Arresting Illegal Migrants in Hungary: Diplomatic or Moral Issue?

Thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes in the Middle East, as well as parts of Asia and Africa, including Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Eritrea in an attempt to build a new home in Europe. Many are leaving their home countries due to war and poverty. The civil war in Syria began in 2011. The armed conflict is ultimately between the Assad government and rebellion groups. The death toll has risen above two hundred thousand and is growing every day. In addition, families are fleeing their home countries due to human rights abuses. According to the Human Rights Watch website, thousands have left Eritrea due to forced military conscription, torture and arbitrary arrests. There are also severe restrictions that have been placed on religious freedoms. The hundreds of thousands of individuals that have left their unstable home environments have sought refuge in Europe. However, in some European countries, the reception to these migrants is anything but welcoming.

A few European countries are trying to prevent the settlement of refugees in their country, most notably, Hungary. While Germany has pledged to accept the most refugees in the European Union, Hungary holds a negative attitude, even resentment, towards allowing any refugees to settle at all. For refuges to reach Germany they must travel north through the center of Europe by bus and train. Hungary is overwhelmed with the amount of refuges entering and as a result the country has vowed to arrest ‘migrants’ who cross the border illegally. While Hungary calls them migrants, the correct term is refugees. They are not choosing to move to another country, rather, they are forced to leave their homes due to unavoidable conditions such as war and conflict.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban justified his decision to arrest illegal border crossers by arguing that refugees were the cause of chaos in Hungary for the past few weeks. He claimed that refugees rebelled against police forces and had to be contained. Refugees caught crossing the Hungarian border without the required paper work are being transported to detention camps. All individuals deemed illegal, including the elderly, children and women, are being transported to remote areas enclosed by wire prison fences. After being subjected to treacherous and long boat rides, these refugees are treated as animals, locked away in cages. The conditions of these camps are degrading and appalling. Police officials throw bags of food to desperate families rather than handing it directly to them. The Hungarian government in addition to the police and military officials are humiliating the desperation of these refugees. Also, there is limited heating and a lack of medical care being provided.

There are always two sides to every situation, including the European refugee crisis. While refugees are desperate to settle in a new home and leave their war-torn pasts behind, the European countries accepting them must provide the necessary resources in order to safely accommodate them. If governments cannot provide economic support or health and educational resources which would give refugees a better life than their home countries, it is unwise to allow them to settle. While countries such as Germany and France have pledged to accept the most refugees, Europe, as a whole, should find a solution to the crisis.

Perhaps each European country should be issued a quota as to how many refugees it must accept in relation to its economic and geographic size. In addition, not only Europe, but the world should pledge to resettle all refugees. Countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia, which have a flourishing economy, should provide transportation so refugees can settle in a safer environment.

While the European refugee crisis is far from over, more action should be taken to resettle those who have lost their homes due to war. Hungary’s approach to the crisis is incorrect. Arresting refugees because they do not have the necessary paper work may be viewed as a safety issue, in terms of domestic politics, however, it is inhumane. These refugees are looking to settle in a safer country and should not be treated as criminals to be locked away in cages. They are simply trying to build better futures for themselves and their families. All parts of the world, not just Europe, should take action to resettle refuges in their own countries. Canada and the United States have stronger economies than some of those in Europe, and, therefore, are in a better position to support these refugees.