12 September, 2015, Saturday, 13:34
I received these lines from an American official last Monday:
"Refugees in Hungary and Budapest in particular are getting wide coverage in the US media. How is this impacting the normal life functions and business there. Are the religious groups responding to the crisis? How are the European governments responding? Do you and your family have to take precautions with any associated crime or violence. Also I meet routinely with members of the House and Senate and their staffs. I will be in DC the week of 14 September and will meet on the Hill on 15 September. An Eyewitness update would be useful. Is there a role our US government should be playing, that they are not now, that will enhance European security. Thanks for any thoughts you can provide."
My answer as eyewitness
Just a little political background: After the devastating failure of a more or less Western oriented socialist-liberal-neoconservative government elite in 2010, the present FIDESZ party's right wing government came to power with a landslide victory as a result of protest votes, they held over two-thirds of the seats of Parliament. This enabled them to rewrite the Constitution to their liking, and to gradually dismantle all the democratic institutions developed in the past 20 years. Hungary no longer has independent central bank, prosecution and courts are government-controlled, the press has been intimidated. Their style and narrative resembles that of the fascist period of the 1930's that ended with Hungary entering World War 2 alongside nazi Germany and declaring war even at the US despite several warnings from American diplomats. So the present sentiment and public discourse here is definitely anti American and anti EU, despite the billions of Euros being poured in the Hungarian economy by the European Union. By now Hungary is led and controlled by a small circle of oligarchs belonging to the inner circles of Prime Minister, Victor Orban. Politically the government is quickly losing ground to the truly far right JOBBIK party, with genuine nazi political narrative.
Earlier this year the Government run costly and highly efficient anti immigrant campaigns, calling refugees economic migrants and associating them with crime and terrorism, none of which are true.
In this climate started the influx of refugees primarily from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These refugees are people who managed to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey and walked across Greece, Macedonia and Serbia, reaching the border of Hungary in an absolutely exhausted condition, with many women and children. Many of them have foot sores from walking, diarrhoea and cold as well as dehydration and malnutrition. Upon crossing the Hungarian border, refugees are met by police and are taken to detention points where they are held in dire conditions, with hardly any food or water, often no shelter and little or no medical assistance. They are often held at these detention points for over 24 hours. From the detention points they are bussed to registration points where they should be fingerprinted, which is a deadly slow process as the Hungarians' IT systems are badly overloaded and they regularly crash.Then they receive a solely Hungarian information sheet telling them which refugee camp they should report to within 48 hours. Thus the major railway stations were full of thousands of unfortunate hungry people looking for their way, not speaking either Hungarian or even English.
The Hungarian Government' only response to the current refugee crisis was to hastily set up a barbed wire fence alongside the 175 km long Serbian-Hungarian border, this project will have been completed by the end of September. Using the support of the nazi JOBBIK party, they also passed new legislation, criminalising illegal border crossing and punishing it with as much as 3 years in prison. They also extended police powers, authorising police to enter even private homes without warrants in the search of refugees. This unhuman new legislation will come into effect on 15 September.
The presence of the new fence however did not make the Governments' dreams come true, refugees are coming in numbers greater than ever, often several thousands a day. The efficiency of the new legislation is also questionable.
This situation quickly developed into a humanitarian crisis, and the Government, major Hungarian churches as well as the Hungarian Red Cross are practically doing nothing to ease the suffering of these people. As these organisations, including the Catholic and major Protestant churches are pressured by the Government, they are more than reluctant to do anything, despite the call of the Pope himself to assist refugees. Their needs of were only met by a handful of volunteers first from Hungary, them also from Austria and Germany. The European Union as a whole seems to be undecided as to what policy they should follow in this respect.
After almost 8000 people accumulated in the streets and railway stations of Budapest, the Austrian and German Governments decided to temporarily open their borders for the refugees this step also eased the burdens of volunteers working in Hungary. Volunteers include mostly NGOs, a few individual Christians and other philantropists.
At the moment (9 September, 2015) about 8000 refugees are literally walking in Serbia toward the Hungarian.
Interestingly, this sudden influx of people does not impact life in general as most Hungarians tend to ignore it. Right wing thugs tried to attack the refugees at a railway station after a football match last week, but the Police defended them. Volunteers are often verbally abused by Hungarians and get extremely negative comments in the social media. The only related crime can be connected to those involved in human smuggling: 2 weeks ago a sealed refrigerator truck was found along an Austrian motorway with 71 suffocated refugees in the hold, 4 of the dead were small children. The truck had originally departed from Hungary.
This is what I can tell you in a nutshell.
The answer I received:
"The Senate Staffer I sent it to responded with a thank you and appreciated the "eyewitness" assessment to compare to what is being told on the Hill. Sen Lankford is on the Senate Intel Committee so this is value added, thanks. Please let your friends know that their assessment was provided direct into the Senate Staff and thank them for their good and hard work."