Hungarian ambassador to Israel: refugee clashes misrepresented by media

As the Middle Eastern migrant crisis continues in Europe, Hungary has received particularly harsh criticism for its harsh treatment of the refugees, including the use of force. This week, the criticism worsened as the country closed its open border with Serbia.

Refugees demonstrate at the platform of the Budapest Keleti railway station in Hungary on Sept. 4, 2015. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Israeli news outlet Yedioth Ahronoth interviewed Hungarian Ambassador to Israel Andor Nagy, who defended Hungary's actions and explained them. He said that news images showing Hungary's treatment of the refugees are not necessarily shown with the right context, similar to how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is often portrayed out of context by global media.

Nagy said in the interview—conducted in Hungarian and translated into English by from the Hebrew subtitles appearing in Yedioth—that Hungary is committed to barring a majority of the refugees from entering and will build a fence wherever necessary.

"We didn't want to be the bad guy, but this is what life has brought. We are handling it correctly when we are defending the borders of our country and our people. A country that cannot defend its borders is not a serious country," he said.

"Anyone who has been to Hungary knows that Hungarians are good people. We help the refugees that need it. I am not sure that the condemnation [levied on Hungary by other nations] is appropriate, but there are times like this in life. Here in Israel I do not need to explain this," he continued.

"It's important to differentiate between two things: One, that there are refugees and they need to be accepted, there is no question. But most of the migrants are not refugees," he said. Instead, said Nagy, they are seeking work and trying to get to Germany.

Hungary's reputation when it comes to the current migrant crisis has not been helped by media images showing Hungarian police officers clashing violently with migrants. In addition, an incident in which a Hungarian camerawoman was filmed kicking migrants and their children went viral on the Internet earlier this month. The woman later apologized.

Before the current escalation in the migrant crisis, Hungary also made headlines for the growing popularity of its far-right Jobbik party, which has in the past called for Jews to be registered on lists as threats to national security. The country's ruling Fidesz party is also a right-wing nationalist party. A report by the Council of Europe, released in June, expressed concern over the "hatred and vitriol that Jews, homosexuals, Roma, migrants and other groups encounter" in Hungary.

Nevertheless, Nagy criticized how the media has portrayed the current migrant crisis in Hungary. The country is facing many condemnations, he said, including "comparisons to Nazism. That is unacceptable. Anyone who sees the actual situation cannot make this comparison, least of all to the Holocaust... (But) regular people have a hard time digesting when they open the television and they see negative images." 

"Recently there were clashes between police officers on the border with Serbia with refugees who arrived there. But what actually happened? Two days ago we completely closed off the unofficial border. Not the official border, but the area through which it was possible to cross, and through which the smugglers would smuggle the people. Right now you can only cross in official areas intended for this. You can describe this like a transfer area in airports. People come there, and they are required to wait and apply for refugee status. After things are clarified, they may be able to enter Hungary," Nagy said.

"What you see in the media has nothing to do with reality. It's only part of the reality. What we saw yesterday with the police officers, that was a response. The officers were threatened that if within an hour they will not allow the crowd to pass, then (the migrants) will attack the passage. The police officers waited, and (then) they were pelted with rocks and concrete parts. They were attacked with sticks, and (the migrants) held (their) children in front. Someone filmed this, as well as the children at the front," he added.

Nagy was also asked by the Yedioth interviewer whether or not Hungarians are feeling for the first time what Israelis have been feeling for many years.

"I do feel that way, because I live here. Anyone who comes here a lot, will likely also feel that," he responded.

Posted on September 17, 2015 .