunteer workers pouring in. The refugees then began to leave the station on foot the 180 km long road towards the Austrian border. The TV images on the refugee stream along the Hungarian motorway, where volunteers offered bananas, chocolate and water, reminded of refugee scenes from the Second World War. Buses were then temporarily made available to take refugees to the border.
Prime Minister Orbán was upset by Germany’s decision to open borders to refugees, which meant that the flow of people through Hungary was increasing. Orbán warned that Europe would be flooded by millions of migrants and refugees, and he said Hungary did not intend to host Muslims. A new law was voted on, according to which anyone entering Hungary without a permit risks three years in prison.
Hungary voted against the EU plan on compulsory refugee quotas for member states. An emergency permit was issued in the border area with Serbia, the border was closed and hundreds of people were arrested as they tried to enter Hungary. Refugees stormed the barbed wire fence, chaos ensued and the police used tear gas and water cannons. Hungary was condemned by the EU, and refugees began to travel around Hungary to reach Austria via Croatia and Slovenia.
Against Romania, the government decided to erect fences, and barbed wire was laid against Croatia and Slovenia. Later, a corridor from Serbia to Croatia was opened to allow the refugees to cross Hungary on their way north.
Parliament approved that the army could be deployed at the borders and also use weapons there. When the borders were finally closed in October, over 385,000 refugees and migrants had passed through Hungary since the beginning of the year. The government published advertisements in Hungarian press criticizing the EU plan and describing refugees from the Middle East as a terrorist threat. According to Orbán, terrorists followed the flow of migrants. At the UN, he proposed international quotas for refugee reception, which would relieve Europe.
The government decided to appeal the EU decision on mandatory quotas, in which member states would redistribute refugees from Italy and Greece. In December, the appeal was filed with the European Court of Justice. According to EU quotas, Hungary would receive 306 refugees from Italy and 998 from Greece.
The government’s tough attitude towards refugees led to an increase in public support for Fidesz, while the right-wing extremist Jobbik declined somewhat.