Hungarian government’s illegal anti-refugee policies


This video says about itself:

Hungary’s 100,000 Jews alarmed at racism

22 March 2013

Anti-semitism is being felt in Hungary almost 70 years after half a million Jews were killed in the country during the Holocaust.

Community leaders feel threatened following recent comments made by members of the right-wing Jobbik party, and as a football match last year saw hooligans shout slurs at Israeli players.

Despite measures to control racism, such as ordering the Hungarian national football team to play its World Cup qualifier against Romania on Friday night (March 22) behind closed doors, concerns are growing with reports of some Jews choosing to migrate to other European countries.

Al Jazeera’s Tim Friend reports from Budapest.

By Márta Pardavi in Hugary, on 31 August 2016:

How Hungary Systematically Violates European Norms On Refugee Protection

In 2015, Hungary became one of the main entry points to the European Union for migrants and refugees. The police registered 400,000 irregular migrants and more than 177,000 of these applied for asylum. With at most 4,000 people with international protection status living in Hungary and one of the lowest rates of immigrant populations in Europe (1.4%), most people were faced with an unknown phenomenon, one that had hardly featured in Hungarian media or on political agendas before.

Confronted with a variety of very uncomfortable domestic political issues and the challenges posed by the number of arrivals, the government suddenly elevated migration to the number 1 topic on the political agenda. Right after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris in January 2015, it announced that migration posed a dangerous threat, from which Hungary and Europe must be protected. Moreover, it put the blame on “Brussels”, primarily the European Commission, for failing to keep refugees and migrants out of Europe.

In May 2015, the government launched a “National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism”, in which 8 million Hungarian adults were asked to respond to a set of biased questions that portrayed migrants as abusers of European welfare systems and economic opportunities: ‘a new type of threat that we must stop in its tracks’. The consultation was accompanied by a nationwide billboard campaign, which featured xenophobic messages in Hungarian.

Over the summer, thousands of refugees arrived across the Serbian border each day, only to be met with a government-induced humanitarian crisis in Hungary. To everyone’s surprise, informal groups sprouted up instantly and hundreds of ordinary Hungarian citizens in towns all over the country spent their summer helping refugees. Thousands of Hungarians donated clothing, food and money to help where the state refused to do its part.

Later on, the legal and practical framework of refugee protection in Hungary was practically dismantled. The combined and intended effect of these steps was to deter and limit people who need international protection from accessing it in Hungary, by:

  • rejecting all asylum applications from people who had entered Hungary from Serbia, which was declared a safe third country, without a real inquiry into the reasons why Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others had to flee their countries,
  • introducing new and unfair procedural rules that result in genuine refugees being denied access to a proper asylum procedure and to the possibility of finding protection,
  • sealing the borders with Serbia and Croatia with razor-wire fences,
  • criminalising the crossing of the border fence and trying migrants in expedited criminal trials lacking many important due process guarantees,
  • reducing the Hungarian reception system’s capacity to offer shelter to asylum-seekers by closing the largest camp and instead opening smaller, temporary tent camps,
  • opening four small ‘transit zones’ on the southern border where people who wish to seek asylum in Hungary should apply and be registered, but not all would be let in the country.

Although the government is determined to keep migrants and refugees away from Hungary, wars and instability have not ended and people keep on coming via the Balkan route, though in lesser numbers than in 2015.

Since early spring, would-be asylum-seekers have to wait for long periods in front of two of the transit zones at the Serbian border to be allowed to enter and be registered as an asylum applicant in Hungary. At first, their number was in the dozens every day, but for many months now, it is hundreds of people waiting, many children and families among them. The Hungarian immigration office only lets in 30 people each day, giving priority to vulnerable families. The conditions are dire, because the Hungarian authorities provide only a water faucet and one food package each day. Despite the fact that the people wait on Hungarian land within arm’s reach of the authorities, it is UNHCR and NGOs and volunteer groups who struggle to meet all other needs: medical assistance, clothing, shelter, hot meals, information.

Since January 2016, about 252 persons have been granted protection status in Hungary (in 2015: 508). On 1 June 2016, however, state support for refugee integration was nearly eliminated, as all financial benefits were cut and access to state health care curbed. This leaves recognised refugees and persons with subsidiary protection (who dont qualify as refugees according to the Geneva Convention but who would face serious harm if they return to the country of origin) at the risk of homelessness and destitution 30 days after they are given permission to stay. It is now only NGOs that offer integration services specifically for refugees, the funding of which comes from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Essentially, the EU and UNHCR funds are what keep the limited integration services for refugees above water in Hungary.

In recent months, UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and Hungarian NGOs and volunteers have been documenting and reporting about frequent cases of severe ill-treatment of migrants at the border. The police have refused to thoroughly investigate these reports.

Moreover, since July 5, the police can push back migrants who are apprehended within 8 km inside Hungary of the border fence to the other side of it, without any substantive procedure. People are expected to join the many hundreds waiting at the transit zones for managed entry, amid degrading conditions.

Not surprisingly, most asylum-seekers abandon their asylum claims within a few days after having finally arrived at an open centre and travel on further west, via Austria. The Hungarian government acquiesces in this as becoming more of a destination country for refugees is exactly what it does not want.

With a national referendum on “mandatory migrant quotas” set for October 2, the hate campaign against migrants and the EU is at full trottle again. Those NGOs that speak out in favour of offering protection to refugees, for solidarity with other countries and for trying to find solutions through European cooperation are few and far between and they face strong opposition. In this precarious landscape, getting European institutions and civil society to show solidarity with the safekeepers of human rights and refugee protection would be all the more important.

Hungarian government awards anti-Semite Knight’s Cross


Hungarian Knight's Cross

From Hungarian Spectrum blog:

Zsolt Bayer, the purveyor of hate, in his own words

Decent, democratic Hungarians are stunned. The hate-filled, racist, anti-Semitic journalistic hack, Zsolt Bayer, on the recommendation of Zoltán Balog, received the third highest decoration the government can bestow on people of great achievement. János Lázár presented Bayer with the “Hungarian Middle Cross.”

The independent media could scarcely find words to display its disgust with the government, but some headline writers rose to the occasion. One headline read “By mistake Zsolt Bayer received the cross of the knight [lovagkereszt] instead of the Swastika.” Swastika in Hungarian is “horogkereszt.” A blog writer at Népszabadság titled his piece “The knight of the Godfather” since Viktor Orbán and Bayer are old friends and fellow founders of Fidesz [the right-wing governing party in Hungary].

Instead of trying to describe Bayer’s “literary output,” I think it’s best to let Bayer speak for himself. I will be only his English voice. In the past, every time I wrote about Bayer I always said how difficult it is to translate his prose. For starters, Hungarian obscenity beats American obscenity by a mile. Moreover, I hate to repeat this smut.

The first time I discussed Bayer at some length was in January 2011 shortly after András Schiff, the world-renowned pianist, wrote a letter to the editor of The Washington Post. Bayer retorted with an article titled “The same stench.” Here are a few lines from that piece.

A stinking excrement called something like Cohen from somewhere in England writes that ‘foul stench wafts’ from Hungary. Cohen, and Cohn-Bendit, and Schiff. Népszava appears with the red figure of the man with the hammer and demands freedom of the press. Most people think that this is something new and that war like that didn’t take place before. Nonsense. There is nothing new under the sun. Unfortunately, they were not all buried up to their necks in the forest of Orgovány.

A brief explanation. Orgovány, a small village on the Great Plains, was the site of massacres committed by the leaders of the Hungarian White Terror in 1919-1920. Most of the victims were Jewish. In plain language, Bayer is expressing his sorrow that not all the Jews were killed in those days.

A year later he got angry because Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian MP in the European Parliament, criticized Hungary. Bayer, who at the time had a program on Echo TVhad the following to say about Lunacek in the company of two other right-wingers:

Then comes a half-witted [The Germans translated it as ‘brain amputeed’] impetiginous lying idiot, Ulrike Lunacek, and I expressed myself delicately … The whole rotten filthy lie from the mouth of a rotten filth bag.” In choice Hungarian: “Csak jön egy olyan agyament ótvar hazug idióta, Ulrike Lunacek, és milyen finoman fejeztem ki magam. … Az egész egy rohadt szemét hazugság egy rohadt szemét szájából.”

In 2013 Bayer wrote another hateful piece in which, although he didn’t use the word “Jew” or “Jewish,” anyone who is familiar with Bayer’s style and way of thinking knows whom he has in mind when he talks about those who have been doing their best to ruin the white Christian race ever since the 1919 Soviet Republic, which in far-right circles is considered to be a “Jewish affair.” Those who are antagonistic toward Hungary organize themselves “in packs and attack their victims like loathsome drooling hyenas.” And he continues: “For you only death is the proper punishment. Because you believe in death, in public executions while your victims are left alone, go bankrupt, their friends deny them, they lose their jobs, and come to a sorry end. This is your goal.” Their sins are immeasurable and they will be punished. Because these mysterious people don’t realize “what monster [they] are trying to resuscitate. In fact, [they] woke him up already.” All that sounds pretty threatening, but then comes the twist:

You don’t foresee yet that it will be only we who raise our voices in your defense. We, the marked victims. We are the only ones to whom you can turn for help. It will be only we who will hide you. Because we are good to the point of ruining ourselves. And take this all very seriously. You miserable ones.

In January 2013, in Berlin, Zoltán Balog proudly outlined the accomplishments of the Orbán government as far as its Roma strategy was concerned. Bayer wrote that

a significant portion of the Gypsies are unfit for coexistence. Not fit to live among human beings. These people are animals and behave like animals. … If he finds resistance, he kills. He voids where and when it occurs to him. … He wants what he sees. If he doesn’t get it, he takes it and he kills…. From his animal skull only inarticulate sounds come out and the only thing he understands is brute force… There shouldn’t be animals. No way. This must be solved, immediately and in any way. [In Hungarian: “Ezt meg kell oldani–de azonnal és bárhogyan.”]

This particular article was deemed to be racist, and the state media authority fined Magyar Hírlap, where it appeared, 200,000 forints. Since then Magyar Hírlap had to pay another fine, this time 250,000 forints, because he called all refugee boys over the age of 14 “potential terrorists.”

When it comes to the migrants, Bayer usually dwells on horror stories, like the IKEA murder in Sweden, which then gives him an opening to blame liberalism for being the source of all the trouble. For example, he expresses his sorrow that the two suspects cooperated with the police because otherwise “the police could have shot them as one does a mad dog.” Now the Swedes have two murderers from Eritrea and two dead white Swedes. “Surely, the exchange was worth it. Long live liberalism! Long live human rights! Except when we talk about the rights of the European, white, Christian race.” Here Bayer uses the word “rassz,” which is practically never used in this sense in modern Hungarian. Bayer’s conclusion is that Europe must be defended. “It must be freed from this horror. If necessary with arms in hand. If everything remains the same, there will be bloodshed. These hordes believe that only the blood of Europeans can be shed.”

Perhaps the most often quoted Bayer lines were written in 2006 after the tragedy that occurred in Olaszliszka when a Roma girl stepped in front of a car driven by a school teacher. The child wasn’t hurt. The man stopped when a group of about twenty men and women dragged him out of the car and beat him to death in the presence of his two young daughters. Bayer wrote at the time:

Anyone in this country who runs over a Gypsy kid acts wisely if he doesn’t for a minute contemplate stopping. In the case of driving over a Gypsy kid, we should step on the gas. If in the meantime Gypsies surround the car, we should step on the gas even harder. Those we run over are unlucky. Leaving the scene at the greatest speed, we should call the ambulance from the car and we should stop at the next police station and turn ourselves in. (Unfortunately, I know that this scenario cannot take place because if someone runs over someone, especially a child, one must stop. So, we will stop. But we will have to do something. It is a good idea to get a gun before leaving. If we hit a child, let’s stop, and if the animals begin to gather we should use our weapon without hesitation.)

I don’t always have the stomach to read Bayer’s articles that appear in Magyar Hírlap and lately on his own blog as well. I’m sure that others could come up with hundreds more quotations that would further demonstrate that this man’s decoration by the Orbán government is a disgrace.

As for the charge of anti-Semitism, analysts pussyfoot around when it comes to the Orbán government’s attitude toward the country’s Jewish citizens and their role in Hungary’s history. I don’t think that, with the decision to award Bayer this high honor, there can be any question where Viktor Orbán stands on this issue. Bayer’s decoration must have been cleared with Orbán himself, and he must have known that this move will be interpreted as the government’s approval of Bayer’s racism and anti-Semitism. It seems that Orbán doesn’t care what the world thinks of him and his regime. Bayer’s decoration strikes me as a purposeful provocation not only of the Jewish community at home and abroad but of democratic communities in Europe and the Americas.

August 19, 2016

Award Given to Writer Fined for Racism Sparks Furor in Hungary: here.

Hungarian nazis’ anti-refugee violence


This video says about itself:

Hungarians unite against antisemitism: huge anti-Nazi, anti-Jobbik rally held in Budapest

3 December 2012

Around 10,000 people have taken to the streets in Budapest in protest over what many see as a resurgence of neo-Nazi ideologies in government just days after a far-right MP belonging to the ultranationalist Jobbik party accused Hungary’s Jewish population of posing a national security risk, and called for them to be registered on special lists.

In a rare show of unity on Hungary’s deeply divided political scene, civil rights groups and party leaders from across the spectrum came together for the rally, which was held outside the main parliament building. During the protest, organisers played scenes from a 1944 film about World War Two, in which around 600,000 Jews and 30,000 Roma were killed by Hungarian fascists.

Many demonstrators carried signs critical of the far-right opposition party, Jobbik, which rode to power in 2010 by winning 44 out of 386 parliamentary seats, making it the third largest party in the country in terms of MPs. Many have accused the party of targeting Jewish and travelling Roma minorities in order to win votes, and of inciting racist attacks with hate speech.

From France 24:

08/02/2016

A Hungarian mayor makes a show of “migrant-hunting

In the small Hungarian town of Ásotthalom, migrants are regularly being photographed on their knees, hands on their heads, displayed like hunting trophies, with armed militiamen standing by. The mayor of the town is behind the hate-filled hunt for undocumented migrants. According to our Observer, this is just another example of the xenophobic, law-and-order policies in Hungary.

Refugees on the ground, hands bound behind their backs. Photo published by the Jobbik mayor on his Facebook page

Beneath a photo published in June on the Facebook page of Toroczkai Laszlo, the mayor of Ásotthalom, a village of 5,000 on the Serbo-Hungarian border, the caption reads, “Violent invaders 0 – Citizen militia 1.” The image shows three migrant men lying face-down on the ground, their hands bound behind their backs. In another photo, shared more than 300 times, a thickset man in camouflage poses in front of five young men, captured while illegally crossing the border.

Despite a recent report by Human Rights Watch denouncing the violent atacks on migrants by police and militia in Hungary, Laszlo hasn’t hesitated in broadcasting his guards’ “exploits.”

A rising star of the Hungarian far-right – he is vice-president of Jobbik, an openly xenophobic nationalist [neonazi] party –  last summer he launched an armed civilian patrol whose mission is to “capture” migrants near his village. …

Our Observer Márk Zoltán Kékesi is a professor of sociology in Szeged, just a few kilometres from Ásotthalom. With the Hungarian citizens’ collective Migzsol, he helps refugees who are stuck at the Serbo-Hungarian border. He’s worried about Laszlo’s militia and the mayor’s popularity.

“Originally, this militia was supposed to be the equivalent of village policemen, responsible for protecting the fields of the farmers in this border town… But I have spoken with a local farmer who told me there’d been no problems with theft or crime from the migrants, either in homes or in the fields.

In my opinion, this militia is above all else about the mayor portraying a certain image. For instance, he never goes anywhere without his militiamen…

As you can see on Facebook, he likes showing that he’s protecting his village. In his posts, the vocabulary he uses is revealing. He never speaks of ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees.’ He prefers to call them ‘invaders,’ and future terrorists. Of course, no one is shocked by this – it’s the ambient discourse here, especially among politicians. [Editor’s note: In July, for instance, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, compared immigration to a “poison.”]

“Migrants report being attacked at the border”

What’s worrying is that he’s started a sort of fad. More and more groups are forming to ‘hunt’ migrants at the Serbian border. The idea of ‘self-defence,’ of taking up arms ‘against the invaders,’ is spreading, even if we’re still talking about a fairly small number of people.

Ásotthalom’s patrol is legal with regards to Hungarian law, and the men have the right to carry guns so long as they don’t fire them. The mayor is in total control of all the militia’s communications, so it’s hard to know too much about it – what it does with migrants after capturing them, for instance. We get reports from migrants attacked at the border, but we don’t know who’s behind these incidents. For the refugees, militiamen and uniformed police look alike, and this creates an even more confused atmosphere.

“There’s a fascination for his personality”

For us, the humanitarian workers, it’s impossible to work in this village. We’re not welcome there. The inhabitants don’t seem to care. On the contrary, the mayor is very popular. I think there’s a fascination for his personality. He ended up in Ásotthalom a bit randomly. Although he was born in the region, he started his political career in Budapest. Then he made this village his political showcase. He’s cultivating this image of a young man, surrounded by henchmen, who’s defending the border.” …

He’s also known for having founded the HVIM, the “Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement,” a group that is nostalgic for the era of Greater Hungary – the territory of Hungary before World War I, which included parts or Romania, Croatia, and Serbia – and which marches alongside neo-Nazis.

Refugees are ‘poison’, Hungary’s Orban says


This video says about itself:

28 August 2015

Hungary’s barbed-wire fence still proves no barrier for migrants

Screaming in agony, a young migrant girl gets her hair tangled in barbed wire as her family scramble through mud seeking a better life in Europe.

Barely old enough to understand what is happening to her, the girl was forced to crawl under a razor-sharp fence to get across the border into Hungary.

But as she wriggles through the dirt, her hair becomes caught and she lets out a cry of pain.

A woman, believed to be her mother, who is carrying a baby in one arm, uses her other hand to untangle her and the family rush to safety.

Again, unfortunately not that surprising news about the ‘Erdogan of Budapest’.

Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are the best of friends: here.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Hungarian prime minister calls migrants entering Europe a ‘poison’

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has described the influx of refugees and other migrants into Europe as a “poison” that his country “won’t swallow”. …

A House of Lords report published on Tuesday concluded Britain was failing to take in its fair share of unaccompanied child refugees. ..

Hungary will hold a referendum on 2 October on its participation in the EU migration relocation scheme.

Last year hundreds of thousands of migrants travelled through Hungary and Austria to try and reach other European nations.

But Mr Orban’s government curbed the flow by erecting razor wire and fences along Hungary’s southern borders.

Budapest, the country’s capital, introduced further anti-migrant laws this month, including a return of the controversial “no-man’s land” on the Hungarian-Serbian border, where the land is not recognised as either country’s territory. Hundreds of refugees and migrants are stuck in camps there.

The comments come after Mr Orban said the tough foreign policy of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was “good for Europe and vital for Hungary”.

Hungarian regime’s crackdown on war refugees


This video says about itself:

Hungarian Prisoners Making Barbed Wire To Stop Refugees

28 February 2016

Hungarian inmates are ramping up their production of barbed wire to try to stop refugees at the border. The country hasn’t taken in a single one yet.

By Martin Kreickenbaum:

Hungarian government cracks down on refugees

12 July 2016

This week, the Hungarian parliament in Budapest approved a further tightening of asylum laws and authorized the country’s security forces to deport refugees to Serbia and Croatia without due process.

Refugees caught within an eight-kilometer-wide strip along the border will now be summarily deported. In addition, border security is being massively strengthened. The number of soldiers and border guards will be increased from 4,000 to 10,000, and they will be equipped with additional vehicles, thermal imaging cameras and other devices.

The number of refugees registered on the Balkan route [has] plunged. Barely more than 250 refugees a day are able to traverse the closed borders along the Balkan route with the help of people smugglers.

The EU in Brussels has largely looked on approvingly at Hungary’s brutal actions, despite the fact that expulsions without an asylum hearing, expedited asylum proceedings and the detention of refugees and deprivation of their rights represent massive violations of international refugee protections and violate EU law.

The victims of this brutal policy of deterrence are refugees who have already endured weeks in overcrowded makeshift camps outside the transit zones. After fleeing from wars in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq, they are now camped out in small tents or in the open air, in the dust and dirt in front of towering barbed-wire fences. Three mobile toilets were only recently installed, but there are no showers, no medical care, and only one water tap. Many people are ill, especially children. Once a day, Hungarian police officers bring tiny food parcels containing bread and canned fish.

There is virtually no escape from these miserable camps. The Hungarian security forces allow only 15 to 20 people into the transit zone daily to apply for asylum there. Refugees have to place their names on a list and then wait for weeks before they are allowed to pass through the gate in the border fence.

Aid organizations fear that the new regulations will catastrophically worsen the situation in the camps. Since the beginning of the year, the Hungarian security authorities have captured some 17,500 refugees who are accused of illegal entry. Previously, they had been taken to reception centers in Hungary. Now they will be brought back to the border fence, leading to a rapid increase in the size of the camp there, which will assume the proportions of the Idomeni camp in Greece. Already in the first days since the new rules have been in force, almost 150 refugees have been deported each day from Hungary.

“Refugees on Hungarian territory are escorted back to the border, without the possibility of lodging an asylum claim and without being provided any documentation, where they have to endure for an arbitrarily long time under inhumane conditions in order to apply for asylum,” Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki committee, told Spiegel online .

The Hungarian government claims that this does not constitute deportation. Although the transit zones and about a two-foot-wide strip in front of the border fence are not part of Hungarian territory, they also do not belong to any other state.

Since August 2015 the Hungarian government has defined neighboring Serbia, from which nearly all the refugees have entered, as a “safe third country.” As a result, of the 199,000 asylum applications made in Hungary last year, just 264 have been approved.

Hungary has steadily increased the repressive measures against refugees over the last twelve months. Following the classification of Serbia as a “safe third country”, and the complete closure of its borders with Serbia and Croatia, border fences and fortifications were built, soldiers have employed tear gas and batons against protesting refugees. In September last year, “illegal entry” was declared a crime and thousands of refugees dragged before the courts.

According to György Bakondi, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s security advisor, 4,942 refugees have been prosecuted for damage to the border fence. In general, the punishment has been immediate deportation and a re-entry ban. According to Bakondis, 300 refugees sit in Hungarian prisons.

However, the deportations are often not carried out, as Serbia and Croatia will not take back the refugees. Since there are no accommodation facilities for refugees in Hungary, apart from the detention centers—even for recognized asylum seekers—many refugees end up homeless on the street, where they are again exposed to state repression, since being homeless is also a crime.

Single male refugees who have been deported to Hungary from other EU member states following the Dublin procedures are imprisoned there on the spurious grounds that they might otherwise try to emigrate again.

In addition to this massive criminalization of refugees, a show trial has been launched in the Hungarian town of Szeged against eleven refugees for their alleged involvement in mass protests at the border fence in September 2015. One of them was even indicted for terrorism because he supposedly used a megaphone to incite the crowd that tried to storm the border fence.

The accused, who were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to three years, included a blind old woman and a wheelchair-bound man. To date, however, there has been no investigation of the brutal police action, in which refugees were shot at with tear gas and driven back using water cannons and truncheons.

The incident was used by the Hungarian government to construe a direct link between refugees, illegal immigration, violence and terrorism. This is also the purpose of a referendum scheduled for October on the question of whether Hungary should participate in the distribution of refugees as agreed by the EU. The date was announced by President Janos Ader this week in Budapest.

This process has already failed for all practical purposes, since, of the 160,000 eligible refugees who are to be taken from Italy and Greece to other EU countries, only 2,800 asylum seekers have so far been redistributed. Moreover, the Hungarian government, which under the EU Commission’s plan would only have to accommodate 1,300 refugees, is seeking to cement its anti-refugee position by means of the referendum.

French policeman filmed ridiculing weeping refugee woman after her camp is dismantled. Armed riot police officer appears to laugh at woman who wanted to retrieve belongings from the camp: here.

Good house martin news from Hungary


This video is about a house martin nest in Poland.

After bad news about politicians in Hungary … now good news about birds and school children.

From BirdLife:

School’s out(side) for Spring!

By Shaun Hurrell, 30 Jun 2016

A bell in Hungary rings the start of a noisy week day. Like in many schools, the grounds fill with happy laughter, the bouncing of balls, children running and playing. But this spring a new noise rang through the air of the Ady Endre Primary in Gyál: the chirrrps and tseeps of House Martins on their arrival from Africa. Rather than distracting from studies, the children go outside in their lessons to see what it’s all about! They say there are at least 10 nests under the eaves of the school building, not too far from each other.

Art teacher Ms Viktória Szabó says: “The House Martins have kept busy ever since they arrived, lately by feeding their chicks. We’ve tried taking photos of them but it’s not an easy task because they fly really fast!”

Viktória is sharing her enthusiasm for nature with her classes through the Spring Alive programme, which this year has encouraged children to celebrate the return of Barn Swallows and other migratory birds to their neighbourhoods.

Spring Alive is a BirdLife International educational conservation initiative organised by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) that encourages children to take action for the conservation of the migratory birds they learn about. Intimately associated with humans, swallows and martins are a species that anyone, almost anywhere can help with.

The 30 pupils of Viktória’s class have learnt loads about swallows and martins. Through music, literature, writing, and environmental studies, Class 3/a now know about their migration, nesting and feeding habits.

“They’ve looked at pictures, listened to presentations, and created drawings and photographs for the Spring Alive competitions of the small colony living on the school grounds,” says Viktória.

They’ve become ‘House Martin Scientists’ and monitored the stages of nest building and chick development, using the material on the Spring Alive website and going outside to see the birds.

Despite all the noises of the school, it is clear the House Martins are not disturbed. Instead, these local birds are perhaps these children’s first window into nature conservation, or even an understanding that the birds they are seeing are shared with other children in Africa.

As the European season of Spring Alive comes to a close, the project will move with the migratory birds into Africa, where the Spring Twin initiative will unite schools between the continents.

10 reasons for your child to celebrate spring with Spring Alive

“Recognising the arrival of migratory birds also brings a broader understanding of nature,” says Karolina Kalinowska, Spring Alive coordinator. “Some bird migrations are so huge, they are almost beyond comprehension. For local children, Spring Alive brings an opportunity to think globally.”

Thinking back to when you were at school – wasn’t it great to go outside and explore? Thanks to Spring Alive these lucky children in Hungary got to do it as part of their lessons!

Spring Alive is an international campaign to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds

Spring Alive is an international campaign to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is organised by OTOP, the BirdLife Partner in Poland, on behalf of the BirdLife Partnership. Wildlife groups, teachers and others who would like to become more involved in Spring Alive should contact the International Manager, Karolina Kalinowska, at karolina.kalinowska@otop.org.pl

For more information go to: www.springalive.net

Follow Spring Alive on facebookYouTube and flickr.

Breeding ecology of House Martins (Delichon urbica) in Northeast Algeria: here.

Cuckoos’ eggs in great reed warbler nests, new study


This is is a great reed warbler video from Hungary.

From Bird Study:

When should Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus lay their eggs in host nests?

01 Feb 2016

Abstract

Capsule: Brood parasitic Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus chicks hatch earlier than the nestlings of their Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus hosts, but hatching priority is less consistent when Cuckoo eggs are laid after the onset of host incubation.

Aim: To reveal by field observations what the optimal stage is for Cuckoos to lay their eggs in relation to the host laying cycle to ensure prior hatching of the parasitic chicks.

Methods: We monitored the hatching of Cuckoo chicks in relation to the hosts’ laying stage at which the Cuckoo eggs appeared and also monitored host incubation behaviour.

Results: Great Reed Warblers incubated more on day 5 after the host’s onset of laying relative to day 3. All Cuckoo eggs hatched earlier than hosts when they were laid prior to the onset of host incubation (day 4). Cuckoo eggs also maintained hatching priority in about 2/3 of the nests when laid on days 5–6.

Conclusions: Most Cuckoo eggs are laid prior to the onset of host incubation and this, together with other adaptive mechanisms, ensures the prior hatching of Cuckoo eggs. Cuckoo eggs laid after the onset of incubation lose the advantage of prior hatching in approximately 30% of nests.