People across the world were shocked to see the scenes from Budapest in 1956, when a massive number of Hungarians, fearing from Soviet suppression, were heading towards the West following the failed uprising. The thousands of Syrians and other asylum-seekers who walked from Budapest towards Austria in recent days thus followed a well-trodden route.
Referring to the failed Revolution of 1956 and its consequences, Western countries say that each Hungarian refugees was welcomed with open arms when they desperately needed it, and blame the current Hungarian government for building a barrier before those who are fleeing armed conflict, and thereby trying to stop them from receiving the same treatment as Hungarian refugees had back then.
Having received such a negative commentary from the West, and in such a serious humanitarian crisis anyway, it is important to look at things objectively. Unfortunately, today we are witnessing a situation in which the number of people fleeing is much greater than what we saw in 1956, but the two crises should only carefully – if ever – be compared to one another.
First of all, the 200,000 Hungarians who decided to leave their homes in 1956 tried everything in order to integrate into the host countries’ society: they respected the local laws, kept order, and fulfilled their obligations. However, we have been experiencing that those immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants – or however we should call them –who have already entered the Schengen Area through Hungary do exactly the opposite: they make damages, revolt against the police, organise demonstrations, fail to comply with their obligations, and even rape women.
Secondly, within a few days of the first refugees arriving to Austria in 1956, a massive effort was launched to resettle the Hungarians. Over the following months, they were transferred to 37 different nations on five continents, where they settled down and started a new life, accepting their fate. The United States and Canada each took in around 40,000, while the United Kingdom accepted 20,000, and Germany and Australia some 15,000 each. Two African and 12 Latin American countries also welcomed Hungarians. By comparison, immigrants entering safe countries such as Turkey, Greece, or Serbia today, demand the right to move on to whichever EU country they wish, where the living standards – as well as unemployment benefits – are much higher.
Difficult though it may be, but we must be able to see the clear-cut difference between those who fled the Soviet dictatorship and those who only strive for a better standard of living by making use of the current immigration crisis.
Naturally, we must be grateful for those countries that welcomed thousands of Hungarians and showed great compassion in the face of that sudden influx – the same attitude that Hungary ought to show towards real refugees fleeing conflict – but we should also be aware that the current crisis is different in many respects to that of 1956.
written by Gábor Hajnal