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September 3 2015 | BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

Refugees Can Be Stopped Only By Peace: Sant’Egidio asks Hungarian Parliament not to pass law package on Immigration

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With deep concern and sympathy, the Community of Sant’Egidio is monitoring the fate of those refugees who are seeking asylum in Hungary or, having travelled through Hungary, in other European countries from the warfare and violence occurring in their home countries. The only Hungarians who can remember such tribulations are those who lived through the Second World War and the ensuing deportations, and those who had to flee Hungary in 1956.

Some measures worsen the situation of people who have already suffered a great deal, without contributing to solving the problem or preserving public order, and in some cases these measures may even have the opposite effect. We find the barbed wire-fence being built on the Hungarian-Serbian border to be one of these measures.

Our opinion is similar with regard to several parts of the package of laws now before Parliament. Declaring “unauthorised crossing of the border barrier” and damaging such to be felony offences is particularly worrying. It may lead to criminal prosecution of people who are crossing the border not with the intention to break the law, but rather hoping to escape in desperation. Criminal proceedings and possible sentences may tear apart families which even war itself was unable to break apart. Furthermore, deportation will not be possible: it is forbidden under international law and the Constitution of Hungary to deport people to war zones.

The planned provision according to which the police may enter into private dwellings without a court order if they suspect the presence there of persons who are not staying legally in Hungary is similarly worrying. This may affect fellow Hungarians who temporarily shelter for example families with small children on humanitarian grounds.

The threat of criminal prosecution will probably have little effect on persons who have fled certain death in fear for their own lives and those of their loved ones, crossed many borders and survived many life-threatening situations. Experience contradicts the assumption that more refugees will arrive if their reception is better and fewer will arrive if it is worse. For refugees, it is not the pulling factors, but rather the pushing factors which are relevant. Criminal sanctions and other draconian measures are not suitable for managing the refugee crisis. The stream of refugees will only be stopped when there is peace in the war-torn countries.

Further tightening of the legal channels only serves to feed human trafficking and thus real crime. This will lead to more tragedies.

Guarding the borders and the presence of foreigners must be regulated using legal measures which are in harmony with Hungary’s international legal obligations and the Constitution. The latter stipulates the inviolability of every person’s human rights (cf. Preamble, Article II) and the obligation to provide asylum (Article XIV (3)).

The aspects of humanity and public order are not mutually opposed; they reinforce each other. In addition to the authorities which recognise this and act accordingly, acknowledgment is due to the aid organisations and numerous volunteers, who are helping by providing food, clothing, medical care and information, without compensation and often over and above their abilities.

We call upon Parliament not to adopt the package of migration laws in this form. We call for the adoption of measures which serve to ameliorate the situation of refugees, improve European and international cooperation, create peace and resolve the humanitarian crisis.

We recommend

... that the refugees arriving in and crossing through Hungary receive better information on asylum, accommodation and other services, and that the conditions for their possible onward journey be improved, with particular regard to families with small children and considering that their situation will become even more critical as the weather turns inclement;
... that so-called humanitarian corridors be provided for legal entry, along with transit routes, both in cooperation with Hungary’s neighbouring countries and European partners;
... that the language used by the government and the authorities be reviewed: the alienating expression “migrant” should be replaced with the expression “refugee” or“asylum-seeker”; that the public be provided with more accurate and more objective information on the domestic and international situation in relation to refugees, on the actual reasons for this phenomenon, and on the opportunities for international cooperation;
... that Hungarian diplomacy make stronger efforts in the interests of peace in the war-torn countries, through bi-lateral relationships and as a constituent of and contributor to Europe’s common foreign and security policy. Refugees can be stopped only by peace!

Compassion and social solidarity with those in need is one of the greatest public goods. It is the highest guarantee for our peace and security. It is not without consequence whether it weakens or strengthens in the current situation. In a place the most vulnerable people also feel cared for, it will be good for everyone to live there. Accordingly, a compassionate approach to refugees is not only in the best interests of the refugees, it is at least as much in our own best interests.

Budapest, 2 September 2015, Community of Sant’Egidio ([email protected])



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