Politics, nation and identity in the midst of Hungary’s refugee crisis

industry-rails-train-pathErin Marie Saltman, senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, discusses the current refugee crisis, and explores the politics of Hungary’s response to it.  

 


Hungarian political discourse has taken a dark turn as the refugee crisis has been enveloped with fear of a nation losing its identity.

The current crisis that now dominates headlines has shown images of Syrian refugees quarantined within Hungarian train stations, protesting for the right to safely pursue new lives in Europe as asylum seekers. Yet even before the current crisis now affecting Hungary, despite being a country with a relatively low influx and outflux of migrants, the topic of immigration has become increasingly salient with strong political divides.

Thousands of refugees have been sleeping for several days in train stations, many refused transportation onward – despite many being ticket holders. A large group of refugees have even begun to walk the 110 miles to Austria in desperation. The current situation is unquestionably severe. 160,000 migrants are estimated as having entered Hungary this year, mainly en route to various other destinations. Migrants have held demonstrations in Budapest, welcomed by heavy police presence, asking that they be allowed to leave on trains bound westward, where they hope for a more amenable situation. Continue reading

A Europe obsessed by its borders: The political meaning of senseless migration policies

fenceIn recent weeks, Europe’s borders, and the individuals trying to cross them, have rarely been out of the news. Whilst EU member states are struggling to reach agreement on how to deal with the crisis, thousands are moving across Europe in search of asylum. Denis Duez, Director of the European Studies Institute at the Université Saint-Louis in Brussels, reflects on how political borders are created, and points to fundamental flaws in a migration policy that operates chiefly through border controls.

This is a revised version of an article that appeared in French in La Revue Nouvelle, June-July 2014

In his autobiography published in 1942, Stefan Zweig wrote that ‘perhaps nothing more graphically illustrates the monstrous relapse the world suffered after the First World War than the restriction on personal freedom of movement and civil rights. Before 1914, [there were] no permits, no visas, nothing to give you trouble; the borders that today […] are a tangled fence of red tape were then nothing but symbolic lines on the map, and you crossed them as unthinkingly as you can cross the meridian in Greenwich’ (Zweig, The World of Yesterday (trans. Anthea Bell) p.436). Continue reading