5 things We Can Learn from the Refugee Crisis

Gergő Plankó Original article: 5 dolog, amit megtanulhatunk a menekültválságból
Publication:444.hu Date:2015.09.05 17:17
  1. Abiding by the laws and staying humane is not one and the same thing

The Hungarian Government regularly refers to the fact that they are simply abiding by the laws regarding refugees and enforcing them. This is true in many instances and it isn’t to be undervalued. Rule of law is one of the factors, why Europe is such a good place worth for people to risk their lives to start off from. And laws should not depend on the fact that now there are more people who should abide by them than usual.


A decent state does not leave children arriving from war-torn places to spend the night on the ground just because law obliges them to do so. It doesn’t let people buy their train tickets, then shuts them out of the train station without communicating a single word to  them for two nerve-racking days just because international treaties forbid. Neither does it trap them on trains going nowhere just because. But because that is inhumane.

The photo from Bicske picturing a family on the rail tracks that practically instantly became legendary wasn’t about the fact that the police did anything unlawful or even exceedingly brutal. I (the author –ed.) was there, I saw it with my own eyes. It was about what state of mind the insolence of the authorities results in, especially with utterly exhausted people fearing for their families.

When they abide by all laws, but without the mere hint of humaneness.

  1. Here is what it’s like when someone is actually determined

The insolence of the authorities may be attributed to the fact that the Hungarian government is used to Hungarians’ reactions. In the past five years, if the authorities showed insolence, if they deprived someone of their freedom or made their life worse in any way, the reaction was silent submission.


If they can’t sit anywhere else, they’ll sit in front of the train station. If there is no train, they’ll start off on foot, even if one-legged, even with children on their arms. They think that their families and their own fates are more important than anything the government might want them. And it is  typical of the situation that whoever dared to do so, won. Those, who did not care and started off on the motorway or on the rail tracks, were finally taken to the Austrian border by buses. And those, who played by the rules and entered refugee camps, are still waiting there.

  1. Hungarians are capable of incredible things

If the atmosphere in Hungary was such right now that the issue could come up at all, we could actually realise that this is the great moment for Hungarians. I have heard from volunteers working for a decade, that they had never met with such help, donation, enthusiasm and activity like now, that Hungarian civilians, in their free time, actually established a full supply system, and did everything from health care through providing information to entertaining children from their own resources, without any kind of assistance from the state. A week-and-a-half ago, when I (the author – ed.) went to see a train full of refugees arriving in Nyugati (railway station – ed.), I saw the police line up, and heard their leader shout out to one of the volunteers and ask what was to happen next. (It must be added that most of the Hungarian Police that I have met in these situations are doing a particularly good job. What orders they receive is another story altogether.) This is just one example, but there are better ones happening day after day.

When refugees say they only have a problem with the Hungarian government and they do like Hungarians very much that’s not just out of their usual politeness. They have precise reasons for both opinions.

There is yet another twist, however – what the government wants by acting so concerns their internal policy. They want to make believe that Viktor Orbán is the sole person who does anything regarding Europe’s great issue. But the actual work is not at all carried out by the state. By who then? It is carried out by he civilians spat at by the government and majority of their voters, by civilians without whose work we would face a much bigger problem.

But this is not the point. (By the way, Hungarian civilians aren’t the only ones doing the job of their lame state.)


  1. Europe LOL

Everyone has a Facebook-friend regularly posting Western-European statements starting with the upper-cut “Meanwhile in Hungary…,” right? Even some of our readers might be like that. But after these last few days, it will be harder to keep doing that.

Austrian, German, and other Western performances were only slightly better than the Hungarian one, since the focal point of the crisis wasn’t with them, and as a result, they had to improvise less. What made it slightly better was that at least the target of the internal politics behind the eye-turning hypocrisy was not that of inciting against the refugees.

Europe is a great place – we can be glad to be living here, but we may let go of the illusion that in the West, politicians are unconditionally cooler, especially when the situation is tough.

  1. There is a world around us

I (the author – ed.) have been observing the readership data of the articles on foreign policy, and so I am aware to what extent there is public interest in what happens beyond the corner. Practically, none. Of course, this isn’t a Hungarian feature. Looking out of Europe’s white luxury ghetto, it may easily seem that the rest of the world is a dirty old junkyard, whose backward inhabitants blow each other up for religious debates worthy of the Middle Ages.


And only then does it become apparent that those, who till then had only played such little roles in your life, who were just numbers out of an unread news item titled “70 people died in the Aleppo bomb-attack,” well, they are – and there is no more stupid way of putting it – humans, too.

They are different, too – for a Syrian dentist, a family-man and a penniless Afghani teenager has nothing in common except for their momentary situation. But they are similar, too, because of the way the children smile at the Tom & Jerry screening, the way the Syrian girls take selfies of themselves in front of the railway station, or the way people get more and more anxious because the authorities playing games with them at their expense – there is nothing alien about that.

And, of course, not everyone here is cute and, of course, the uncontrolled influx of so many people may be dangerous. But if you take the trouble to go out to Keleti (Railway Station –ed.), and see for yourself what most of the Western world is paying close attention to, and try to obtain your own impressions, God forbid talk to people, it will be much harder to think of these people as aliens, as a threatening or unfortunate uniform mass.


One thought on “5 things We Can Learn from the Refugee Crisis

  1. Thanks for the balanced review of things. Don’t be fooled by the western media, the public opinion is alot more pro-Hungary. Like on Twitter I read many many endorsements for the mayor who made a sheriff-style clip warning migrants attempting to sneak in. Many feel betrayed over here, polls show the mayority want our borders closed ASAP and our govt does Nothing.

    The fence and the speed of erecting it is making others supportive of the way EU is opposed by Hungary. Personally I think Orban does a better job than EU on migrants; the core business of any govt. is serving the interests of the voters and protect the rights, security and health of their people. Dutch govt does a shitty job, they seem to be more concerned about criticizing Geert Wilders’s predictions about the ‘muslim migrant tsunami’ than admitting they have to solution whatsoever. He uses vulgar language but 9 out of 10 warnings and measures Wilders slams on the table later prove to be the best advise.

    The food throwing. Few are willing to question why this upset them and why it actually happened.
    A few days earlier another event didn’t go mainstage; Belgian volunteer food convoys to Calais were looted on arrival and some had to flee from the poor, poor migrants they came to help. Iron bars and stones are acts of gratitude I find hard to understand ;) Safety must have played a big role in the food-tossing, but no reporter bothered to look for background. I guess it fitted their prejudice of Hungary being half-civilized and run by a dictator.

    Anyway, EU is not in touch with reality, the only reason for allowing those guys in is for these burocrat’s egos; they feel holy and generous. Integration has failed so anyone extra means a burden.Immigrants since the sixties were no benefits for our economy. Until 2010 the bill for us was over 200 billion and 12+ a year since.
    Hell, even if you accepted sharing the migrants they walk to Germany or to us

    Ignore EU, make sure you vote for people that do as your own people want, not what they must do from EU.
    Ciao, Bas


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