Hungarian, Czech pro-refugee voices

Syrian refugees at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station (Pic: Mstyslav Chernov)

By Dave Sewell from Britain:

How activists in eastern Europe are resisting attempts to block out refugees

Deadly border fences are going up across eastern Europe as its governments whip up Islamophobia. Dave Sewell spoke to activists there about how the refugee crisis is spreading in the east—and what people are doing to fight back

Tue 22 Sep 2015, 15:00 BST

Twenty five years after the Iron Curtain fell, eastern European states are once again building walls to stop people fleeing westward.

But this time they are blocking African and Middle Eastern refugees fleeing wars and dictatorships. And the European Union (EU) is using regional governments as its frontline border cops.

But refugees have been forcing their way through. Thousands travelled through Croatia last week, after Hungary locked down its border with Serbia.

A new wall [at] the border. It was constructed just in time for new anti-migrant laws coming into force on Monday of last week.

Migrant Solidarity (Migszol) activist Karmen Kollar went to the newly-blocked border at Roszke, southern Hungary on Tuesday morning.

She told Socialist Worker, “Hundreds of people were stuck on the border—within hours it became thousands. People started desperately camping on the empty motorway.”

Refugees chanted, “We want the gate open.” The state responded with terror. Karmen said, “By Wednesday afternoon, people were gathering at one of the old border crossings. Then the anti-terror police turned up.

“Somehow the people had got hold of a loudspeaker and tried to negotiate with the police.

“In the end they started throwing empty bottles, and then two or three stones. I heard one of the cops say “finally”—and without warning they started pepper-spraying everyone.

Refugees in Hungary (Pic: Mstyslav Chernov)


“People tried to run, but the crowd was too dense. I saw people crying, throwing up. Some migrants pushed back, setting fire to T-shirts and throwing them at the police. The police answered with tear gas and water cannon.”

Serbian ambulance workers ended up hospitalised themselves after a tear gas grenade hit their ambulance.

The lockdown follows six months of racist scaremongering across the region. Jan Majicek, a revolutionary socialist in the Czech capital Prague, told Socialist Worker, “A refugee boat sinking in 2013 was reported as a tragedy. Now the media talk about a ‘migration crisis’.

“They talk of an ‘uncontrollable wave’ or a ‘threat to our security’. Along with Islamophobia, this created a toxic cocktail that’s helped the far right.

“The Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian governments are all repressing refugees—and using this to raise military and police budgets. The most serious situation is in Hungary.”

Karmen said, “The new law is the culmination of a xenophobic campaign. The government put up billboards in spring telling migrants, ‘If you come to Hungary, don’t steal Hungarian jobs’. But they were written in Hungarian, so the aim was obviously to create hatred.

There’s opposition, but in this political atmosphere it can be hard to get a hearing.

“And the far right party Jobbik organises dangerous anti-migrant rallies—one of them forced refugees to be evacuated from Budapest’s Keleti train station.”

Hungary’s government in particular is also virulently Eurosceptic.

Both Jan and Karmen say the politicians are using the EU as an “alibi”. But Karmen added, “The problem is that there is some truth to it too.”

The EU’s Dublin Regulation says refugees have to apply for asylum in the first country they reach—and can be turned away elsewhere.

Karmen said, “These rules should be completely replaced. They are one reason the situation is so extreme.”

Both Germany and Denmark closed their borders before Croatia did. The authorities in France and Austria have tried to criminalise helping migrants—though resistance has stood its ground.

Meanwhile, Britain’s border at Calais is increasingly fortified. Cops pepper spray refugees there too.

EU politicians have criticised Hungary’s fence, but it was a condition of EU membership.


This follows a pattern already seen in Greece. The EU demanded a wall along the river Evros at its Turkey border. Hundreds of Syrian refugees held a sit-in protest there last week.

They rightly argued that this land blockade forces people onto the dangerous sea crossing. It has also given an alibi to any Greek politician who tries to use racism to shore up support.

Now EU border policies are poisoning the politics of newer eastern Europe members states in the same way. …

Jan said, “We should demand our governments open the ­borders and stop their war games. But that’s only one part of our task. The other is to fight for better jobs, wages and welfare—to undercut the Nazis and racists’ claims that refugees are the problem.”

Much of the debate about how to stop the violence at the EU’s border has revolved around the need to “share the burden”.

But this reinforces the idea that refugees are a problem—and the repressive system that tries to control them.

It’s a contradiction Karmen struggles with. “It’s a big question and I don’t know what to do about borders,” she said.

“There needs to be some control. But the more I hear from the migrants, the more I think the EU shouldn’t get to decide where they stay.

“People might enter in one country, but have family in another.

“Why should we tell someone they have to stay in Hungary if they want to go to Sweden, for example? I believe they should have this freedom of movement.”

Abandoned in Belgrade

Hungary’s new law states that Serbia is a “safe country”. That allows the government to deport anyone coming through there—or jail them for several years if they enter Hungary.

Just a few dozen metres from Roszke’s closed motorway checkpoint is one of the two remaining legal crossings. Karmen described a small, unmarked prefab building where a small group of people are allowed inside every 15 minutes.

“A Syrian man told me they’d let him in, kept him in a room for 30 minutes, then handed him some forms he couldn’t read.

“A translator told him to sign them. The forms said he had been returned to Serbia and wouldn’t be coming to Hungary.”

But Serbia is not a place where many refugees expect to find a future. British campaigner Tom Ullman went to the camp in its capital Belgrade.

Many stay at the camp because Serbia’s new laws mean refugees are kicked out of hotels after three nights. Tom said, “Over the past week refugees have had to face abrupt downpours.

“Heavy rains are followed by a flurry of activity as those without storm-worthy tents head for what shelter they can find.”

Tom said, “Sombre stories are told, and affect the mood of the camp. A ship sank the previous week, its passengers only rescued because one of them happened to have a flare.

“But for all the suffering there’s a peculiar festival spirit where strangers become friends.

“The most joyous moment came when a local organisation brought supplies to make tea and music. Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans danced to familiar songs.

“We should be thankful to welcome such people into our countries.”

Racism helps our rulers

Our rulers’ biggest lie about border controls is that they protect the working class.

Even a piece in the supposedly liberal Guardian newspaper argued that letting in refugees would “hit the UK’s working class areas hardest”.

And some trade unionists argue that immigration harms workers’ wages and conditions.

But pressure on services comes from politicians slashing funding. Bosses push down wages and conditions.

There is plenty of wealth in our society. Workers produce it—and when we stand together we have the power to reclaim it.

The racism and repression we are seeing at borders from Roszke to Calais only help our rulers divide us.

The Communist Manifesto famously ends with a call for international solidarity. “Workers of all countries unite—you have a world to win, and nothing to lose but your chains.”

David Cameron understands this. That’s why he wants to extend the border controls we are seeing in Hungary throughout the EU.

Our side must understand that we can only win if we smash them.

Hungarian army anti-refugee violence threatens

This video says about itself:

Hungary: ‘Shame on you Orban!’ Pro-refugee protesters rally in Budapest

13 September 2015

Supporters of the ‘Egyutt’ (‘Together’) party and other opposition groups held a pro-refugee protest in Budapest, Sunday, under the name ‘Shame on you Orban!’

By Markus Salzmann:

Hungary deploys army against refugees

26 September 2015

The parliament of Hungary passed a constitutional amendment Monday permitting the deployment of the country’s army at the country’s borders to repel refugees. With 151 votes in favor, including the votes of the ruling Fidesz party and the far-right Jobbik party, the bill received the two-thirds majority required for changes to the constitution.

The new law will allow the armed forces to stop people at the border and search vehicles. The army will also be allowed to use batons, rubber bullets and nets. The initial draft also allowed police to search homes without a court order if they suspected the presence of refugees. This provision was then deleted from the final text following a wave of protest.

Hungarian soldiers have already been mobilized on the country’s border with Serbia to erect a high barbed wire fence. They are also permitted to reinforce police units at the border.

On Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán defended closing the border in parliament: “Many say that fences are not a good solution, because everyone would have to build a fence. But that is precisely the solution,” he declared.

He denounced the impoverished and desperate refugees as a threat to the EU: “They are overwhelming us. They are not just banging against the door; they are kicking it down.” Hungary and the EU had to counter this “brutal threat.”

The Orbán government has already built a 175-kilometer-long fence on Hungary’s border with Serbia and is currently building similar fences on its borders with Romania and Croatia. On September 15, a law also came into force that made the illegal entry into Hungary a serious crime, punishable by three years in prison or deportation.

The mobilization of the military at the border, while targeting refugees, aims at annulling fundamental democratic rights for the entire population.

Civil rights activists have criticized the new laws. In an open letter, a group of lawyers complained that child refugees do not receive the protection entitled to underage persons by law. They pointed out that accused refugees cannot read the accusations and judgment made against them in their mother tongue, although this is required by law. Moreover, persons restrained in a camp under “house arrest” are not allowed to make phone calls or have personal conversation with a defense lawyer.

Apart from some superficial criticism there is general approval for the brutal refugee policy among Hungary’s main political parties. The social democratic MSZP did not vote against the constitutional amendment, but merely abstained in the vote.

And despite their occasional criticism of Orbán, other European countries support Hungary’s crackdown on refugees.

On Wednesday, the German Christian Social Union, the Bavarian party that shares power with Angela Merkel’s CDU and the social democrats, welcomed Orbán as guest of honor at a party meeting in Banz. CSU leader Horst Seehofer assured “dear Viktor” of a “high level of agreement” and emphasized that “Orbán is indispensable for the correct solution of the problem.”

The Latvian government has also demanded that the EU provide additional funds to build border fences. The country plans to close its border with Russia and Belarus and install monitoring systems along the newly-reinforced border.

Bulgaria plans to deploy around a thousand soldiers at its border with Turkey. According to Bulgarian news sources, about 660 refugees tried to cross from Turkey to Bulgaria a week ago. They were discovered by Bulgarian border guards and intercepted by the Turkish border police.

The government in Sofia has already sent thousands of additional police officers to its 260-kilometer-long border with Turkey, and built a 30-kilometer-long barbed wire fence, which is to be extended along the entire length of the border. A representative of the Ministry of Defence said a plan for joint patrols of army and police was already in force.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that the relocation of troops to the border was aimed at “spreading respect and contributing to the security of the local population.” It was impermissible for “tens of thousands to cross our border” without the government taking “elementary precautionary measures.”

Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Pro Asyl criticized Bulgaria’s crackdown on refugees. Pro Asyl had already reported last Spring on numerous cases where refugees were violently forced back across the Turkish border. Such “pushbacks” violate international agreements such as the Geneva Convention on Refugees. In addition, Pro Asyl criticized the conditions in Bulgarian refugee camps as inadequate.

In Bulgaria, just 7,400 asylum seekers have been registered this year. Refugees have largely avoided Bulgaria as a transit country because of the terrible conditions and long delays in the country’s refugee camps.

Slovenia has also sealed off its border using the harshest of measures. Last week Slovenian police used tear gas against hundreds of refugees, including children, on its border with Croatia.

There have also been growing conflicts between Serbia and Croatia after Croatia closed its border. The result was kilometer-long traffic jams on Serbian highways. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić called the move a “brutal attack on Serbia and the Serbian economy” and issued Croatia an ultimatum to open its borders.

Additional conflicts have erupted between Hungary on the one side and Serbia and Croatia on the other, following the closure of border crossings and restrictions on the transit of refugees. The Serbian government went so far as to threaten Hungary with its army should Hungary continue to push back refugees to Serbia.

Hungarian regime insults Croatia for ‘insufficient’ anti-refugee xenophobia

This video says about itself:

Refugees break through newly-built border fence in Hungary

12 September 2015

A refugee family breaks through a hole in the wire fence on Hungary’s border with Serbia. Report by Sarah Kerr.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Hungary sends arrested Croat police officers back

Today, 09:41

Hungary has returned to their own country 36 Croatian police officers who were arrested yesterday for accompanying refugees in Hungary. The Croats were arrested because they were armed and because they had brought refugees ‘illegally’ into Hungary.

Also the driver of the train bringing more than a thousand refugees on their way to Austria was arrested.


The majority of the approximately 14,000 refugees who yesterday were left by Croatia at the border with Hungary, has arrived in Austria, says correspondent Marcel van der Steen from Croatia. Last night the first buses with refugees arrived in Austria.

Hungary on Monday closed its borders to refugees, but now they seem to work with Croatia to make travel for the continued flow of asylum seekers to Austria possible. Croatia speaks of a coordinated approach with Hungary, where people at the Croatian border may change from Croatian buses to Hungarian buses and are brought directly to Austria.

But the Hungarian authorities call that a “lie” and announce that they will vote against Croatia’s accession to the Schengen area.

The fuss about the refugee train with Croatian supervisors should be seen according to Van der Steen as a political statement by Budapest underscoring their harsh clampdown on the refugee crisis.

A woman and child use a blanket to keep warm as refugees gather on the tracks at the train station in Tovarnik, Croatia. Photograph: Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Slovenian police said on Saturday that 1,287 had arrived as of midnight Friday, of which 483 were from Afghanistan, 470 from Syria and 126 from Iraq: here.

Good refugee news, from The Bike Comes First:

Marco Polo Cycling Team to relaunch as a team for refugees

Sep 17, 2015

The Marco Polo Cycling Team issued a press release today stating their intention to start racing again next year, with a team comprised of refugees, mainly from Eritrea.

NEW EU figures on asylum have spectacularly exploded the lies perpetuated by the Tories and the right-wing media that Britain is being besieged by “swarms” of refugees. Statistics published yesterday by the EU data agency Eurostat show that Britain received just one in 30 of the total number of the asylum claims made by new applicants in EU countries between April and June: here.

Hungary, from removing barbed wire to erecting it

27 June 1989: The Foreign ministers of Austria, Alois Mock (L) and Hungary, Gyula Horn (R) cut through the barbed wire that separated the two countries

From German weekly Der Spiegel in 2009:

When the Iron Curtain was torn open for the first time, on June 27, 1989, an image made its way around the world. It showed two men dressed in suits, using bolt cutters to nip holes in a barbed wire fence.

The men, then-Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock and his Hungarian counterpart Gyula Horn, had traveled to the Austrian-Hungarian border that day to send a signal that the division of postwar Europe was coming to an end. Shoulder-to-shoulder, wielding the bulky bolt cutters against the wire fence, they seemed to be conveying the good news that the fence was finally coming down.

In reality, as then-Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh says today, speaking in a coffee shop close to his home on the north shore of Lake Balaton, the removal of the border fence had already been underway for several weeks at the time. When Foreign Minister Horn proposed the fence-cutting ceremony along the border, Németh replied: “Gyula, do it, but hurry up — there isn’t much barbed wire left.”

That was 1989, that was then.

And now …

This video says about itself:

28 August 2015

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.

On 27 June, 1989, an image from Hungary went around the world. A staged media stunt, it showed Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn and his Austrian counterpart, Alois Mock, cutting a hole in the barbed wire fence that separated Eastern and Western Europe. The opening of the Hungarian border contributed greatly to the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe. Twenty-six years later, the front pages of the world press once again carry pictures from Hungary. They show a razor-sharp barbed wire fence guarded by heavily armed police who are attacking desperate refugees with tear gas to prevent them from crossing the border: here.

Refugees Welcome supporters fight anti-migrant memes with satire – but not everyone gets it: here.

Three years in Hungarian jail, for fleeing Syrian, Afghan wars?

This video from the USA says about itself:

“Imperialism & Fundamentalism Have Joined Hands”: Malalai Joya on 12 Years of U.S.-Led Afghan War

3 October 2013

Ahead of next week’s 12th anniversary of what has become the longest war in U.S. history, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the United States is seeking to sign an accord to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the indefinite future.

The United States plans to pull out the bulk of its 57,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but the Pentagon wants to retain a smaller force of around 10,000 forces after 2014.

We are joined by Afghan activist and former member of parliament, Malalai Joya, author of the book, “A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice.” A survivor of numerous attempts on her life, Time magazine has named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. “We need the support of justice-loving people of the U.S. to join their hands with us,” Joya says. “Unfortunately, we see that today imperialism and fundamentalism have joined hands.”

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Hungary arrests first refugees

Today, 09:49

In Hungary since midnight at least sixteen refugees have been arrested because they illegally crossed the border from Serbia. A spokesman for the Hungarian authorities told Reuters that they were nine Syrians and seven Afghans.

Tonight at 00:00 Hungary closed the border with Serbia to prevent refugees from traveling to Germany. …

According to the Hungarian police the arrested refugees tonight possible crawled under the fence. Refugees crossing the border from today on are risking a prison sentence of three years.

Migrants who cut a hole in the fence can go in accordance with the new laws to jail for five years. The border is guarded by special police units and possibly the Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán will send the army to the border region to support the police.

UPDATE 15 September 2015: 60 refugees arrested.

UPDATE 15 September 2015 again: 174 refugees arrested.

Hungarian police throws food at refugees, like at farm pigs

This 9 September 2015 video from Röszke prison camp for refugees in Hungary shows police throwing food at refugees.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Hungarian police throws food at refugees

Today, 09:53

The Hungarian authorities have been quite embarrassed by video clips from a refugee camp in Röszke on the border with Serbia. On these you can see how officers, some wearing face masks, in a chaotic situation throw buns into a crowd of refugees. “Like at cattle,” says Human Rights Watch.

The images were reportedly taken Wednesday by the wife of the Austrian politician Alexander Spritzendorfer. That happened on the day that the UN announced that the conditions for refugees in the region had deteriorated considerably.

Peter Bouckaert, director of Human Rights Watch, on Twitter fiercely criticized the Hungarian authorities. “Hungary has become a place of absolute humiliation for refugees. People are kept in cages and treated like animals.”

Another parallel to this is how Adolf Hitler’s nazi regime treated Soviet Union prisoners of war during World War II. According to nazi racial ‘science’, Soviet people were ‘subhumans’ to which the Geneva convention on prisoners of war did not apply. Nazi guards used to throw food over barbed wire fences to starving Soviet prisoners.

One difference with the present in Hungary may be that the World War II nazis threw rotting or similarly disease-causing food. As far as I know, the Hungarian government has not sunk completely to that level yet. However, the Hungarian Jobbik party are open admirers of Adolf Hitler. And the officially ‘center right’ Hungarian government does not mind cooperating with far right Jobbik sometimes.

Earlier this week Bouckaert had already tweeted critically: “People are being held there in the heat without food, water or medicine, we see everywhere children toppling because of tiredness. The detention camps are still far worse inside than what the outside world gets to see … That is why the Hungarian government does not admit the media there anywhere. It is unacceptable that this is happening on the threshold of Europe.”

Hungarian neo-nazi kicks refugee children

This video says about itself:

8 September 2015

A Hungarian video journalist working for N1TV was caught tripping over and tackling refugees as they tried to run away from police near the refugee camp in Roszke, Tuesday.

A video which used to be on YouTube used to say about itself:

8 September 2015

A camera operator for a Hungarian nationalist television channel closely linked to the country’s far-right Jobbik party has been filmed kicking two refugee children and tripping over a male adult at the border hotspot of Rőszke on Tuesday.

Petra László of N1TV was filming a group of refugees running away from police officers, when a man carrying a child in his arms ran in front of her. László stuck her leg out in front of the man, causing him to fall on the child he was carrying. He turned back and remonstrated at László, who continued filming.

A 20-second video of the scene was posted on Twitter by Stephan Richter, a reporter for the German television channel RTL and soon went viral, leading to the creation of a Facebook group “The Petra László Wall of Shame”.

Hungary’s leading news website Index had also caught László kicking a young girl and boy. …

As well as speeches made by the Jobbik leader Gábor Vona, the channel’s website also contains articles with such headlines as “migrants have swarmed all over the shops” and “Guantanamo = Hungary?”

Hundreds of angry comments appeared on the Facebook group set up to condemn László’s actions on Tuesday evening.

‘How can I forgive her?’ Syrian refugee hits back at the Hungarian camerawoman who tripped him as he carried his terrified son to safety in the West: here.

Vile: Petra Laszlo was caught on camera kicking a young refugee girl as she fled with other migrants from a police line during disturbances at Roszke