Migszol protest against detention was very successful. In this blog post, we address the critique of Jobbik for not engaging in dialogue with them, as well as ponder why does it matter that supporters from Budapest drive a bus to Debrecen to support the cause of refugees and asylum seekers over there - and who, in the end, are the “locals” suffering from the refugee camp.
The Hungarian radical right party Jobbik criticized Migszol for coming all over from Budapest with a bus, protesting against asylum seekers’ detention in Debrecen, and not understanding what the locals suffer. Ironically, that is totally true - we do not understand why the locals suffer. By the locals, however, we do not only refer to Hungarians living around the area of Samsoni ut, but of course to the asylum seekers and refugees living inside the camp and inside the detention centre. Jobbik, it seems, has not considered, while holding their political campaign speeches at the entrance of the camp, that asylum seekers and refugees “live” in the area as much as they do, and if someone is suffering from the living conditions in the camp and in the detention, it is them. Hungary and Debrecen are not providing a “favor” by running a refugee camp and “letting” refugees live there. Hungary has the legal obligation of providing respectable living conditions for anyone who wishes to seek asylum - because we all have the fundamental right to do that.
So, why did Migszol not wish to speak with Jobbik representatives on Saturday?
1. We had reserved the place (previously used by Jobbik) for the demonstration - simply, this time it was the Migszol campaign that was on the spotlight, and we did not want to give space to Jobbik in the area where asylum seekers and refugees live.
2. Many of the asylum seekers and refugees have extremely bad experiences from radical right supporters - most notably from Golden Dawn in Greece. We did not wish to revoke past bad experiences, but keep the good spirit of the day.
3. The discourse of Jobbik on the camp is distorted and not based on facts. Claims that Hungarian taxpayers money is used for refugees is irrelevant, because of the aforementioned legal obligation of Hungary to provide assistance to those seeking asylum. Even more importantly, to a large extent the Hungarian asylum system functions from European Union fund, so basically we have to talk about the German taxpayers.
Anyway, so much for Jobbik. After all, they were present only for half an hour and then had to rush to a football match, we had many critical conversations amongst ourselves. There is another question that was raised many times during the day, that we would like to address.
What will this protest change?
The short term answer is, of course, nothing. Migszol members and supporters got back on the bus and drove to Budapest, while innocent people being held in the detention centre stay behind the bars, and many others return to the despicable living conditions in the open camp.
The long term answer, however, is more important, and the answer also more rewarding. Firstly, Migszol has received more media attention than ever before. Even if the media attention was not always positive, it still could not hide the fact that there are voices and forces in Hungary who oppose the current treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and who are not afraid of being labeled as “enemies of the Hungarian local community” by the radical right.
Secondly, the media could not hide the fact that the protest happened in a festive picnic atmosphere, with food, music, books and dances, not to mention the extremely powerful moment of connection when people in the detention were waving at us from behind the bars. This picture powerfully counters the usual narrative that portrays refugees as dubious, aggressive criminals that are a “problem” for Hungary.
Thirdly, and most importantly, by example of staging a protest, we are contributing to rallying other people in Hungary to support the cause. Already now, we can tell that our group and our cause is gaining much more visibility, and new members and volunteers constantly want to join. Together, slowly, we can make a change.
Refugees who live in the camp now will suffer from the conditions of the Hungarian asylum system tomorrow as well. However, we respect them for standing up in solidarity for people they do not even know - for refugees who will arrive to Hungary in the future, and who will not be detained, because the refugees of today have fought for it.
The problems of detention and lack of integration perspectives are huge - therefore, the solutions are slow as well, and all the people - asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants and Hungarians - need to stand together in solidarity. We all have the right to seek asylum, to live here, and to contribute to change - and Migszol is thrilled to see it happening - so once more, THANK YOU for the support!