Hungary is one of the few countries that serve both as a transit and destination country in the refugee crisis. Between May and September 2015, the number of Syrian refugees at its borders increased from 500 to 8,000 a day. However, few of them are allowed to stay.

Hungary’s asylum system is one of the strictest in the EU. In 2014, less than one in ten of all asylum applications was accepted, compared to an EU-average of 45%. The majority of applications for asylum in Hungary came from people fleeing war zones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Despite repeated requests by the European Parliament and NGO’s like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to respect human rights and allow more refugees to enter the country, the situation in Hungary seems to deteriorate. In October 2015, Hungary closed its borders for all refugee streams. And in March 2017, the Hungarian government passed a law allowing asylum seekers to be detained.

How should Hungary continue to deal with the refugee flow? What role should the EU play in changing countries’ attitudes? And more importantly, how will Hungary deal with even bigger numbers of refugees in the future due to a deteriorating climate and demographic state of many of the sending countries?

On 26 April 2017, Debating Europe and the Hungarian Millennium Institute organised a debate evening in Budapest entitled “Is there justice over there too? Wall, war, escape and migration in the 21st century” as part of our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project. Citizens and experts joined together to talk about the humanitarian implications of Hungary’s current approach towards refugees, and whether Hungary’s overall approach towards migration is sustainable.

Speakers of the debate were Júlia Iván, Director of Amnesty International in Hungary and Balázs Orbán, Director of the Migration Research Institute. The debate was moderated by Director of the Millenium Institute András Pulai.

You can watch the recorded footage here:

What do you think? Should Hungary accept more refugees? Is the EU putting enough pressure on Hungary to change its behavior, or is this a national issue? Do you think Hungary’s approach towards migration is sustainable? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

The Debating Europe “Cities & Refugees” project is co-funded by the European Union’s “Europe for Citizens” program.
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Bigstock – Peter Tkac
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

103 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. Iosif Cristian

    Here’s a crazy idea… What if EU would man the F up and adopt Hungary aproach towards refugees? Eh? Crazy right?

  2. José Bessa da Silva

    It is hight time for the EU to stop meddling in what is none of it’s business. The refugee quotas plan is ridiculous.

    • António Espadaneira

      (…) Your country is neither rich to be appealable for refugees and neither geographically accessible to be part of the migrant route.
      And once for all, stop mixing war refugees with migrants.

    • Uli Czeranka

      would you state the same if the northern european states would close their borders and all refugees would stay in the southern states?

    • José Bessa da Silva

      Yes, I would. And actually they should. To start with if Northern Europe was to close the border a lot less refugees would try their luck. Finally if Italy, Greece, Malta, etc are incompetent patroling their borders then it is their problem to solve, not mine or my country’s.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Uli Czeranka Northern States ‘have closed’ their borders to the South, Austrian troops are not at the Italian border.

    • Diaconu George Razvan

      José Bessa da Silva EU border should have been protected by an EU force since the liberty to move in Shengen in unchecked ( or is it?) . 2 . Most of the “refugees” don’t want to come in the eastern Europe countries either…

    • José Bessa da Silva

      Diaconu, I regret to tell you but the Schengen and the EU are not the same thing. Switzerland is part of the Schengen agreement yet Ireland is not. The Schengen allows free movement between signing members but it leaves it’s external borders responsabilities to the members that hold it in their territory. PS: I’m not eastern european and if refugees do not want to go to easter europe you only prove once more how stupid the quotas are.

  3. Bódis Kata

    Hungary applies international laws and the laws of Schengen as they should be. The majority of the people are not real refugees and such people should not be allowed into Schengen without visa.

    People who want to work in the EU should get a work visa, as many other thousands do every year. We should call only real refugees as refugees.

    • Stash

      The same EU that transfers money to your budgets so you can have nice roads etc?

  4. Jose Marcal

    No. They have this approach because it all started in Hungary. I was there two years ago in the train station of Budapest. It was crazy

    • Jose Marcal

      What was propaganda? The reality that I saw there?

  5. Tin Ćurković

    No! Why change something that is working. By refusing to take migrants, they are exerting pressure on other nations in Western Europe to stem the flow of their migrates. Because, at some point, they reach an upper limit, and can’t dump migrants in Eastern Europe, so they can’t take more them-self.

    This is why after Austria’s refusal to take Italian migrants, Italy became more serious on dealing with the NGO’s … etc.

    • Ivan Giankovits

      Destroy Europe today!!! All together or nobody to accept Them, if you dont help greece italy spain i hope this countries give pasport to all of Them , Then what you Can do in hungary?

    • Marko Martinović

      Europe should not be tyranny. Europe should not force politics on its members. It should be disolved because it is starting to look like tyranny

  6. Barbara Szela Lesniak

    You must be kidding. Hungary is an independent country and has never given the right to EU to decide on its internal policy. Merkel’s EU, keep your hands off Hungary.

    • Antonio Anastasi

      Subtitles Hungary is a member of the EU when it joined the EU it did not only agree to accept billions of Euro to restructure the country but also to abide by all its moral and legal obligations, it agreed to abide by the Refugee convention, and any decisions the EU voted on.

      Sharing the burden and treating refugees with the dignity they deserve as well as accepting asylum application to honestly vet them is part of the obligation Hungary signed up for.

      If itban is not happy with that, then return the money and leave the EU.

    • Maia Alexandrova

      Antonio Anastasi, the EU’s moral and legal obligations are not to violate its own laws. Illegal immigration is not allowed by EU laws for border protection. Free movement is only for EU citizens and those who have an EU or Schengen visa. Your interpretation of law and order is wrong and brings only chaos and lawlessness! If Hungary returns the money and leaves the EU, will this solve the problem with illegal mass migration into Europe? No, because it is not Hungary’s approach that is the problem, but the EU’s hypocritical approach!

  7. Georgi Krestanov

    Its time for EU to open eyes and use the common sense – Go Hungary – Go Poland – Go Vishegrad – the right way is the good way

  8. Paweł Kunio

    Go read strange death of europe by douglas murray before posting such a stupid question, wouldnt You? Of course hungary and eastern europe handle the refugee crisis better than Italy or Greece do. Wonder when Italys nerves will break and it will allow 200k refugees in camps inward into eu. And if You are looking to solutions to this crisis, there should be hotspots in north africa up to turkey where one could apply for asylum and in a meantime boats coming to Greece and Italy should get turned back to where they came from.

    • Bódis Kata

      Check out the partners of the Debating Europe platform and then you’ll understand why they ask such questions. ;)

    • Paweł Kunio

      On their webpage or on the fb page of theirs? Never mind that. They ask stupid questions that trigger me. Italy and Greece should learn from Visegrad as of how to stop the flow of illegals seeking refugee not offering much in return out of fundamental values that are incompatible with ours.

    • Bódis Kata

      They ask these questions very deliberately.

    • Paweł Kunio

      Ah yeah. That explains much. LEaders who fail to properly lead themselves on their own. If it wasnt for laughs that I stay here, it would be high time to unlike.

  9. Andrew Potts

    Hungary is the equivalent of the little boy shouting out the Emperor has no clothes. The EUs migration policy is dangerous at best or a attempt to subdue indigenous nations at worst.

  10. Galina Dimitrova Valcheva

    If Germany wants cheap labour in future, why other countries should suffer? Let all the countries who robbed them in the past, handle them now. Eastern Europe should not take the the burden!

    • Bódis Kata

      Skilled labor goes to Germany from outside the EU with work visa.

    • Galina Dimitrova Valcheva

      So? Skilled it doesn’t mean cheap! Plus they are trying to refresh the demographic situation with these people. Eastern Europe does not need them. Soon Germans will emigrate to eastern Europe

  11. Marainn

    It is time for all EU countries to respect souvereignty, inclusive territorial souvereignty, of the member states. The EU is NOT a federal state!!!

  12. Matej Mlinarič

    EU is violating their own laws by letting any of them in. Just really after all the misery and deaths that this mass immigration has brought you just want to keep doing same thing. That just shows that you don’t really care what anybody has to say unless they repeat after you. This blind stupidity is the reason that nobody trusts you with anything anymore. This is the reason that UK left cause you just keep pushing and when its time to address problems. You just keep pretending that your mess can’t be fixed. So this immigration has nothing to do with interest of native populations and instead of that is interest of EU to expand their control over nation states that created you. EU is deliberately undermining nations that sustain this project. So if EU disbands it will be on you and your absolutely reckless policies.

  13. Craig Willy

    Illegal immigration is a problem. Hungary’s pioneering policy of building a fence worked and led to a massive reduction in the flow of illegal migrants: Western Europeans have been very slow on the uptake on all this. Concerning real refugees, I don’t see why they should settle in Hungary. Why not pay to keep them in Turkey or a “huge city” in Libya, as Prime Minister Orbán has proposed?

  14. Zoltan Maurer

    It won’t happen . They are not welcome in Hungary… Because Germany have open door for them but there must be respect for the countries where they are not welcome…

  15. Ariste Arvanitides

    No time to send them back and help them rebuild their lives, further, send the nations that bombed them to Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity.

    • Imanuel d'Anjou

      he says bravely from ottowa. no poverty, no racial discrimination, no lacking communists sucking up public and EU funds. nope, everything in hungary is hunkydory.

    • Gabriella Anderson

      Imanuel d’Anjou as a matter of fact, yes… Hungary is a great and fun country. Oh, yeah – SAFE as well. WHere do you live to speak in such an a..hole tone about a beautiful and rapidly developing country?

  16. George Koutsoftas

    It is time for Europe to help those Refugees go back to their countries and start building up their life’s and everything… They have been there for thousands of years and they survived.

    • Imanuel d'Anjou

      something must have changed their situation. maybe jihadist warfare and russian gas. weird how people tend to run away from those things

    • George Titkov

      Imanuel d’Anjou Russian gas in the middle east? Check your facts before you post. The region is a gas producer, not importer.

  17. Faddi Zsolt

    Every EU-member can decide what it want to do in this question. Hungary, or the Wishegradians had made the decision; they don’t want to leave migrants inside their borders! These countries have suverene right to do so!

    • Nikos Chardalias

      Sure, because EU for these countries is only about receiving funds. No obligation, only cashing money. Shameless…

    • Faddi Zsolt

      You are ignorant in that case! Becoming an EU-member meant to liberate the markets. Liberalisation of markets meant to rob the markets, buying corporations for a few Dollars then making them bankrupt. So the markets of East-European EU-member states were ready for total conquest. Result: unemployment and poor people.

    • Gabriella Anderson

      Nikos Chardalias you mean these countries must behave like colonies of the rich western-eu countris? Wake up, man!

  18. Tiromanzino May

    Of course not. 75% of Europeans are against illegals.

    Otherwise the issue is manipulated and intoxicated as politicians are calling refugees to those who are economic migrants.

    This issue should be treated by referendum and not be left in hands of the elite in Brussels. Get back democracy to people.

  19. Sandrine Carlier

    No, why should they. Why are you putting this “issue” back on the table? The refugees are needed back in Syria to build it up and the others are economic migrants whom we do not need since we have 10% unemployment in the EU. Therefore should Germany need more workforce, they can look in France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and all other EU countries to meet their needs and vice versa.

  20. Stephen J Gorog

    EU should change it’s approach towards migrants and it’s handling of refugees! EU funds ? Nice way of getting high profits from East Europe! Give them money they can spend in w. Eu.

  21. Christofer Catilan

    Certainly NOT! Only Hungarian people and their politicians know what they want and what they can do. EU-elite doesn’t know anything except trying to force their ideas on member states. This will in the long term politically tear apart EU.

  22. Alexa Vasquez

    No. There are already more than enough countries setting the example if they think Hungary is wrong.

  23. Vicente Silva Tavares

    Refugees or economic migrants? Living on welfare? Accordingly to an Algerian-Swedish journalist, 80% of the Muslim communities live on welfare. Is it this what we want? People that not contribute to the social security and live on our backs?

  24. Alex Tselentis

    Why is NO ONE talking about the many jihadists hiding amoungst these masses ?? Merkel hersel has admitted in public there could be THOUSANDS of them, maybe thats why Hungary and Poland and a growing number of European states say enough is enough, most of these “refugees” are not even Syrian .. This entire crisis sadly, is being used as a trojan horse, while the EU sits back in silence doing nothing.

  25. catherine benning

    Is it time for Hungary to change its approach towards refugees?

    Are you suggesting Hungarians should suddenly become as unbelievably mad as the Germans, Swedish or British are? Must Hungarians despise their cultural heritage and reject the will of their people to be ‘good’ Europeans?

    The only approach to be changed is that of Brussel’s.

    And here is a truth nobody is testing in our so called wonderful and ‘fair’ ECJ courts.

  26. Kialee Kajar

    No. I would argue that the Hungarian approach is the sustainable approach.

    Europe needs farsighted policies for refugees and migrants. Every year, European population remains fairly stagnant, while third world countries population grow massively. At the same time, European states should try to give their own citizens healthcare, housing, welfare. We can not afford to give that to everyone who wants to come here.

    Let me give an example. Nigeria and Bangladesh are major sources of migrants coming to Italy. These two are poor countries, with standards of living far below that of European countries. UN predictions show that from 2017 to 2040 their population will grow from 356 million to 524 million. This is how fast the third world population is growing. Meanwhile, the population of EU will grow from around 510 million to perhaps 520 million.

    Even if a massive war erupted in Nigeria, we can not in any realistic way give shelter to everyone who wants it. And Nigeria and Bangladesh are not the only places where economic migrants and refugees come and could come from. There are potentially billions of people, who would want to live here in Europe, if given the chance.

    Anyone can see that this equation does not work out.

    If we want to help them, we can only try to help people them in their own countries. Allowing millions upon millions of people to come will bring huge economic, demographic, social and cultural problems.

    We are wealthy, but not that wealthy. We are too small to be the welfare- and refugee center of the world. And the potential amount of people wanting to get here is increasing every year.

  27. Chris Conner

    Hungarians, how to make an omelette, step one, steal an egg! Gypsy laden country! Who cares!

  28. Joseph Schembri

    No European Union should change position to be like Hungary ‘s. When are we going to realise that we are being invaded.

  29. Isabelle Ancelet

    Ask this question to the Hungarian people! I am sure you already know the answer. They vote to Viktor Orban yet. So, you have your answer. Right now, I want to ask a question, me too : There are many death people everywhere in France because the Muslims and their religion. In another hand, there are no death people in Hungary because Muslims. So, who is right! The french people who accepted Muslims on their territory for years and years or Hungarians who refuse them?

    • Ágnes Losonczi

      WE DON’T!!! I hate when stupid, ignorant, clueless people shoot off their silly mouth about us!!! If you kept silent, you may have seemed wiser!!!! Orban has cheated in the previous elections and the upcoming next one will be worse!!! And while he publicly stomps around refusing to accept not even 1200 refugees, who wouldn’t stay in the hell on Earth, orban has made Hungary, he has sold up to date 18 000 european settlement bonds for 300 000 euros per head to the same migrants, who could pay for them!!!!! For his own pocket!!!! All his apparent and alleged anti migrant politics are just a ruse, because he wants out of the EU, since he has stolen all the billions of euros, that was given to the improvement of our country, and now he’s afraid of being held accountable for all this embezzlement!!! He has also stolen all of our taxes too, thus pushing back our country into the 19th century!!!! Stupid goose!!!!! You ask next time the hungarians, like me, before stating all this BS!!!!! Orban’s thievery has caused much more deaths, than all your migrants!!!!!!!

    • Isabelle Ancelet

      Àgnes Losonczi. Were you obliged to insult me? Do you feel more intelligent than me doing that? By your reply, I can see If Hungary has nothing to learn about the corruption of its own leader, it has to learn everything about the rules of the democracy. You, who want you country to stay in EU, you should know it more than anyone. It is one of the most important rules in Europe. When someone has not the same point of view than you, you have the right to discuss, to present your arguments, to be an opponent, but not to insult or to aggresse. Already, Viktor Orban does not respect it. Do you want to do the same? As for the fact that he wants to leave EU, you are right : It is a ruse. But do you really believe that he would like to do that? You just come to tell it yourself : Most of the money that he has stolen came from EU. He likes money. Do you believe he would renounce to a such source? Of couse, not! As for the migrants, when your jails will be full of muslims, when the most of your criminal will be muslims, when every attempts committed on your territory will be made by Muslims, when all your army and your police will be busy only to protect you against them, when you will know people around you who wants you to die only because you are Hungarian and Christian, when you will be insult every day in the street by these women who are wearing the Islamic veil so that to tell you, a woman, that they are better than you because they are Muslim, when every week you will learn in the newspapers that one more man tried to kill you in the name of his God, you will understand why most of the french people do not want this people anymore on its territory. Right now, the “stupid goose” is waiting you apologise. In another way, she would consider that you just have the leader that you merit. Best regards.

    • István Simon

      not all hungarian like to see Victor Orban as a prime minister.

      even many of orban – voters like to change the way how refugees handled.

      about dead peoples: Victor Orban want to desteabilize the European Union. one thing, in his arseanal is thedeclining the EU’s politic at all possible point. his way, to handle refugees: all real refugees held back int their main road. some of “refugees” (they are trained terrorists) smuggled into the EU on the “Transylvanian road”. when tehy arrived, quickly made some terrorism – produced many of corpses.

      just see thru it, trerrorists making terrorism everywhere in EU except Hungary, why? because Hungary is allied to terrorists. so simple.

  30. jakov

    Not at all EU should change its approach towards refugees, not Hungary.

  31. Daniel Parvanov

    Din’t someone in all these pro EU NGO groups mentioned … that Migrant Crisis (fueled by refugees welcome from some of the states) caused all these tensions between member states that EU never seen before … and even Brexit vote could be other if that do not happened… Let that sink in …

  32. Stefano Zuzzi

    Even thought at least, Italy has up to 24.000 refugees .Hungarians citizens would be amongst the lucky ones, so let them to sort it.
    It’s an Hungarian problem.

  33. Daniel Meternă

    NO, all europeans countries’s MUST adopt the Poland example in the muslims issues! All muslims OUT OF EUROPE, WE DON’T WANT ISLAM HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

      I actually think that Europe could do much better with fewer xenophobic morons than without Muslims. Most Muslims I know are nice, peaceful people and not better or worse in terms of traditions than conservative Christians (which Eastern Europeans rarely have problems with, no?). You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Daniel Meternă

      Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy “most of” but what will do with the “lonely wolf”?! Are YOU asume responsability for ALL muslims? So, keep wet your fingers because you wipe off blades of dust from the keyboard.

  34. Georg Blaha

    The loss of brain-power in many countries of eastern Europe is tremendous and a real threat to their social and economic competence. Therefore I regard an influx of people as a great plus if managed constructively on a European level. Needless to say that governments which turn their power against people fail in supporting the European values. Drastic consequences for those ougt to happen immediately. Europe is no gift, it is a task to achieve. Hungary is on the wrong way.

  35. catherine benning

    Now here we see what will be expected of Hungary should they make the mistake of following Germany and the UK

    And here is another desirable Nigerian. Who managed to lie for years whilst relying on tax payers legal funding to give her the right to stay. Remember, legal aid has been taken away from the British people who pay for this. And of course this person is very useful to the citizens of the UK. Worth the millions it cost us. Of course she tried Canada first but they would have none of it. It was the ECJ who gave her the right to remain. And by rights it should be the European mainland who takes her in and gives her a lifetime of their benefits. Clearly they wanted her to be part of their society. The British did not.

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