by Carl Rowlands
Whilst the rest of the world increasingly focuses on the humanitarian crisis facing the refugees as they attempt to find sanctuary in Europe, for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his colleagues, the prime consideration is the increasingly tight competition between Fidesz and its far-right rival Jobbik. So the rhetoric, and many – but not all – of the actions are dictated by the need to offer toughness, whether based on spurious religious reasoning (a ‘Christian Europe’) or outright racism. The confusion runs deep in many European capitals. Slovakia, for example, has even more objectionably decided that sanctuary only be provided to proven Christians – itself a deeply unChristian approach.
Central dictats coming from the government have been haphazardly administered on the ground, which is perhaps a saving grace. On the whole, up until the scenes at Keleti Station, the Hungarian police have seemed to be most active in preventing individuals from the far-right from causing distress to the refugees. On the whole, their disposition has not been especially unpleasant. Public opinion seems very divided. The Migration Aid offices have received a large number of donations – not enough to prevent increasing squalor, but something in the absence of government support. There have been at least two babies born to refugees in the last week. The worse the situation becomes, the more Orban is exposed to pressures by the Germans on one hand, and Jobbik on the other. The result is a ball of confusion, mitigated to a degree by the emergence of a much stronger migrants rights movement Migszol (Migrants’ Solidarity Group) which has become quite an important actor.
It’s very hard to see what’s going to happen, but ultimately Germany has the clout to force the government’s hand if it wants to. This will, I think, be enough to get a lot of refugees over the border into Austria. However, I’m not sure if there are limits to Merkel’s generosity. And, as the Hungarian government has pointed out, there is no way of knowing which of the refugees are actually Syrian.