The Hungarian version of this article was originally published on Kettős Mérce.
There is still some time till the party’s promised official programme would be released in October, and while there is still heated internal debate on the matter, Migszol seizes the opportunity to formulate some suggestions and ask some questions to the party in the making.
Rather, our aim is to point to a wider problem in Hungarian politics, namely the following: No political party is brave enough to move away from a security obsessed and fear-fuelled approach to the topic of asylum policy. Yet we believe that such a move would be crucial for founding the discussion on asylum on facts, not fears.
Fidesz domination over migration debate in Hungar
Momentum is not the only party that has fallen into the trap of the Fidesz discourse. László Botka, the prime ministerial candidate of MSZP, had stated in an interview with Reuters that he would dismantle the fence. However, as the announcement provoked a controversial responses, he withdrew his statements in a Border Hunter inauguration event. It is not just Momentum, there is a great deal of fear amongst political parties to tackle the topic head on.
However, will you be able to offer a viable alternative to Fidesz, if you abstain from taking a clear political stance and simply go down the road paved by Fidesz ? This is a crucial question especially with regard to the heavily politicised topic of migration. If you accept so easily the parameters set by the ruling party, then, will you be able to provide a real alternative? How can it be that the only “experts” on the “migration panel” at Momentum’s summer festival were representatives from the Fidesz-affiliated National University of Public Service (NKE)? You have listened to no other voices.
How can the party be in opposition to Fidesz while only inviting NKE representatives? Does that contribute to a diverse Hungary that Momentum claims to strive for? That is how Fidesz’s roundtable looked like at Tusványos. We hope that Momentum does not trust this as a well functioning approach since, in principle, the young party has a desperate attempt to appeal to all interests, anti-refugee and pro-refugee. However, isn’t this a hopeless attempt?
On the question of “legality” of the fence and the transit zone
The transit zones and their procedures violate several points even of the already inadequate Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that children should not be detained.
Life in the transit zones is criminalised as people are detained behind bars and razor wire during the entire duration of their asylum procedure - the latest legal development that Fidesz introduced only in March 2017. People staying in the transit zones are being constantly humiliated, living for months in a non-airconditioned container with one window. Often, large families are lumped together, their only alternative being to spend their day in a small inner courtyard with no shadow whatsoever. People are handcuffed when they need a doctor and are accompanied by armed security guards carrying batons and sprays anywhere they go within the detention complex.
People are placed behind bars without having committed any crime, and this, in the name of the elusive, all-encompassing term of national security, which can be recalibrated according to the needs of each occasion. An asylum policy based on facts would also mean clarifying the concepts in circulation: for instance, what is exactly meant by “public security”? At the moment, the people who suffer most from public security are precisely the minorities: people of LGBTQ background, roma, migrants, people with a different skin colour.
Another set of legislation is built to make the asylum application procedure incredibly difficult, with arbitrary rules such as announcing Serbia as a safe third country. The result is that after many months of being roasted under the sun and inside non-airconditioned spaces they may be pushed back to Serbia with no options left. All of this is done under the name of legality.
We ask Momentum to consider the relative nature of law, since with that logic the newly-passed NGO law or the Lex CEU would also qualify as legitimate. Do you agree with that?
Unfortunately, lately we have had to question, on certain points, the validity of the term “legal in the way Fidesz defines it. At some occasions, it is impossible to accept it as the only measure of what is morally correct or even legal. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that detention of asylum seekers in the zone violates human rights. Given that Momentum is an outspokenly pro-EU party, we are surprised that they do not follow the ECHR ruling on this matter.
We would also emphasise that the fence itself is not the problem: the fence is only a material manifestation of the legislation that allows it. Limiting the discussion on being pro- or anti-fence is pointless unless we also discuss the law that criminalises the asylum seekers’ entry to the country and endangers an entire group of people. We need to discuss the law that allows the violent push-back of people to Serbia since July 2016 and the systematic detention with no special allowances for vulnerable people.
Seeking asylum is internationally recognised to be everyone’s right, and that includes access to territory. If Momentum truly wants to show solidarity with the refugees, they should not only organize money collections to gain sympathy voters, but create a safe passage and attend to their needs!
Instead, now you aim to conquer your own spot on the same old playground where Fidesz sets the rules. We are looking forward to October, to see if you were to stay there, or you proceed to create your own, fact-based alternative for Hungarian migration policy in this dusty air of political propaganda, in which we are currently navigating.
We recommend this reading from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee for all members of Momentum still considering what their stance is. Migszol does not necessarily agree with all these suggestions either, but at least this one was written by real experts - those experts, whose opinion also the Fidesz government has ignored ever since seizing power in 2010.
The economy of the fence
These could actually be reopened which would mean a consideration of vulnerable people. And the people detained at our borders are vulnerable—men, women and children exposed to multiple orders of trauma including the trauma of leaving their homes and the trauma of the journey. And there is nothing done in the transit zones to alleviate their suffering.
The fence does not only cost dearly tax payers money - it also makes the cost of border crossing higher for refugees both physically and in hard currency. It creates lucrative business opportunities for smugglers, and exposes people attempting to cross the border in irregular ways to horrific violence. So now, the options are smugglers or transit zones.
The fence’s effect on Hungarian public consciousness
In addition, the normalization of the fence further increases fear, a fear of what is “out there”, of what we don’t know, and this is exactly what Viktor Orbán wants. These sentiments are echoed also in his speeches on ethnic homogeneity and his false opposition of Christianity and Islam. Last but not least, for the tiny population of migrants and refugees in Hungary (around 0.4 percent of the country’s population), the fence stands as a constant reminder that they are not welcome - and even if they are, they are welcome as “exceptions”.
Five years ago, if someone would have said that you need to build a fence, almost everyone would have been outraged, and would not have accepted it but now the majority agrees on this. Its presence has become normalised. We truly hope that Momentum, as a new energetic party, would not fall into this trap so cleverly set by Orbán, and would realise what the fence does to us living in Hungary.