Syrian refugees at the Turkish border (Photo: Halil Fidan / Anadolu Agency)
Syrian refugees at the Turkish border (Photo: Halil Fidan / Anadolu Agency)

What is migration?

The word migration comes from the Latin migratio, which means expatriation, moving from one place to the other. Migration has been a crucial part of life since life first appeared. We talk about human migration if somebody permanently changes the geographic location of his/her life. If you had at any point of your life moved from one town to the other, you were a migrant too. If you moved inside your country, you were part of the domestic migration, if you moved abroad, you’ll show up in the statistics of international migration. Some people move by their own decision, but there are those too, who are forced to leave their homes. They are the refugees. The necessity to leave home may come from different reasons, such as war, natural disaster or persecution. The greatest waves of refugees are made by wars.

Feszty: Arrival of the Hungarians (part)
Feszty: Arrival of the Hungarians (part)

Since when was Hungary involved in migration?

The state of Hungary has been famous for being inclusive. In fact, the founding of the Christian state was due to the fact that the family of the grand prince hosted and invited to settle plenty of missionaries, tradesmen, knights and clerks. The idea and practice of settling came just about the same time as the founding of the state, as our king Saint Stephen, in his remonstrances to Emeric, his son writes that the presence of foreigners is a great profit for the country.

Because of its geostrategic status the Carpathian Basin has always been a destination or a transit region of international migration. Our ancestors were brought here by migration, and for centuries the kings of Hungary used migration deliberately as a strategic tool. Not only they made it possible for some ethnic groups to settle, but on several occasions they expressly invited foreigners to the country.

The most well-known story is that of the settlement of Cumans. The Cumans, running from the Tartars, who were pushing for the West, reached our Eastern borders in 1239, lead by their Khan Köten. At the end approximately 50-70 thousand people were settled between the rivers Danube and Tisza (which, in proportion to nowadays population would be like settling a 150-200 thousand community). The rules and regulations for the coexistence of the host and the hosted nations were set in the deed of Bánmonostor in 1240. The Cumans pledged to accept the settled, Christian way of life. In return for the war services they offered, they received partial excuse from taxes, and they were also granted territorial autonomy, which made it possible for them to follow their own laws in their everyday lives. Nevertheless, the integration was not at all smooth, even so, some bloody conflicts also occurred between the Hungarians and the Cumans.

The later king Stephen V., the son of the king who supported the settling, Béla IV. married the daughter of the khan Seyhan. Elizabeth the Cuman, thus the penultimate king of the House of Árpád, Ladislaus IV. was half Cuman. Despite all hardships the integration of the Cumans finally was a success, and we still keep their footprints: more than 8000 family wears the last name Kun (Cuman), and it shows up also in the names of two counties and 17 settlements.

Jazygians arrived to Hungary at the same time as Cumans, who were pagans. They spoke an Indo-Iranian language, and according to the first written memories they lived where today’s North-West-Pakistan lies. They kept their language and identities for centuries after settling in. The memory of the Jazygians is kept in the names of a county and 18 settlements.

From the second half of the 14th century the next great human wave reached us by the attacks of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman armies, after gradually occupying the Balkans, headed for Vienna, pushing in front of them hundreds of thousands who lost their homes. The Turks forced lots of people to run, like Serbians, Macedonians, Bulgarians. They took possession of the south territories of the Hungarian crown, but it was the same place where the Wendish and Slovenian settlers arrived. The masses who spoke different languages, had different cultures and religions settled in Hungary and formed the ethnicity of some parts of the country.

The ethnic groups who were settled in the territory of Hungary are countless. Since the founding of the Hungarian state besides Cumans and Jazygians Pechenegs, Oghuz Turks, Saxons, Romanians, Czechs, Moravians, Ruthenians, Polish, Greek, Jewish, Armenian, Swabish, Slovakians, Bulgarians have built this country together with the Hungarians.

We also took in refugees after the second world war. In the fifties 8000 Greeks have fled the civil war in Greece to Hungary, where they were given their own village (Görögfalva, meaning Greek village, which later was called Beloiannisz). We even took in refugees from the Americas: in 1973 about 1200 Chilean arrived fleeing from the putsch of Pinochet.

The Yugoslav wars also generated a significant wave of refugees in Hungary. Between 1988 and 1994 237 586 people arrived in Hungary as a refugee or immigrant. Besides the three reception stations (Bicske, Békéscsaba and Hajdúszoboszló) temporary camps were made too (twenty of them mainly at the South border) to lodge about 20 000 people, but there were at least 40 000 asylum seekers who did not use the state financed lodgings.

Refugees on their way to Austria on foot at Hegyeshalom (Photo: AP/Ronald Zak)
Refugees on their way to Austria on foot at Hegyeshalom (Photo: AP/Ronald Zak)

What does migration have to do with terrorism?

As we have seen above, the history of migration is long, but the concept of terrorism has been in use only from the 18th century. First of all we have to lay down the fact that terrorism is an invention of Europe. The beginning of the years of 1800 is regarded as the starting point of modern terrorism, when anarchists and nihilists commit offences, mainly against the elite of the power in Russia, France, Italy, Spain. The first known terrorist organizations appeared at the end of the sixties, like the German Red Army Faction (RAF), the Italian Red Brigades, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), or ETA, who are fighting for Basque independence.

In the Northern Irish conflict between 1969 and 1998 about 1800 Englishmen and Irish lost their lives (source: Project CAIN, University of Ulster), and the victim count of the terrorist attack of ETA is about 800. The terrorist acts with Islamist background between 2001 and 2017 in Europe claimed the lives of less than 600 people. This doesn’t mean that the Islamist terrorism isn’t dangerous. In 2014 there were more victims of terrorism worldwide then ever before, altogether 32 685 people. 75% of the victims was from the following 5 countries: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria (source: Institutes for Economy & Peace: Global Terrorism Index 2015). So it is obvious that the Islamist terror mainly plagues mostly the Muslim countries, and this is one of the triggers of the refugee wave coming from these countries. The cause and effect relation thus is exactly the opposite of what the Hungarian political elite communicates: migration does not add to the danger of terrorism, but terrorism makes the probability of migration higher.

NCTC (National Counterterrorism Center) has put together a timeline of events linked to terrorism, which you can find here.

One of the favourite slogans of the political elite in Hungary is that they “have to defend the borders of Hungary and Europe” from the irregular migration, because that makes terrorism more likely. This propaganda serves only political reasons and just makes the citizens more confused and frightened, and is not taken seriously even by the Hungarian government. You can see this from the fact that between 15 September and 15 October in 2015 the Hungarian government made 180 thousand refugees travel across the country without any kind of checking. In this one month they let through the country 180 thousand people without knowing who they were and why they came to Europe.

Let us give you another example of the opinion of the Ministry of Interior about their dangers: a train, which took at an average 500 people was accompanied by 3-4 policemen. On the cca 3 km long footpath between the train station of Hegyeshalom to the border area they were accompanied by typically 1 police car and 2-3 policemen on foot (they had to attend 1000 people, when there were two trains arriving at the same time).

A mass this size made up by Hungarian citizens (for example a demonstration or sports events) is attended by significantly more policemen. This makes us conclude that – whatever the political elite’s propaganda machinery may say in their official communications -, the authorities responsible for the safety of the citizens based on their own experiences judge a refugee passing through the country less dangerous than a football fan for example.

There’s an other fact that proves that the refugees themselves do not threaten the safety: it has been more than a year since the closure of the West Balkans route in 2016. As the states on the route chose to close it down suddenly, there were tens of thousands of people stuck in one or other of these countries. In March 2017 there were more then 70 thousand refugees in Greece and more then 10 thousand of them in Serbia, some of them have been stuck there for more than a year.

In Serbia, since the start of the refugee crisis in 2015, more than 90% of the refugees have crossed the country, a scale much higher than in Hungary. But Serbia hasn’t bouilt a fence and doesn’t start a propaganda campaign against them. The authorities responsible for the safety of the country are doing their job. Did we hear about terror threats or the rise of criminality linked to refugees? We didn’t…

What does Migration Aid think about the idea of EU forcing Hungary to accept refugees according to the EU decisions? (This was the issue of the so called quota referendum.)

We don’t support this idea. We support the idea of Hungary participating in the solution of the refugee crisis in the terms of European solidarity, according to its possibilities. Hungary should not wait for an outside determination to force us into solidarity, instead we could show Europe, based on our own history, how is it possible to help efficiently other people in trouble.

Signs on the wall of an abandoned building at the Hungarian border, which served as a night shelter for refugees
Signs on the wall of an abandoned building at the Hungarian border, which served as a night shelter for refugees

Does György Soros finance Migration Aid?

From the organizations involved with Migration Aid the first to be able to accept financial support was Migration Aid International (from September 2015 via PayPal, and on bank account from November 2015).

Up until the time of writing this article (June 2017), there is no person called György Soros or any organization which to our knowledge could be linked to the American businessman György Soros between our supporters. 75% of our supporters are made up by hundreds of Hungarian citizens, 24% are foreigners, and the remaining 1% is made up by Hungarian or foreign organizations (for example church registered in Hungary).

The organizations of Migration Aid have accounts only at Hungarian banks, thus it is possible for the authorities handling internal safety issues, like Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal, to get legal access to them. So if there’s a political organization questioning the independence of Migration Aid, they can reach out to the competent authorities, they can confirm our status.

Notwithstanding, we want to lay down that we welcome support from any person or organization who sympathizes with our goals and this support would not lessen our freedom of choice or independence. In any case, the supporter may be called György Soros, Viktor Orbán or László Toroczkai, we welcome everybody.