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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 March 2019

Not all are unwelcome: Hungary’s secret ancestry-based immigration

Scheme for Venezuelans triggers accusations of bias based on race

A government poster is seen in Budapest, Hungary, February 21, 2019. The poster reads, 'You also have the right to know what Brussels is up to', accusing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker of pushing migration plans encouraged by U.S.-Hungarian businessman George Soros, in a media campaign rebuked by the commission. Reuters
A government poster is seen in Budapest, Hungary, February 21, 2019. The poster reads, 'You also have the right to know what Brussels is up to', accusing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker of pushing migration plans encouraged by U.S.-Hungarian businessman George Soros, in a media campaign rebuked by the commission. Reuters

Hungary has become a by-word for anti-immigration rhetoric in recent years, led by PM Viktor Orban’s opposition against Syrian and Middle Eastern migrants inside the European Union (EU).

It may be surprising to learn that Hungary is secretly accepting migrants from as far as crisis-hit Venezuela.

At first glance, the scheme covers everything humanitarian charities could want. Except, the scheme is subject to Venezuelans being able to prove their Hungarian lineage – however distant that may be. Only those that can prove their Hungarian ancestry stand a chance of leaving South America for a new life in Hungary.

Hungary’s anti-immigration government has so-far funded the arrival of 350 Venezuelans with another 750 on a waiting list in Caracas. More could follow.

And according to independent news website Index, Venezuelans on the scheme have been told not to discuss anything related to the programme upon their arrival to Europe.

Hungary’s government says immigrants coming from South America are genuine Hungarians returning home, despite the likelihood that the majority won’t have been born in Hungary nor speak the language.

Historically, Hungarians put down roots in Venezuela after World War Two and the 1956 revolution. A community of several thousand descended from Hungary can be found in Venezuela’s capital Caracas.

Now, Hungary’s government appears to have responded to the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, providing housing and language support for new migrants on ancestry-based discrimination.

A doctor newly arrived to Hungary told Index that he won’t have to pay rent for the first year but must now find a job.

"We managed to get a house in the outer parts of town, where the seven of us, my family, live”, the unnamed Venezuelan doctor said.

The organisation is reportedly done by the Hungarian charity branch of the Order of Malta.

Hungary’s migrant scheme seems to be at odds with a campaign launched by Orban across billboards and newspapers claiming the European Union (EU) wants to introduce mandatory resettlement quotas and make immigration easier.

In late February, the EU responded to the Hungarian government campaign dispelling myths on seven claims.

“The European Union is not and has never been about “Brussels” but a project driven and designed by its Member States, each of which has decided unilaterally and democratically that this is the path they wish to adopt, including Hungary. Each and every one of those Member States, including Hungary, takes both the responsibility and the credit for the decisions taken collectively,” a statement by the European Commission said.

Updated: March 4, 2019 07:01 PM

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