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Report: Handling of refugee crisis could prove volatile for the region

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Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov -- Syrian refugees strike in front of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.

The refugee crisis in Hungary has two dimensions: One involving domestic politics and the other involving international politics, both of which have served to divide the nation and the continent, according to the report “Focus on Hungary: Refugees, Asylum and Migration”, published by policy research institute Political Capital and issued today.

Syrian refugees strike in front of Budapest Keleti railway station in Budapest on September 4. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov)

According to the authors of the report, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government is acting in its own interest to remain in power both in Hungary and in European political arenas. The recently approved referendum on migrant quotas, which is in its preparatory phase, is designed to “keep the issue on the agenda at home and aims at the destabilization of the European Union internationally” the report notes.

The government’s “zero admission” policy on asylum seekers and increased border protection have helped it regain its political initiative and pushed issues of corruption within the party to the background, Political Capital says. Only smaller parties, civil society organizations and a handful of outspoken individuals have taken the initiative to speak out against the ruling party’s approach. The government’s fear mongering campaigns have also done a great deal to increase xenophobic sentiment in the country. “Most people in Hungary have no experience living with foreigners and fears fed by lack of information about them are easily reinforced,” the report says.

Put simply, Orbán has split the nation into pro- and anti-national and if you disagree with the government, you are labelled anti-national, according to Political Capital. The authors of the report went on to suggest that the entire handling of the refugee crisis was orchestrated by the government to help portray it as a “problem solver”, first by escalating the crisis, creating tension and finally resolving the issue to some degree, albeit at a slow pace.

Political Capital notes that the perception of ruling Fidesz has improved since the crisis with many undecided voters moving to support the party, and this is worrying given its radical and often nationalist rhetoric. This sentiment extends to the international sphere as well in which Hungary has sought the support of other nations that oppose migration, the influx of Muslims and the bureaucracy of Brussels, according to the report. Concern is voiced in the report about the rise of far-right populist parties, many of which are supported by Russia and “bent on destabilizing the European Union”.

Conflicts within Europe have resulted in a kind of paralysis in seeking a resolution to the crisis, the report says, and a fragmented approach only serves to intensify the cultural divide and prejudices among European nations, particularly the Visegrad countries.

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