Making Politics of Migration: the Civil Cooperation Forum Signs

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“A happy, festive crowd has arrived to Hungary”      (photo: Orange Files).

On October 5, 2015, the pro-government political organization Civil Cooperation Forum (Civil Összefogás Fórum, or CÖF) erected twelve signs at a park near the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest juxtaposing images of opposition political officials and aggressive or seemingly aggressive migrants (see CÖF website in Hungarian).

The signs also display migration-related quotes which the depicted democratic opposition officials have made over the past few months and which radical-nationalist Jobbik President Gábor Vona—who supports the Orbán government’s current migration policy—made during the previous parliamentary cycle.

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Orbán Government Notable Quotes: October 1–2, 2015

Prime Ministry Chief János Lázár:

“They regularly find people [migrants] infected with syphilis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as well.” October 1, 2015, speaking about the migration crisis during his regular Thursday press conference (source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán:

“Eighty percent of the immigrants are young men. They resemble an army more than they do asylum-seekers. They are uneducated, the majority of them speak only Arabic.” October 2, 2015, speaking on pro-government Kossuth Radio (source in Hungarian).

“Let’s not regard what the Croatian prime minister says as the opinion of the Croatian people. The Croatian prime minister and his party are the representatives of the Socialist International whose job it is to attack Hungary.” October 2, 2015, speaking on pro-government Kossuth Radio in reference to tension between the governments of Hungary and Croatia over the migration crisis (source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during October 2, 2015 interview on Kossuth Radio (photo: index.hu)

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during October 2, 2015 interview on Kossuth Radio (photo: index.hu)

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Scenes from the Great Migration 4: Leaving Hungary at Hegyeshalom

Migrants walking down bicycle path outside Hegyeshalom toward the Austrian border (photo: Orange Files).

Migrants walking down bicycle path toward the Hungarian-Austrian border (photo: Orange Files).

Since September 22, 2015, the Orbán government has been transporting migrants by train from the Hungarian-Croatian frontier to the village of Hegyeshalom located about two miles from the Hungarian-Austrian border. The government is not registering asylum requests from these migrants and is therefore able to shuttle them through Hungary to Austria in less than 24 hours.

After arriving to Hegyeshalom, the migrants walk through the village and down a roadside bicycle path to the border crossing, where Migration Aid, the Hungarian Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations provide them with food and water before they enter Austria.

On September 26, 2015, three trains carrying between 1,500 and 2,000 migrants each arrived to Hegyeshalom in a six-hour period from early afternoon to early evening. Below are photographs that Orange Files took of these migrants during their walk from the train station to the border of Austria on that date.

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Below is an Orange Files video of migrants walking outside the village of Hegyeshalom on their way to the Hungarian-Austrian border.

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Viktor’s New Sign

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The People Have Decided: The Country Must Be Defended (photo: Orange Files).

The Orbán government has posted new anti-migration signs in Hungary reading “The People Have Decided: The Country Must Be Defended.” The government published the design of the signs on its Facebook site just hours after a few dozen of the two thousand migrants stranded in northern Serbia following the closure of the final gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border clashed with Hungarian police and Counter Terrorism Center commandos at the Horgos frontier crossing on September 16. The government announced earlier on this date that it would spend 381 million forints (1.2 million euros) on “information connected to the migration situation” (source in Hungarian).

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The Curtain Falls Again

The curtain falls: closing the last gap in the border.

Closing the final gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border (photo: Orange Files).

On this night the “new era” begins: the Orbán government is closing the final gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border fence, the place where the now defunct Szabadka-Szeged railway crosses the frontier, the place where tens of thousands of refugees have entered Hungary over the past few weeks en route to the West. The news has spread quickly among the tens of thousands more who are still on their way: Hungary will seal its border on midnight of September 14–15. The push to make it to the frontier before this hour has been intense, a massive forced march up the railway and dusty trackside roads in northern Serbia: the UNHCR official at the border says that his people counted around 29,000 refugees crossing the frontier into Hungary over the previous two days.

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Below is an Orange Files video of the closing of the border made from the Serbian side.

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Scenes from the Great Migration 3: the Eastern Railway Station Crisis

Syrian refugees demonstrate outside the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest (photo: Orange Files).

Syrian refugees demonstrate outside the Eastern Railway Station (photo: Orange Files).

On August 23, 2015, Hungarian police removed 150 migrants from a train preparing to depart from the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest to Munich. Over the following 12 days, with the exception of the last day of August, the Orbán government prevented migrants from travelling to Germany via Austria. No officials from any of the three relevant states have yet revealed the reasons for this sudden change in policy after 150,000 migrants had previously been permitted to travel virtually unimpeded through Hungary on their way to Western Europe following their obligatory submission of asylum requests (see Hungary and the Great Migration).

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Below is an Orange Files video from the Eastern Railway Station underpass on a night in early September:

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Hungary and the Great Migration

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (photo: EPA).

On September 15, 2015 the Orbán government will close the remaining gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border and begin to either incarcerate or expel migrants who traverse the razor-wire fence that has been erected along this frontier.

The government is establishing three large extraterritorial “transit zones” near the location at which migrants have been streaming into Hungary from Serbia over the past weeks in order to quickly process asylum requests from those who cross the fence after September 15.

Since the government considers all migrants who pass into Hungary from Serbia to be economic immigrants rather than refugees on the grounds that they have not fled war in the latter country, virtually none of them will receive asylum. Those who do not receive asylum will be immediately expelled from Hungary back to Serbia.

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And So They Left

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Suddenly, imperceptibly, about 1,500 Syrians left the teeming squalor of the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest on September 4, 2015, to make the nearly 200-kilometer trip to Austria on foot along the M1 highway. Below is a gallery of photos that Orange Files took of their trek about 20 kilometers outside of Budapest. They are traveling the same path to the West as several hundred thousand Hungarians did at the end of the Second World War in 1945 and after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

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Below is an Orange Files video of the first third of the column of Syrian refugees marching along the M1 highway:

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The Fields Are Speaking Pashto

This field is speaking Pashto.

The murmur of strange tongues.

The fields are speaking Pashto here in southern Hungary along the border with Serbia. And Arabic and Dari and Urdu. The murmur of these languages in the shrubs and scrubby meadows, in the trees along the roadside ditches, amid the stalks of corn and sunflower. Everywhere the now familiar sounds of unfamiliar words, spoken quietly, asking “what to do? where to go?—when to make a run for the next hiding place?”

As the refugees stream into Hungary along the railway line that is the lone remaining gap in the razor-wire fence erected along the entire length of the border with Serbia, the many who know some English speak as one: “We no want to give fingerprint in Hungary. We want to go to Germany (or Sweden or Norway or Holland). We no want to stay here.”

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Scenes from the Great Migration 2: the Eastern and Western Railway Stations

Below is a gallery of photographs that Orange Files took of migrants at the Eastern and Western railway stations in Budapest on August 26 and August 27, 2015. The NGO Migration Aid is providing food, medical care and donated clothing, blankets and other assistance to the migrants, who are waiting at the railway stations for trains to Austria or camps in Hungary. More than 150,000 migrants have crossed into Hungary from Serbia since the beginning of the year, including around 3,000 per day beginning in late August. Nearly all of these migrants have subsequently left Hungary en route to western Europe, primarily Germany. The Orbán government and state-run media refer to these migrants, the large majority of whom are from Syria or Afghanistan, as “border violators” (határsértő) or “illegal immigrants” (illegális bevándorló). The government is preparing to send the Hungarian army to the border to help control the growing influx of migrants.

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