Of Refugees, Migration, and Human Nature

Ezen írás magyar fordítása elérhető itt. / The Hungarian translation of this article is accessible here.

At first, this is my opinion, and could be just as wrong, as yours. I wrote this because I already saw a few flawed explanations, spreading blazing fast, which only contribute to the problem. I wrote this article as an answer to those speculations.

Recently a big wave of migrants reached the Hungarian-Serbian border, which caused conflicts and a tremendous media attention. I have followed the events on various news portals (444.hu, mandiner, vs.hu, BBC, …) and opinions below those articles and facebook posts. There are a few things most people forget.

According to the Tárki’s 2008 survey, the majority of the Hungarian society was already xenophobic. Add a handful of shocking pictures and biased reports from the Hungarian News Agency MTI, a government-funded billboard hate campaign, a tens of thousands of migrants, and the unorganized, ineffective, underfunded authorities to trifle with them. This is a perfect cocktail to enlarge a problem, and thus create an enemy for political purposes. If this wouldn’t have been the goal, the situation could have been handled in a much better way.

The migrants are a diverse group of people with different origins, education and goals. But they are being spoken about as if they were one homogeneous group. Depending on who wrote about them, they might get additional labels, like “illegals migrants”, “war refugees”, “adventure hunters”, “economic immigrants”, “Arabs”, and even “terrorists”. All of which are completely oversimplifying and only made to appeal to emotions. And this is how you start ethnic conflicts.

(c) CC BY-SA 3.0 Piotrus of Wikipedia

Sociological model of ethnic and racial conflict.

People are afraid of Muslims, despite most of them probably never talked to one. They envision the future overruling of European values, and in this hate, they destroy those values by themselves. The Christians are making a bad joke from their core belief of humanity and hospitality. Politicians exploit and deceive. The situation has been made purposefully a time bomb.

The migrants themselves can become xenophobic too, which is quite unfortunate to do in the middle of a foreign land. They are kept un- or misinformed, they trust no one. If they are dehumanized by authorities (the police dehumanizes even the Hungarian natives), if they are desperate and hopeless, they won’t cooperate for sure. They have nothing but their lives, which means, they have nothing to lose. Civil disobedience is the only tool they have to fight for their goal. Group dynamics overtake individual thoughts, and in the given circumstances, even polite, mannered, civilized people can do terrible things. Ever heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment?

This is the reason why you see those shocking videos about some of the migrants damaging property, behaving violently, dishonoring help, and disrespecting their current host countries and their citizens. Does it mean that they are bad people? That they are all the same? That they don’t deserve respect and help? No way!

To better understand this, imagine yourself in their situation. What would you do, if you have lost most of what you had, you loved, you believed in? How desperate you would be? What would you do if someone would stand in your way? How long could you act on your values before instincts would kick in?

I’m actually quite happy that most of those people are coming to us to Germany. If there is a place in Europe, where order and efficiency is at its finest, that could very well be in Germany. The most chance to be welcomed in a humane way, to have the possibility to fit into the society later, and to live a full, meaningful life.


In my view, the cynical, xenophobic billboard campaign messaging to the aliens in Hungarian could had been made into an actually good idea. They should had been written with directions to the nearest boarder crossing station or registration station, some recommendations, rules, rights, and obligations in English and in Arabic. Put them in the villages on the two sides of the Serbian-Hungarian border. Make a 0-24 hotline with translators, to be used by the police if they have to communicate with the refugees. Make the registration process clear and straightforward. Provide enough resources and a humane environment in the refugee camps. Discuss about the Dublin III ordinance in the European Parliament. Be involved in creating a Europe-wide migration strategy. It’s still not too late to begin with these actions.

So what is the ultimate solution? I have none. This issue is way too complex to be solved by someone. Don’t trust anyone who gives you an easy and simple solution: there is not enough information. And if we fail to understand the real problem at its roots, we cannot solve it either.

I feel sorry for the refugees and feel sorry for all the people who are being hurt by their coming. I feel powerless and I wish I could do something more than to write this blog post.

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