ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Hungary has defended their record caring for asylum-seekers within their borders after Rudaw’s report
of Kurdish refugees in camps in Hungary pleading for help.
“Using the phrase ‘detaining migrants’ is a bit offensive for me,” Dr. Csaba Vezekényi, Hungarian Consul General to the Kurdistan Region, told Rudaw English when describing his country’s policies for processing asylum claims.
Camps where asylum claimants are being held are “transit camps” for people who have entered the country illegally, he explained, and they are free to leave the camps and return to the country from where they had entered Hungary, such as Serbia.
Hungary has received asylum-seekers from 82 countries since September 2015, many without identity documents.
“I know that 99 percent of the immigrants are victims. And one percent, maybe even less, are terrorists,” said Vezekényi. “But we cannot afford to let them in without security checks.”
He said that what Hungary is doing is the same as what the Peshmerga and Asayesh do on their own borders.
In the transit camps, the asylum-seekers can submit claims for protection, which are processed within 30 days. If there are problems with the paperwork or difficulties confirming the asylum-seeker’s identity, the process may be extended for an additional 30 days, Vezekényi explained.
In the camps, they have provided sport facilities, medical treatment, food, sanitation, and are working to install wifi and TVs. There are no education facilities because the camps are meant to house people only for short periods of time.
Unaccompanied minors are not sent to the camps but are cared for within the Hungarian social system, the same system that cares for Hungarian orphans, he said.
Hungary has come under fire from human rights groups for their treatment of asylum-seekers.
A new law establishing the transit camps, in practice “means that every asylum-seeker, including children, will be detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor fence at the border for extended periods of time,” said Cecile Pouilly, spokesperson for the UN’s refugee agency, in March.
Of the asylum-seekers who enter Hungary, “less than 10 percent would like to stay,” Vezekényi said, noting that most want to make their ways to countries such as Germany and Sweden.
Europe has been struggling to deal with large numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers.
“We estimate that, even in the best scenario, 30-35 million people are thinking of leaving their homeland and going to Europe, from the Middle East and Africa,” the consul said, adding that this estimate is in line with UN figures. “We don’t need to import problems with huge numbers of refugees and migrants. We have to provide them help to live in peace and dignity in their homeland.”
Hungary has several programs in the Kurdistan Region to help Syrian refugees and Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“In our modest way, we try to support the Kurdistan Region on as many levels as we can,” said Vezekényi.
Hungary’s development programs focus on supporting small and medium-sized businesses, and education.
The Hungarian government opened a line of credit, with a starting value of $20 million, in order to provide low interest loans. A Hungarian NGO is opening offices in Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaimani to support small and medium-sized businesses in a program that should begin operations within weeks, he explained.
“The idea behind it is that, with the support of the host communities, the people of Kurdistan who are hosting 1.8mn IDPs and refugees, maybe they will be able to employ IDPs and refugees in their own businesses.”
The Hungarian government is also funding the construction of a secondary school for refugees and IDPs in Erbil. The €600,000 project is under construction and will open in September, in time for the next academic year.
They are also in discussion with Chaldean church leaders to assist in the reconstruction of the Christian town of Tel Skof, north of Mosul.
As a member of the global anti-ISIS coalition, Hungary has provided millions of rounds of ammunition and medical treatment for injured Peshmerga.
Hungary recently renewed its military commitment for another two years.
“We truly think that the coalition forces have to remain in the Kurdistan Region and we have to provide a different type of training, not just for the Peshmerga but even for the different police and other security service members. Why do we think that? Because even with the termination of Daesh [ISIS], the ideology will not disappear. Some of the political problems will remain. And maybe the opportunity will be used by some of the extremist groups,” explained Vezekényi.