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Viktor Orban (2nd from right) greets party supporters in Budapest after his electoral victory last week. Orban's nationalist Fidesz party enjoys great popularity throughout Hungary but its policies against migrants have drawn criticism across Europe / Photo: Screenshot/France 24

Why Viktor Orban’s victory is bad news for refugees in Hungary

With the re-election of Hungarian Prime Minister’s Viktor Orban’s anti-immigrant Fidesz Party, migrants are likely to suffer further setbacks if they have to deal with the Eastern European country. Hungary has introduced some of the harshest measures against migrants. Sertan Sanderson reports.

From the onset of the refugee crisis, Hungarian Prime Minister’s Viktor Orban didn’t hold back in expressing his opposition to welcoming migrants. His nationalist Fidesz party is opposed to any change in Hungary’s demographics and has gone out of its way to ensure caps on migration, which have clashed repeatedly with EU values, and sometimes even laws.

Achieving a two-thirds majority in parliament once more, Orban and his Fidesz party are likely to introduce further limitations on immigration, with his re-election campaign having focused on this key issue. His rhetoric was so polarizing that even opposition parties had to adopt immigration as a major issue in their manifestos in order to be able to compete with Fidesz.

With Viktor Orban starting his third consecutive term as prime minister, those seeking asylum can expect further backlashes if they are considering Hungary as their destination.

Closed borders

One of the most recent changes enacted in Hungary, has been the introduction of an unofficial daily limit of just two people per day who are allowed to cross the Hungarian border with Serbia – one at each of the two “transit zones” it has along its border with Serbia. This effectively means a closing of the borders to almost all asylum seekers.

An overcrowded refugee camp in Hungary. Rights groups have criticised the conditions in which asylum seekers are housed in the country / Photo: Screenshot/RT

 

With many refugees and migrants travelling as families, the new regulation would only allow unaccompanied minors and single people to enter the country. The government has denied such changes, but the US-based NPR news outlet reported the changes already in February 2018, citing asylum seekers, refugee advocates and a lawyer as their source.

Refugee tax

Hungary plans to deal another blow to those helping refugees and facilitating migration by possibly introducing taxes on organizations that welcome refugees and support a more inclusive approach towards immigration.

The government aims, in particular, to limit the influence of US-based, Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros by introducing the 25 percent punitive tax. It accuses Soros of undermining the country’s Christian heritage by “flooding” Europe with refugees, according to Hungarian government spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs.

Migrant numbers down

The number of officially reported asylum applications in Hungary has had inaccuracies in the past. The majority of refugees and migrants consider Hungary to be a country of transit. However, if they get stopped by authorities during their journeys, they are compelled to submit their asylum application there under the EU’s Dublin regulation.

The number of those filing their asylum applications in Hungary is difficult to ascertain, as the Hungarian government, the EU and various other bodies appear to have different numbers.

According to one set of statistics, the number of first applicants has plummeted in recent months. The European Commission’s statistical office, Eurostat, says that from a high of more than 1,150 first time asylum applicants in October 2016, the numbers declined to an average of 233 by April 2017, with a downward tendency registered by the end of December 2017 pointing at a likely average of less than 200.

Clampdown on migration

But Hungary continues to be worried about losing control over the number of migrants entering the country, partly because it had the highest number of refugees per capita at one point. About two years ago, the Eastern European nation with a population of just under 10 million had 17.7 migrants per 1,000 citizens, according to Eurostat.

By the end of 2017, Eurostat says that Hungary recorded the largest relative decrease of first time asylum seeker of more than 70 percent.

After winning the elections, Orban and his government are likely to try to push new laws and regulations through to curb immigration — possibly even in defiance of EU law. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has voiced harsh criticism against the firebrand leader’s policies in the past.

© InfoMigrants

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