Why can the Hungarian-bashing media elite not see the distinction between Ukrainian refugees and economic migrants?

Ukrainian refugees at Budapest's Eastern railway station. (MTI/Zoltán Balogh)
By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

A striking article from Marcel Leubecher in Germany’s Die Welt magazine corrected the vast majority of Germany’s mainstream media the other day, who appear to be astonished by the level of assistance Hungary and Poland are offering Ukrainian refugees.

In it, Leubecher states that the German press does not seem to recognize the difference between protecting refugees from a neighboring country and immigrating from other continents through the asylum system.

Indeed, this distinct lack of recognition is prevalent in the plethora of articles in liberal-leaning publications which note with confusion why Hungary, a nation that has remained vehemently opposed to the EU’s resettlement quota and tirelessly campaigns for greater external borders, is now choosing to offer such assistance to refugees from Ukraine.

After all, in the minds of the liberal commentariat, the conservative-led administrations in Hungary and Poland are downright racist, right? And thus, do not want to receive migrants from distant parts of the world in the same way.

The explanation as to why Hungary is offering the level of support it is currently is staring the liberal elite in the face, but let’s spell it out for them; Hungary is one of the first safe countries for those fleeing Ukraine during the war.

In the same way that neighboring Lebanon catered for millions of Syrian refugees, Hungary has a duty to help Ukraine, and it shall do so, irrespective of whether those arriving at the Hungarian border are Ukrainian, or are indeed African or Indian students who had been resident at one of the Ukrainian universities: Hungary will help everyone.

The situation in Ukraine differs entirely from the wave of migrants that has besieged Hungary’s southern border for years now, and here’s why. In the case of conflict in the Middle East, those genuinely seeking refuge have passed through countless safe countries by the time they reach the Hungarian border, bypassing a number of countries which have a far greater obligation to offer refuge, and it should be noted, are far more culturally aligned with the values of the prospective asylum seekers.

It is also important to mention that many of those arriving at Hungary’s frontier during the migration crisis of previous years have not been fleeing war or armed conflict, but have been economic migrants in search of a better life and better prospects. They typically head for Western or Northern Europe, as they know the welfare network there is aid-based.

On a human level, one can understand this, especially considering how many people set off after being deceived with false promises by unscrupulous human traffickers.

But understanding aside, they are certainly not entitled to asylum, and it is in the fundamental security interest of every country not to become a gateway. Countless examples in recent years have demonstrated the dangers of not recognizing this.

All of this is interesting because it is an instructive example of how the Western liberal elite still relates to Hungary and Poland. Let’s not have any illusions! Like the pandemic, the oppression of conservative-led member states will not be forgotten during the war.

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