Hungary: Migration trends and political dynamics


The Hungarian government has introduced a referendum on the migration relocation scheme, which will be held on October 2, 2016. Citizens will vote on the following question: “Do you want the European Union to be entitled to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of parliament?” Although the mandatory relocation mechanism, pushed through via a qualified majority vote at the JHA Council last September, is also opposed by other Visegrad countries, a national referendum on this issue has only been proposed in Hungary.

From the start of 2015, through a number of different campaigns, the Orbán government has created the impression that Hungary’s place in the world has fundamentally shifted in the context of global migration. The terms used in government communication, ‘immigrant’ and ‘migrant’, have conveyed the message that Hungary, as a destination country, must cope with a wave of migrants coming from outside Europe. Contrary to this government framing though, Hungary has, in fact, not yet become a destination country for migrants coming from the outside. It has merely served as the first entry point into the EU for many migrants on their way to Germany, a fact which has rendered the country responsible for judging their asylum claims under the Dublin regulations. This is confirmed by immigration data made available by the Hungarian Asylum Office, which was only able to complete asylum procedures in two per cent of cases due to most asylum-seekers leaving the country before decisions were reached on their claims.

The government’s official position on migration was influenced in part by an unfavorable domestic political situation that they confronted at the end of 2014. By exploiting the fears of the population, the Orbán government managed to regain its popularity and divide the population between “nationals” and “aliens” once more. The government’s anti-refugee campaign deepened xenophobic attitudes in the country, a trend expected to continue as the referendum on binding quotas approaches. The Orbán government has altered the legal environment for refugees in such a way that they have close to zero chance of attaining asylum rights. And even those who are provided these rights will only receive a very limited benefit package. There were also some positive effects from the refugee wave though, including namely the emergence of new NGOs and the mobilization of people who had not volunteered previously. Hungary is in a special situation, where it is being affected by immigration even though it has no immigrant presence on its territory...

Read the full article on the website of Globsec.