Hungarian quota campaign darkens the image of migrants

Hungarian quota campaign darkens the image of migrants
By Rita Palfi
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Hungary’s government has launched its “information campaign” ahead of the country’s upcoming referendum on refugees.


Hungary’s government has launched its “information campaign” ahead of the country’s upcoming referendum on refugees.

Hungarians will vote on October 2 to approve or reject taking a quota of refugees which the EU is trying to get all member states to approve.

The campaign is designed to “draw attention to the dangers of the erroneous migration policies of Brussels”, according to Bence Tuzson, the State Secretary responsible for government communication at the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister.

He presented the six main messages that will be displayed on billboards and in all forms of media.

The messages are constructed in the same way. They start with the question “did you know” and then a sentence about the migration crisis.

They are all presented as facts but sometimes they do not tell the whole truth, or they are not exact enough to be presented as fact.

  • “Brussels wants to settle the equivalent of a ‘city’ of illegal migrants in Hungary”

Migrants or refugees?

This might seem a very subtle, pedantic point, but the government campaign talks about ‘illegal migrants’, while, Brussels’ plan refers to those being relocated as refugees.

The UN refugee agency says migrants are people who choose to move, not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons.

While a refugee is a person who has fled armed conflict or persecution and who is recognised as being in need of international protection because it is too dangerous for them to return home. These are people for whom denial of asylum has potentially deadly consequences.

For example, one of the statements is about Brussels’ quota plan. Taken at face value, the statement is accurate.

But, we should say at this stage, that a city in Hungary can represent somewhere that has a population of anywhere between 1,000 to two million people.

The EU wants Hungary to take in 1,294 refugees.

Hungary has around 350 ‘cities’. Only two have a population smaller than 1,294 according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (data from 2011).

An earlier Hungarian government campaign said that 160,000 refugees would be resettled in Hungary, but this figure was the number to be redistributed throughout the whole EU. However this figure can still be seen on the government’s website about quotas.

  • “The Paris attacks were committed by migrants”

There is another message of the campaign, that directly links terrorism to migration, talking about the coordinated terror attacks in Paris last year.

The terrorists who killed 130 people in the French capital were related to migration, but the main figures of the terrorist cell were descendants of migrant families, who were born, raised and educated in Europe and were radicalised by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Europol’s new report on terrorist attacks says “there is no concrete evidence to date that terrorist travellers systematically use the flow of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed. The investigations into the 13 November Paris attacks revealed however that two of the attackers had entered the EU through Greece as part of the large influx of refugees from Syria”.


The report also says that “a real and imminent
danger, and one that will probably continue to exist for a long time,
is the potential for elements of the (Sunni Muslim) Syrian refugee
diaspora to become vulnerable to radicalisation once in Europe,
and to be specifically targeted by Islamist extremist recruiters”.

  • “Since the beginning of the migrant crisis the number of sexual assaults against women has risen sharply”

In fact there are no relevant statistics about that.

However it is true that there were several incidents. Among the most infamous are an alleged group attack on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and a sex attack at a Swedish music festival. These incidents can make people feel like there are more cases, but this can’t be considered as a fact or statistics.

The sex assaults in Cologne and at the Swedish music festival as well as assaults in German swimming baths were the incidents on which that “fact” was based. Index, a Hungarian site got this answer from the government. They added that in Germany, 1,200 women were assaulted, and quoted Holger Münch the president of the German Federal Crime Police Office, who said to Süddeutsche Zeitung, that “there is a connection between the emergence of this phenomenon and the rapid migration in 2015”.

According to a Europe-wide representative survey of F.R.A., the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the majority of incidents of violence against women are perpetrated by people known to the victim. Some 22 percent of all women have suffered violence at the hands of a partner. Of those women who had been physically or sexually abused by someone other than a partner, 30 percent identified a family member as the perpetrator, 22 percent a friend or acquaintance, and 22 percent somebody else known to the victim.


According to its estimation before the year of the survey (2014), there were 3,7 million women who had become victims of a sexual assault.

F.R.A. underlined the need for EU member states to ratify the Council of Europe’s ‘Istanbul Convention’ on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, something the Hungarian parliament failed to do last March, and has not retried since.

On the other hand, about 25 percent of those who have arrived in Europe in the last two years are unaccompanied children, according to Eugenio Ambrosi, of the International Organization for Migration.

That means there are thousands of young men without their families, who are coming from a world where dress code and attitudes to women and rules regarding the treatment of women are different.

It would be as important to help the refugees not only with food or drink or shelter, but also with information and education. It is important to show and make them understand the rules they have to follow in Europe, György Tatár, an international expert in the prevention of mass atrocities, told Euronews.


A correlation with with the refugee crisis in that respect can not be ruled out, but no one can say for sure that there were dramatically more assaults since the arrival of more than one million refugees in Europe.

The outcome of the referendum

“The latest campaign of the Hungarian government contains xenophobic elements, arguments and rhetoric used by far-right parties in Europe,” Hungarian political analyst Áron Varga told Euronews. He added that the interesting part of the consequences of the Hungarian government’s campaign is not the influence it will have on the outcome of the referendum, but the emotional and political effects in Hungary and in Europe. “The more people who see xenophobia can be a key to a political success, the more people will use that strategy,” he said.

Varga thinks the referendum is likely to be an overwhelming victory for the government-backed ‘no’ campaign, which will see the Brussels plan rejected. He says this prediction is backed up by the latest survey of the Pew Research Center, which reveals Hungarians believe that the refugee crisis will have a negative influence on their own lives*. “This result is not surprising. Considering that Hungarians had a negative position about immigration earlier, that is what the government uses,” he explained.

One problem for Viktor Orban is that any Hungarian referendum has to reach 50 percent turnout to be valid.

This is a very high percentage, given the fact that in 2003, after a very intensive campaign, only 45.6 percent of voters participated in the referendum on whether to join the European Union or not. (‘Yes’ won with more than 83.7% – source: National Election Office).


Even a valid referendum, in which “no” wins a majority, would not make a big difference in public law as the Hungarian constitution gives the European Union the right to make binding decisions on certain grounds, said Varga. He added: “It is already an odd situation, that a referendum that conflicts with the constitution can be held.”

  • Of 10 EU nations surveyed, Hungary was the country where most people believe incoming refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country and that refugees are a burden on their country because they “take their jobs and social benefits”.
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