By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 9, 2015
BUDAPEST, Hungary — A makeshift camp of thousands from the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been dismantled at Budapest’s Keleti train station, and its inhabitants have left for Germany. But the loathing of them lingers in Hungary, which hopes to build a border fence strong enough to keep out future waves of asylum seekers.
“We need the fence,” said Istvan Szabo, a 43-year-old lathe operator having a beer at a bar next to the station, where hundreds seeking refuge in the European Union still line up daily to buy tickets to Western Europe.
The tent city sprang up last month when the government blocked the asylum seekers from traveling by train to Austria and Germany. Authorities finally gave in last weekend and sent buses to take them to the border with Austria.
Szabo, like many in this socially conservative land of 10 million, says he doesn’t understand why they’ve come.
“If they couldn’t solve their problems back where they live, why do they think they’re going to be able to solve them here?” Szabo said.
Such lack of sympathy is a striking feature of the massive march this summer from Turkey through southeastern Europe. Many of the trekkers interviewed by The Associated Press say their worst experiences have come in Hungary, where farmers hiss at them in disapproval and the government leaves their care mostly up to unpaid volunteers.
A recent opinion poll sponsored by the Budapest think tank Republikon found that just 19 percent believe Hungary has a duty to take in refugees, while 66 percent deem them a threat and should not be let in. The Ipsos survey of 2,000 people, published Aug. 27 as the Keleti camp was growing, had a margin of error below 3 percentage points.
The findings reflect a country where ethnic minorities barely exist outside Budapest and right-wing beliefs dominate in small towns that strongly support the ultranationalist Jobbik party.
“Many Hungarians are racist. They lack self-confidence and see their identity under threat. And our government exploits these feelings to boost its own popularity,” said Zsuzsanna Zhohar, 36, who has helped lead volunteer efforts to give food, water, medical aid and other help to those passing through Hungary.
“It can be hard to convince Hungarians that these people don’t want to take our jobs, our homes, our women, our dogs,” she said, laughing at the absurdity of the idea.
Yet Hungary …Read More