Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a highly nationalistic head of state, has caused xenophobia to run rampant in Hungary. Championing a strong transcendental Hungarian nation embracing all Hungarian peoples, Orban has promoted a sense of nationalism that excludes all non-Hungarians. His rhetoric specifically targets immigrants, mostly refugees, who are fleeing North Africa and the Middle East and migrate into Hungary on their way to other European nations.
According to the Hungarian government in the first six months of 2015, around 60,000 migrants entered the country, compared 43,000 migrants in 2014. On Monday, after this influx of immigrants, crossing into Hungary from Serbia, the Hungarian government has passed legislation aiming to tighten asylum rules and planning to erect a border fence. This is not the first act the government has taken to curb immigration into the country and promote anti-immigrant sentiment.
On Hungarian highways, there are billboards that read, “If you come to Hungary, you must respect our laws,” and “If you come to Hungary, do not take Hungarians’ jobs.” These government-funded announcements, written only in Hungarian, are meant for the locals, not for immigrants. This campaign is an effort by the Hungarian government to promote nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Orban, in a speech to ethnic Hungarians in Romania last year, said, “The Hungarian nation is not simply a group of individuals but a community that must be organized, reinforced and in fact constructed.” He then added that Hungary is, “breaking with the dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West and keeping ourselves independent from them… to construct a new state built on illiberal and national foundations within the European Union.”
In this speech, he advocates for an ethnocentric state, excluding non-Hungarians. Evidencing the correlation between chauvinism and anti-immigrant political action. This idea of a Hungarian nationalist state is meant to exclude all other cultures and peoples. This is further evidenced when following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, in January, Orban said on Hungarian TV, “We don’t want to see significantly sized minorities with different cultural characteristics and backgrounds among us. We want to keep Hungary as Hungary.”
This nationalist fervor extends to anti-Western sentiment. Orban advocates for becoming “independent” from the West, which he views has oppressed Hungary. For example, in 2010 a new holiday was established memorializing the post-World War I Treaty of Trianon, by which the allies stripped Hungary of two-thirds of its territory. This holiday commemorates an event that Orban believes to be a betrayal of Hungary by the West.
This holiday further self-promotes Hungarian national identity and strengthens nativist sentiment. This stress on the concept of a “Hungarian Hungary” is not only meant to exclude immigrant cultures, but also exclude outside influences.
The problem this chauvinist political approach causes today is that many of those who are immigrating to Hungary are refugees seeking safety from the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The UN and human rights groups, among other nations, have criticized Hungary’s immigration policies and proposals. The regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned that the legislation would have devastating implications for thousands.
Orban’s antiquated approach to nationalism and immigration policy echoes age-old rhetoric and ideology. In a time with increased refugee migration, due to turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, policies like these are no way to address a humanitarian crisis.