Europe - Migration

Still no answer to Europe's refugee crisis

Asylum seekers wait outside a train station in Budapest.
Asylum seekers wait outside a train station in Budapest. Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

Amnesty International on Tuesday denounced Hungary's right-wing government for what it called "deliberately" mistreating asylum seekers and whipping up anti-migrant fears ahead of a national vote on a EU plan to relocate refugees.

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Meanwhile, Turkish refugee agencies started issuing debit cards to migrants in order to alleviate their financial burdens.

Populist anti-migrant sentiment is common in Hungary. Prime Minister Victor Orban recently suggested that refugees should stay in huge camps in Libya after being sent back there.

Hungary is the European country that took the harshest anti-immigrant measures, virtually blocking any asylum seeker coming in through the southern border.

“There is an extremely intense and very expensive, tax-payer funded anti-refugee campaign that is going on[at the moment].We will have a national referendum on Sunday, October 2nd, on what is called the "migrant quota issue" says Marta Pardavi, of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

Why would we, as European citizens, want to see people completely deprived of their most basic human rights?

Europe and migrants

“It comes at a time when the Hungarian population has been already pressed by the government anti-refugee propaganda campaign, and  I think domestically the Hungarian public is sadly receptive to this outlandish and outrageous idea."

But Orban is not the only one who suggested that Libya house refugees on a massive scale.

Earlier this year, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz suggested a tougher line towards would be-asylum seekers and urged Europe to send them back on the boats.

“It is completely unrealistic,” says Pardavi.

“Why would Libya want to have huge detention camps on its territory?. Why would we as European citizens want to see people completely deprived of their most basic human rights?”

“But also what the Hungarian government and the prime minister has suggested is already happening at the Hungarian southern border,” she says.

Human rights organisations such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, as well as the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR have warned repeatedly against the anti-immigration measures taken by Budapest.

“Hungary has effectively dismantled the asylum system in recent years, particularly in the last year,” says Pardavi.

“We find it appalling how Hungary has completely deprived this asylum system of its capacity to provide protection," she says.

“This has been done through a variety of means, not only in the physical sense at the southern border, but  also by nintroducing a lot of changes that now make it basically impossible for somebody to come into the country and have their asylum claim examined,."

Meanwhile, a European deal with Turkey is taking effect. It has resulted in a situation where fewer asylum seekers are now trying to get into Europe via the Balkans.

And as part of a three billion euro aid program, the Turkish Red Crescent and the World Food Program on Tuesday started to issue debit cards to refugees with a monthly limit of €33 to cover basic expenses.

Some observers say that refugees in Turkey can enjoy a relatively good life.

“There are three million [refugees] living in Turkey, from Syria and Iraq,” says Mustafa Ozbek, a spokesperson of the Turkish humanitarian organisation IHH.

“They live in relatively good conditions, offered by the government. If they register in Turkey, they get free housing and free medicine. And in some places they can send their children to school. And if they want to live in the camps, the government pays everything to them.

“But some of them don' t want to live inside the camp, and if they don't want to live inside the camps, they live in the street and survive.

But he thinks the EU is too slow in helping out, especially now that countries like Hungary are closing the borders and promised aid seems to come in only slowly:

 

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