‘European Union, don’t send refugees back to Hungarian xenophobia’


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(21 Sep 2016) Hungarian prison inmates have ramped up their production of razor wire, working around the clock as Hungary prepares to build a second fence on the border with Serbia to keep out refugees and other migrants.

Razor wire manufacture at the prison in Marianosztra, northern Hungary, has increased from two shifts earlier this year, to three.

Besides its domestic use, Hungary has also sold or donated fence elements, including wire and steel posts, to other countries in the region, including Slovenia and Macedonia.

Human rights organizations, meanwhile, consider Hungary’s fences erected last year as the first step in efforts by Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s government to dismantle the country’s asylum system.

Hungary’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights says the fence, the closure of asylum centers and other measures are destroying the asylum system.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

UN: don’t send refugees back to Hungary

Today, 17:05

The UN refugee agency UNHCR wants EU member states to stop returning asylum seekers to Hungary. According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, the situation for asylum seekers in the country has deteriorated significantly since the establishment of closed refugee camps on the border with Serbia.

The country has built two closed container camps late last month and they are intended for refugees who are still in the asylum procedure.

Dublin agreements

EU Member States may return refugees according to the so-called Dublin agreements to the first safe country which they had reached in the EU. In many cases this is Hungary, because refugees now often opt for that route to get to Western Europe. Prime Minister Orbán hates the current asylum seekers coming. He has long argued for a stricter approach to reduce the number of refugees.

His attitude and the new law led to sharp criticism from the international community. UN Commissioner Grandi calls on European countries to suspend the “Dublin transfers” until the Hungarians will bring their policies in line with European and international law.

He says that since March 28 in the camps 110 people have been detained, including children. Orbán denies that the asylum seekers re jailed. He points out that the refugees can leave the camps indeed, through an opening which opens in Serbia.

Hungarian Jews, Roma, LGBTQ against bigotry


This video says about itself:

10 December 2015

Holocaust survivor Eva Bock describes antisemitism in Győr, Hungary during the early 1940s.

By Cnaan Liphshiz for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 27, 2017:

Roma Join Jews To Turn Budapest Club Into Anti-Government Hub

BUDAPEST (JTA) — Although she lives in the undisputed nightlife capital of Central Europe, Andi Angelip knows of only a handful of bars here where she is truly comfortable bringing a date.

Angelip, a 19-year-old student and activist for lesbian and gay rights, said she avoids “rainbow” establishments that cater only to homosexuals. Yet in a country where violent far-right activists regularly intimidate gays and lesbians, she also avoids romantic situations in mainstream clubs.

“It’s not so comfortable to be a minority in a country whose politicians preach for discrimination on a daily basis,” she told JTA last month.

Two years ago, Angelip found at least one place where she does feel comfortable: an avant-garde Jewish community center called Aurora. Since its reopening in 2014 in a poor neighborhood of Budapest, it has become one of the city’s hippest coffee bars – and a major hub for social and opposition activists fighting the policies of Hungary’s right-wing government.

“I come here because it’s just a cool place, but also because I feel safe and comfortable here, like I belong,” said Angelip, who is not a part of Hungary’s Jewish population of approximately 100,000.

She is not the only minority rights activist who regards Aurora, a 6,500-square-foot center located in a small building in the crime-stricken 8th District, as a sanctuary from reality in Hungary. Critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government here say it is mainstreaming hate crime and Holocaust revisionism, as well as promoting censorship of the press.

Marom, the Jewish association that runs and owns Aurora as part of its outreach mission to young unaffiliated Hungarian Jews, provides office space and facilities to about a dozen non-Jewish activist groups committed to fighting these perceived trends. They include the Roma Press CenterBudapest Pride, the Migszol refugee advocacy group and the Zold Pok agency for social activism.

While Angelip and a female friend chatted over beer on a recent Monday in the Aurora bar – a cozy space with 1970s décor and music by the French protest singer Manu Chao — Marom’s staff of about 12 met in their upstairs office to review last year’s activities, including the group’s weekly Shabbat services in their small egalitarian synagogue and celebrations of Jewish holidays.

In addition to religious services, Marom also organizes educational activities in schools about the Holocaust, programs for street children, and cultural events like film screenings and experimental music concerts. It also hosts political discussions, such as a sold-out Jan. 30 debate on populism featuring László Majtényi, an outspoken critic of Orban.

“We work with non-affiliated Jews who would never go to a synagogue or even the Balint Center,” said Adam Schoenberger, the president of Marom, referring to the Jewish community center in central Budapest funded by the Joint Distribution Committee. “So we try to sneak Judaism into our programming, just to give them a taste and whet their appetite: a klezmer concert here, a Hanukkah candle lighting there.”

As Schoenberger talks to a visitor, in an adjacent room three activists from the Roma Press Center hammer out a strategy for covering the landmark trial at the European Court of Human Rights on the role of Hungarian police in allowing hundreds of rioters in 2012 to attack the home of a Roma family in the village of Devecser.

The court’s Feb. 8 ruling against the police  – one of hundreds of hate crimes against Roma, or gypsies, recorded annually in Hungary – was hailed by Amnesty International as a “drop of hope in a sea of fear.”

“Not only is the far right party, Jobbik, the third largest in parliament, but the ruling Fidesz party has drifter further and further in its negative attitudes towards Roma,” the group said.

Against this backdrop, and amid a government-led crackdown on independent media, the Roma Press Center is “the only outlet that will bring the news about assaults in the countryside to the few news portals that are still not muzzled by the government,” Schoenberger said. “We find it very important that they be a part of Aurora.”

The press center, a nongovernment organization with a shoestring budget, receives a significant discount on rent from Marom.

The cooperation with Marom revolutionized the work of the Roma center, which was founded in 1995, according to the organization’s president, Szilvia Suri.

“We were renting office space in the center before we came here,” she said. “It was more expensive but more crucially, we were isolated there, whereas at Aurora we are better connected not only to the other organizations working here, but to the many Roma people who live in the 8th District.”

The Jewish-Roma partnership at Aurora is unusual in a country where the two minorities rarely act in unison, according to Eszter Hajdu, a Hungarian filmmaker who has studied that relationship.

“While both groups encounter some xenophobia, the Roma are far more vulnerable,” Hajdu said. And while Jewish groups at times participate in educational and charitable activities to assist Roma, “I can’t say the Jewish community is the first one to offer help” to the other minority, she added. She also said that part of the problem are negative biases each group holds of the other in Hungary.

The discounts that Marom offered its partner groups last year on using Aurora facilities and utilities amounted to $25,000 — a substantial sum in a country where the average monthly salary is about half that of the United States. Marom generates 90 percent of its annual budget and receives the rest from donations by JDC, the UJA-Federation of New York, Masorti Olami and others.

Building an alliance of liberal groups would be unremarkable for a Jewish organization in most other Western countries. But in Hungary, it places Aurora squarely at the center of opposition to a government-led campaign to root out foreign-funded grassroots organizations that do not conform to the party line, and to significantly limit the work of nongovernmental groups to local funding only.

Officials from Orban’s Fidesz party have already vowed to root out the network of NGOs that receive funding from the liberal Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, who is Jewish, and have limited the work of other groups with funding from Norway. Now, most other local groups with a progressive agenda are bracing for intervention by the government.

Marom has experience with such intervention.

In 2014, Budapest officials kicked the group out of its former site in the city center on a building safety pretext. The eviction notice came two days after opposition activists used the space to plan an anti-government sit-in.

It was one of several opposition activities hosted by Marom in recent years, including in the 2013 student protests. Marom’s previous site was also the birthplace that year of the LMP Green party.

Mazsihisz, the umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities, has objected in recent years to perceived attempts by the government to whitewash Hungarian authorities’ complicity in the Holocaust, including by celebrating known anti-Semites. But Mazsihisz has remained nonpartisan.

And with good reason, according to Slomó Köves, a Chabad rabbi and leader of the local EMIH Jewish group, which is not part of Mazsihisz.

The government funds Jewish community life with hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, supports Israel in international forums and protects religious freedoms, Koves said. And while “it can be argued that it needs to be firmer on anti-Semitism, progress is being made there, too.” Ultimately, he argued, Hungarian Jews are safer and more secure about their future than their brethren in France.

But for Marom, which began in 1998 as an apolitical group, the penchant for opposition activism is inescapable, according to Schoenberger.

This is partly because “most unaffiliated Jews in Hungary seem to be liberal,” he said. But ultimately, “our opposition activism owes to the government’s war on core Jewish values of tikkun olam,” a Jewish concept of “repairing the world” and helping the needy, Schoenberger said.

“We did not choose to become political,” he added. “But when the government is targeting the poor, the different, the foreign – then we have no choice.”

REVEALED: Top Trump aide Gorka worked with anti-Semitic and racist groups in Hungary: here.

Vojvodina blind mole rats, threatened by Hungarian Berlin wall


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This cute mole rat may go extinct beneath Hungary’s refugee fence

30 September 2016

Only 400 blind mole rats are left in the world, and a major population that burrows beneath the Hungarian-Serbian border may be endangered by border patrols. Now, conservationists are trying to find them and relocate them to a safer home.

Vojvodina Blind Mole Rat may go extinct due to construction of a fence along the border between Hungary and Serbia: here.

Hungarian racists quarrel among each other


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26 February 2013

Hungary’s Jewish community number more than one-hundred thousand, and yet this significant group is increasingly battling anti-Semitic feeling. The rise of the radical nationalist party Jobbik has breathed new life into the country’s neo-Nazi movement causing some Jews are opting to leave Hungary altogether.

By Ben Chacko:

Hungary: Right split thwarts Orban’s bid to keep refugees out

Wednesday 9th November 2016

DIVISIONS on the far right saw Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban defeated in his bid to pass anti-refugee amendments to the constitution yesterday.

Mr Orban, head of the ruling Fidesz party, received 131 votes for the five amendments while only three MPs voted against — but this fell short of the two-thirds majority of the 199-member parliament required.

The prime minister’s changes would have ruled that a “foreign population cannot be settled in Hungary” and were designed to make European Union proposals for a quota system for dividing refugees among member states unconstitutional.

They followed last month’s referendum where 98 per cent of participants said they opposed the EU having the right to settle non-Hungarian citizens in the country without the consent of the government.

Critics said the result was a product of low turnout (just 44 per cent of citizens voted, rendering the plebiscite invalid), the choice of wording and a viciously racist state-supported propaganda campaign, which saw massive billboards alleging that the Paris terrorist attacks were carried out by “immigrants” — in fact they were not — and claiming sexual harassment of women was rising because of the refugee crisis.

Ultra-nationalist party Jobbik was expected to back Mr Orban’s amendments but instead demanded he add a clause revoking the practice of issuing “residency bonds,” by which foreigners and their immediate families receive papers if they buy a €300,000 (£242,000) five-year bond.

Fidesz parliamentary leader Lajos Kosa said adding conditions was “tantamount to treason” while Jobbik chairman Gabor Vona snarled back: “Neither rich migrants nor poor migrants, neither rich terrorists nor poor terrorists can come to Hungary.”

The defeat is a setback for the prime minister, who has successfully changed the constitution six times since he rose to power in 2010 — including adding an official condemnation of communism in 2013 that forced the country’s Communist Party to change its name and drop use of the hammer and sickle or face being banned.

Hungarians boo Prime Minister Orbán


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Viktor Orban and Hungary’s faltering media oppositionThe Listening Post (Full)

16 October 2016

On The Listening Post this week: The main opposition newspaper folds in Hungary. We examine the government’s tightening grip on the press. Plus, journalism in a post-fact world.

Low sales vs Viktor Orban’s media crackdown

It’s the latest chapter in the story of a media landscape transformed. When Nepszabadsag, Hungary’s most influential opposition paper was suspended, owners cited low sales – but journalists say it is part of a wider media suppression.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Prime Minister Orbán booed at commemoration of Hungarian Uprising

Today, 17:24

In Budapest, thousands of people are on their feet to demonstrate against Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Orbán was jeered by opponents of his refugee policy during his speech at the commemoration of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 against the Stalinist government. …

Demonstrators shouted “Viktator” and “democracy” during Orbán’s speech there. The prime minister had to stop his speech several times because he could not be heard above the din.

Critics say that Orbán’s government weakens democratic institutions. The vice-president of the center-left party Together, Peter Juhasz, said Hungarians in 1956 revolted against the kind of policy that Orbán now stands for. …

Earlier this week, Orbán said that 1956 meant the beginning of the end of the Iron Curtain. By keeping migrants outside Hungary, he says, he now does the same as the demonstrators in 1956.

His critics think otherwise. They believe that the memory of the mass flight of Hungarians after the failed uprising should bring the government to a less restrictive policy on refugees.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising with a nationalist tirade against immigrants on Sunday. The prime minister spoke at the official celebrations in front of the parliament to several thousand supporters of his right-wing Fidesz Party: here.