in honor of the NOT IN MY NAME – AZ ÉN NEVEMBEN NE demonstration, today in Budapest
I read this in the depths of social media: an honorable person always steps up against suffering and injustice whenever they hear about them. But – and that’s a sad cliché today – there’s always more news about misery than one could speak up against, not to mention go there and help. So if you have a mind to be there for everyone, you’re in for a big letdown – because it won’t be possible.
There will always be causes to fight for that you will choose not to get involved in. And sometimes you will do that against your better judgment.
Does this mean it’s impossible to be good? That question leads far-far away, but let me say this: when we see people helping others, making others live and feel better, without expecting compensation – we usually consider them good. Yet there might be a host of other good causes that these same people choose not to fight for: what does that choice make them?
One group of people that deserves the greatest respect is Migration Aid in Hungary because they stepped up when a large number of refugees started entering the country a few months ago – and the Hungarian authorities did nothing apart from trying to keep the refugees away.
Migration Aid is not exactly an organization: it’s a group of volunteers and donors who work to give food, water, and information to refugees. They also seem to be the voice of the one shouting in the wilderness because no other charity, church, or other organization has shown up to help, maybe with the occasional exception of the Helsinki Committee. (Strictly by the time of writing this.)
Update: Recent information shows that members of religious charity organizations are working as volunteers, and some institutions, such as the Benedictine monastery in Pannonhalma, have pledged to receive and cater for refugees.
The Hungarian government is treating refugees with neglect and ill will, which is their usual attitude towards anyone under-privileged or different. This is what we protest today.
Instead of helping the refugees – as the EU’s founding values would require –, the Hungarian government and authorities were making all effort to keep them from entering the country. They worked at lot on this.
Through hate speech, they have been inducing hostility in Hungarians towards refugees, immigrants, practically everyone foreign.
They erected fences on the border, to display they protect the citizens – yet these fences didn’t stop a single refugee, not for a day.
It’s true that the German government is not without fault either, by allowing in unregistered refugees one day, and rejecting them on another day: they might be panicking, or they might be playing games, using the refugees in pursuit of their agenda of refugee quotas. And the Austrian authorities are probably rightfully confused about all this.
But this whole situation, or at least its escalation, could have been prevented – if Hungary’s government had done their homework.
They could have prepared the authorities to handle a larger number of refugees – better late than never: since June, they could’ve upgraded their systems and documents, and hired a number of officials.
I’m told there are too few interpreters from Farsi, for example: but then why not make sure the officials speak English, and hire Farsi-English interpreters, who are more abundant?
They could have created an infrastructure to welcome, feed, and inform the refugees. In both registering and assisting them, the authorities could have counted on volunteer help – and donations if they had run out of domestic and EU money. The sheer existence of Migration Aid is proof of this.
If they had done this, a lot more refugees would already have been registered: and that means they could travel on legally, without requiring Germany or anyone else to forgo the Dublin III treaty.
If they had done this, far fewer refugees would have fallen victim to smugglers – and far fewer refugees, including women and children, would have died.
But our government is hellbent on keeping the refugees out, and have nothing to do with those who manage to enter. The authorities have been hostile to them right from the start.
Instead of communicating with the refugees in their own language, or at least in English, they toss them badly completed Hungarian forms. And when they are unable to communicate, they reportedly threaten, intimidate, and torture refugees.
Instead of calling on and co-ordinating volunteer work – and committing their own resources, too – they completely neglect the need of the refugees for shelter, sustenance, medical attention, information, and maybe a kind word or two.
In fact, our officials deny the sheer existence of the refugees. In official communication, they say the people who are arriving are not refugees – they are illegal immigrants who are not who they say they are. They say the people arriving are frauds at best and Islamist terrorists at worst.
Some of them probably are – but the government has the means and the resources to find that out. Wouldn’t that be better than acting on prejudices?
Our officials say they wouldn’t refuse to assist anyone in need – but they don’t see any refugees coming to the country. The influx of all these people is something different.
The road they have chosen is a spiral of inhumanity. Their next step is to make it illegal to enter the country through the ’green border’, or without travel documents. Both the police and the army will get new powers to enforce this, both against refugees and Hungarian citizens. They plan to stop the refugees at the border, and keep them out of the country until their procedures finish. Which is, by the way, next to never, given the efficiency and the attitude of the Hungarian immigration authorities.
They plan to criminalize those who get through, and also the Hungarians who try to help them. They plan to enact this on Friday and start implementing it in a week or so.
What happens next? Volunteers will all but disappear for fear of being imprisoned. Yet the refugees will keep coming through the border, green or not, and readily fall victim to organized crime around migration – which will flourish because there will be no legal way to get help. A lot more refugees, including women and children will die in smuggler’s vehicles. A lot more refugees will suffer torture and prosecution because that seems to be the only thing Hungarian authorities can do.
And then? When the government realizes that the new regulations still can’t keep the refugees away? Well, I think they will face the ultimate choice: either they stand down and start doing their job – or they choose the ultimate evil: to use weapons against the unarmed crowd.
But when that happens, they will have created their own little Islamic State in the middle of Europe. When that happens, the Islamic State will have won over this part of Europe – without a single soldier or activist setting foot on our soil.
This is what we protest today. This is what we say isn’t happening in our name.
An inhumane government cannot claim the allegiance of its citizens. An honorable person might not be able to stand up for all good causes, but at least they shouldn’t pay allegiance to such governments.
Anyone standing up for one good cause is fighting inhumanity. This is why Migration Aid and all volunteers deserve our respect and gratitude. This is why everyone helping the poor, the sick, the elderly, the young, deserves our respect and gratitude. Because our government treats everyone underprivileged with the same neglect and contempt as they treat the refugees.
It is morally wrong to submit to an inhumane government. It may even be morally wrong to pay taxes to them or work for their authorities. But there are times when you have to decide how you help more: by being imprisoned, or by keeping your freedom.
And it’s not only the refugees who want to leave Hungary and move on to better places. It’s a lot of Hungarians, too. I have been considering to leave for a long time. But then I realized that it’s also submission. I will not be driven away. We will not be driven away. If they don’t want us – they will have to leave.
I don’t know who we exactly are. But I suspect there are quite a few of us.
As long as it is humanly possible, we will stay and cause all kinds of trouble – like helping refugees, or the poor, or the sick. Or running successful companies that are independent from the government, and employ a number of people. Or teaching our children about friendliness and compassion, about a world where our government and its likes have no place.
A final note: As much as it isn’t my place, I would like to thank all refugees for their patience and peacefulness. I wish they had the welcome they deserve, and I hope their lives will brighten up again.
My sources for this post were Hungarian news portals, social media conversations, as well as the following:
An interview with Zsuzsanna Zsohár on ATV (a Hungarian news channel)
The Hungarian Spectrum, a blog by Eva S. Balogh
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