According to the UNHCR, 2,867 refugees resided in Hungary in December 2014. In 2014 there were 41,215 first-time asylum applicants coming from outside the EU, according to Eurostat. The numbers were on the rise since 2013 when 18,565 persons applied. In the first half of 2015, Hungary received over 65,000 first-time asylum applications, the second highest (after Germany) number in Europe.
In 2014 the three top citizenships of asylum applicants were Kosovo (21,455), Afghanistan (8,795) and Syria (6,855).
In 2015 the number of irregular entries increased with refugees coming via the Balkan route from Serbia towards Hungary. However, for many of them Hungary is not the final destination, many continue the journey towards Germany or other European destinations.
The Government’s approach
The government responded to refugee inflows with a wire fence constructed along the 175-kilometre border with Serbia in order to deter new entries. The government also announced fence-building on sections of the border with Croatia and considered fence construction on the border with Romania. In an incident after closing the border with Serbia, Hungarian police used tear gas against immigrants on the Serbian side of the border.
Earlier in 2015, the Fidesz government ran an anti-immigrant campaign, a ‘National Consultation on Immigration’. The campaign consisted of questionnaires and anti-immigrant posters.
In July 2015, the Hungarian parliament passed amendments to the Asylum Act. The UNHCR raised concerns about the amendment, which may lead to denying assistance to asylum-seekers, their deportation and prolonged detention.
The Hungarian government stood in opposition to the quota system voting against it along with other three Member States.
Refugees in host communities
While Fidesz ran an anti-immigrant campaign, many Hungarians protested against it renaming the consultation ‘National Insult’ and covering campaign’s posters with graffiti (for which activists were arrested). Crowd-fundraising allowed financing a counter-campaign. The governmental campaign was criticised by advocacy organisations and researchers.
Anti-immigrant protests took place in the country as well as demonstration against border fence raising.
Civil society organisations and volunteers were active in supporting refugees arriving in the country. Hungarians collected food, medicines and clothes. At train stations and around towns food and other basic goods were distributed to refugees and medical care was provided.
Hungarian intellectuals, artists and politicians signed solidarity appeal from Central Europe in response to the migrant crisis.
Anti-immigrant views are on the rise. International press reported a case of Hungarian TV journalist who was dismissed as a consequence of tripping up refugees.
Editor of Népszabadság, Hungarian newspaper, signed an open call by European newspaper editors in order to urge the EU to act in the light of the migrant crisis.
In spring 2015, 13 per cent of Hungarians saw immigration as one of the main concerns facing their country, which constituted a 10 per cent increase since autumn 2014.