The immigration into Europe had its peak in the middle of last year. Although it was not without antecedents, it affected the people of Europe and the EU institutions unexpectedly. On the surface, migration is an issue of public measures to be taken against aliens. For Christians, it is first of all a humanitarian issue, or rather a question of good conscience.
From a historical perspective, migration means demographics movements that can be considered quite typical. It is still a challenge for the modern Europe because, not to mention the emigration into North America, migration cannot be seen as normal, following the industrial revolution that has entailed urbanisation, and offered people to settle down as the subjects of the nation states.
Immigrants raised particular turmoil in Hungary. The country had a good reason to experience turbulence first for physical reasons because thousands of immigrants entered the country in the middle of last summer. More importantly, Hungary was the first country, the government of which has put the question of migration in the very centre of its politics.
The Hungarian ruling parties that won in the parliamentary elections of 2014 suffered a series loss of their popularity by mid2015. For them, it was an unexpected gift to draw away the public interest from the real problems of the country, for which they had to bear responsibility. Hungary was the first European country, in which the government started fierce campaign against foreigners, by arguing that immigration and terrorism are interconnected. Hungary then refused to provide immigrants with the facilitates of fair and equitable legal treatment before the authorities competent in deciding on the applications of asylum. The real tension between the respect of the rights of aliens and migration control has been dissolved at the expense of the human rights of immigrants.
During the tragic days of the last summer when railway stations, streets and other public places in Budapest were overloaded with immigrants – many of which without food or water –, the Hungarian civil society evinced its good will, force and ability effectively to provide assistance. Hundreds of volunteers approached without hesitation immigrants to take care about them who were left without any assistance by the official organisations. In the first weeks of migration crisis, the Hungarian Catholic church was also passive and helpless, just following the official propaganda that church people could not admit to get engaged in trafficking in human beings. In the midst of the meeting of the national bishops conference, on 3 September 2015 cardinal Péter Erdő declared that the church did not have the right to host refugees. Doing so, the church people would have committed crime, he argued. By the way, the cardinal – a learned lawyer – made grief mistake in his arguments because crimes could have only been committed if assistance had provided to foreigners businesslike, in exchange for financial compensation.
For the above reasons, the case of Hungary is quite special in Europe. Therefore, in this paper, first the Hungarian case with migration policy will be presented. The Hungarian experience expects us to try to draw lessons from the failure of Hungary to host immigrants in a civilised way. The case of Hungary could be interesting not only for Hungarians, but also for the friends of Hungary.
In particular, Christians may pay particular attention to the maltreatment by the Hungarian authorities of foreigners because the professional failure has grown into a humanitarian problem, the assessment of which is a genuine subject of Christian morals and theology. God-fearing people could not admit to fail to show friendship against foreigners, many of which sought for asylum.
In this report, a few real life aspects of the migration crisis will be depicted, including historical and bio-political considerations. It is a particular aspect of the current migration crisis that once the EU implementation of international refugee law takes place through the Dublin regulations, the freedom of personal movement available for the EU citizens in the Schengen zone could not be held back from the migrants that had entered it. The present paper will raise the question as to whether it is reasonable to renegotiate the democratic allocation of political power, and the associated rights and liabilities in a new scene of public life, complemented by newcomers to Europe.
The paper also discusses the very responsibility of Christians for the human treatment of foreigners during the migration crisis. The members of the Church can be seen and felt in communion with each other. Distinction between domestic citizens and foreigners would be a matter of statics that cannot be reconciled with the dynamics that is hidden in the Christian belief.
Arguably, it is our privilege to be the migrant people of God. We can only be in community with the saints because our life cannot be confined to the narrow scope of immanent and secular citizenship. On that basis, the respect of human dignity and safety of the host country can surely be reconciled with each other at least at the level of principles, the paper suggests.
2. The case of Hungarian migration policy
Last autumn, Amnesty International (“AI“) reported: ”Hungary’s policies are not preventing entry to the EU, they are merely displacing the routes refugees and migrants are taking to reach it. Hungary’s policies also represent a structural threat to the rule of law and the respect for human rights that other member states and EU institutions cannot afford to ignore. The EU should therefore engage Hungary in a formal discussion, as foreseen by Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union, with a view to bringing its migration and asylum policies in line with EU and other international law obligations and ensuring that Hungary participates fully in collective EU initiatives and reforms designed to address the current refugee crisis, while receiving the considerable support it needs to do so.“
Concerning the Hungarian refugee policy, AI refers to facts as follows: ”On 15 September 2015 the Hungarian government declared a ‘crisis situation caused by mass immigration’. On the same day, the construction of a fence on the border with Serbia was finished and amendments to the Criminal Code and Asylum Law, making it an offence to enter the country through the border fence and establishing ‘transit zones’ at the border, entered into effect. On 21 September, the Hungarian Parliament adopted further amendments to the Police Act and the Act on National Defence. These extend the powers of the police in situations of ’crisis caused by mass immigration’ to block roads, ban or restrain the operation of public institutions, shut down areas and buildings and restrain or ban the entering and leaving of such places. The new measures authorise the army to support the police securing the border in the crisis situation and to use rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and pyrotechnical devices. On 22 September, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a resolution which stated, among other things, that Hungary should defend its borders by ’every necessary means’ against ’waves of illegal immigration’. The resolution stated: ’[W]e cannot allow illegal migrants to endanger the jobs and social security of the Hungarian people. We have the right to defend our culture, language, and values.’“
Furthermore: ”In 2015 it spent 3.2 million Euros on a ’national consultation on immigration and terrorism’ in the course of which it distributed a questionnaire to over eight million citizens seeking answers to questions such as whether or not those who cross the borders illegally should be detained for a period longer than 24 hours. Another 1.3 million Euros was spent on an anti-refugee billboard campaign that included messages such as ’If you come to Hungary, don’t take the jobs of Hungarians’ or ’If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our culture!’”.
AI continues to report as follows: ”This briefing outlines Hungary’s violations of international and EU law with respect to the rights of both persons in need of international protection and other people on the move. It provides evidence of Hungary’s:
– Failure to provide adequate reception conditions for asylum-seekers during early September 2015;
– Attempts to shift its responsibility for providing access to a prompt and effective asylum procedure to third countries (essentially Serbia), regardless of whether the applicants would have access to a prompt and efficient asylum procedure and whether there is a real risk of refoulement;
– Application of the ’safe country of origin’ and ’safe third country’ concepts in a manner that breaches the requirement, set out in EU law, that applicants be able to ’challenge the application of the safe third country concept on the grounds that the third country is not safe in his or her particular circumstances’;
– Breach of its obligation to ensure the right of effective remedy in appeals against decisions on asylum procedure;
– Breach of the prohibition on imposing penalties on refugees who unlawfully enter Hungarian territory.“
As the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights reported, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein ”… was appalled at the recent actions and attitudes displayed by the Hungarian Government and authorities in relation to refugees and migrants, and also urged European institutions to resolve their impasse and take firm action to respond to the crisis in Hungary and elsewhere. … Some of these actions amount to clear violations of international law. … High Commissioner Zeid deplored the xenophobic and anti-Muslim views that appear to lie at the heart of current Hungarian Government policy, and which were reflected in a blatantly xenophobic Government poster campaign earlier in the year.“
Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland wrote to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about new legislation adopted in the context of the migration crisis: ”I am concerned about a series of recent amendments to legislation in Hungary which will, among other things, allow the Government to declare a ‘state of crisis’ caused by mass immigration. … I will also ask for reassurances that if a ‘state of crisis’ is declared, Hungary will remain committed to its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights“.
Clearly, human rights law and migration control are in tension. As the protection of the nation state, and international law that has been created by the nation states are normally extended to citizens, migrants can be dropped out of the scope of due legal protection. The right to liberty can also be in conflict with detention carried out for immigration-related reasons. It is difficult to strike a balance between the universal recognition of human rights and the protection of the interests of the political communities that consist of the citizens of a nation state.
It is no excuse for Hungary that immigrants did not want to move to detention camps to register with the Hungarian authorities because they did not believe that they could reach their target in Western Europe within a foreseeable term. This is the infringement of the immigration laws of the country and the EU, indeed. However, this misdemeanour of immigrants cannot justify the harsh treatment the Hungarian authorities showed. The responsibility of the government and the ruling parties is even heavier because they wanted to maximise benefits of their populism at the expense of innocent immigrants by charging them falsely.
Non-legal requirements may be higher than legal ones because humanism suggests more than just the protection of individual rights. Ethical considerations are of particular importance when Christians meet the immigrants entering the host country, and seeking maybe not for asylum, but for empathy and mercy. Then, it is much more difficult to refer to the interests of particular communities rather than to recognise the universal human right to liberty and dignity.
There is no solution for the migration problem without the successful management of the professional questions of migration control. Humanitarian standards, however, must not be subject to any discretion. Professional issues are thus superseded by humanitarian ones.
3. Real world-related considerations
(i) Understanding migration from a historical perspective, bio-political considerations, movements in global capitalism, competitive immigration
Migration has become an issue at the age of modernisation and homogenisation of nations. It cannot be traced back just to financial considerations. It is rather driven by complex cultural motivations, and it takes place through the process of networking. Under the idea of the civic nation that hosts the status of citizenship, citizens are treated equally before the law. They are still expected to adjust themselves to the cultural standards as uniformly prescribed by the nation state. Under the idea of ethnic nation, such uniformity is not required. Narrow-minded nationalism and discrimination against national minorities is, however, not precluded in any of these cases.
As the modern state is organised on a territorial basis, migration causes inconvenience. The collective interests as managed by the state and the individual motives of migration are in conflict with each other. Successful integration frequently requires voluntary adjustment to the majority culture and resignation from the original culture. Otherwise emancipation cannot be achieved. An exception to this is the North American pattern of melting pot that is not attractive in the current European crisis of migration. Migration is only a problem from the viewpoint of homogenisation that takes place top down and is supported by administrative power.
The issue of migration can also be approached from a bio-political perspective. Bio-politics suggests that politics that has been established to date on metaphysics can now be replaced by the judgments, based on the aggregates collected from demographics movements and statistical data. Bio-politics may deliver new knowledge, but it is not intact from the impact of racist ideas. Individuals must not be perceived as the quantifiable object of politics. In particular, it is not tolerable from a moral point of view to distinguish between groups of people according to their cultural origin. Bio-politics strives to save integration, but enforced integration may cause harm to human beings.
In global capitalism, labour force and social security are undervalued because capitalist production moves to the less developed parts of the world. The consequence of relocation is the loss of jobs in the developed word and the depreciation of labour in general. In global competition, the nation states try to make budget cuts in the maintenance of the institutions of social security.
Simltaneously with the loss of jobs in certain areas, there is growing need in labour in other areas. In addition to the exportation of factories to the less developed part of the world, it is also possible to continue to do manufacturing in the West, but now at a much lower level of wages. European workers are still not willing to accept job offers at such depreciated level of wages. Migration that can substitute for expensive Western labour is then welcome. The problems of social integration may trigger xenophobia, however.
The police leaders of Eastern Europe are also against migration because they consider new migrants coming from the world of outside Europe as competitors of the East European migrants who have already settled down in Western Europe or are going to move there. East European states cannot admit to lack the funds derived from the savings of the East European migrants working in Western Europe that are remitted to their home countries.
(ii) Emerging conflicts between the regimes of Dublin and Schengen, and between the precious values of the enlightenment and non-discrimination
It would be logical to manage the problem of migration in a mechanism centralised from Brussels, rising above the separate jurisdiction of the nation state. However, the European bodies are not authorised to deal with the problem in an integrated way. Where the Dublin regulations on the protection of the rights of immigrants entering the EU cannot be duly administered for lack of sufficient authorisation, it is not possible longer to respect the freedom of Schengen either because the Member States regress to a status of development of the nation state. Is the Dublin-model respected that immigrants must not suffer from discrimination, immigrants cannot be prevented from freely moving within the EU. Then, the plan of apportioning aliens among the Member States under preliminarily determined quotas would not be viable.
Due to the failure of respecting the Dublin regulations, Member States have started suspending the freedom assured in the Schengen zone by reintroducing physical border control. This is very dangerous because Schengen-based freedom is the emblematic expression of Europe’s commitment to liberty. The migration crisis is a genuine European problem that can therefore only be managed at a European level. It is not less, but more Europe, that is, more trust in the EU institutions that can be the real basis for any solution.
The ability to integrate immigrants eventually depends on how much social cohesion is present in a Member State. The universality of human rights requires to get rid of the metaphysics of the nation state. However, everyday practice cannot lack the power of a particular state. One could think about that the Western idea of democracy and the rule of law decline. However, no real alternative seems to emerge to these ideas. For example, illiberal states, like Turkey, Russia or the Mainland China do not seem to be attractive at all.
Arguably, it is reasonable for Europe to defend itself agains the abrupt immigration that endangers the very values of democracy and the rule of law, based on the 18th century enlightenment. Fundamentalism cannot be maintained even if human rights must be protected. For example, it is problematic that the freedom of conscience or the equality of sexes that are fundamental values in Europe are not respected by a large number immigrants for whom these values are not understandable. A possible conflict between the enlightenment-based European values and the respect of the human rights of immigrants cannot then be avoided.
One has to recognise also that multiculturalism raises a series of problems and that integration of people coming into Europe from non-European cultural circles cannot be simply a spontaneous process. Education and targeted assistance to be provided to immigrants are thus required. These tasks must not endanger, however, the respect of human rights.
One can argue that the question that is based on the assumption of conflict between the values of the enlightenment and human rights is false. Modernisation does not necessarily require the territorial exercise of power and homogenisation, based either on the ideas of civic or ethnic nation. One can imagine that cultures can find their abilities to coexist, provided that they can organise themselves bottom up. Homogenisation is not the only force of modernisation. It is even historically proven by the North American melting pot model of 19th century. Currently, we need new forms of cultural coexistence under the circumstances of modernisation.
4. Theological considerations
(i) The commanding theological tradition of empathy with immigrants, learning from Philo of Alexandria
As wayfarers create union with the brethren, the members of the Church – who act in an eschatological perspective – can be in communion with each other. The moments of being in communion with the brethren and with the living brothers who immigrate cannot be separated from each other, and the one cannot exist without being complemented by the other. Christians are expected to do much more than just provide food and shelter to those who are in need. They should recognise their own fate because we are the nation of God that is permanently on its way. What we have is the Pilgrim Church. Are we accepting that our existence exceeds the scope of this world, we have to understand that this is only possible because we can share ourselves in divine power. It squarely comes therefrom that our empathy must not be withdrawn from any human being, including immigrants.
We all are poor wayfaring strangers while traveling through this world, and we cannot go over the Jordan, i.e., we cannot arrive at home to see the Father unless we are merciful. As this is our common fate, it is arbitrary to distinguish between nations and religions, cultures and civilisations, Europeans and non-Europeans.
Legitimising generosity is not the privilege of Christians. Respect of personality and tolerance against foreigners are deeply imbedded in the European history. As an example for this, the Judeo-Hellenic syncretism can be mentioned. Philo of Alexandria attempts to combine Plato and Moses into one philosophical system. Philo evolved an original teaching of Logos. Philo used ”logos“ in the meaning of an utterance. This view enables Philo to combine the Jewish belief in creation with the Greek conviction about the formation of all things from the permanent matter.
Philo thought that God created and governed the world through mediators. Logos is the chief among them, the next to God, demiurge of the world. Logos is immaterial, an adequate image of God, his shadow, his firstborn son. Being the mind of the Eternal, Logos is imperishable. Since creation, Logos binds things together. As the receptacle and holder of ideas, Logos is distinct from the material world. At the same time, Logos pervades the world, supporting it. Logos has the function of an advocate on behalf of humanity and also that of a God’s envoy to the world. The angel closing Balaam’s way (Numbers, XXII, 31) is interpreted by Philo as manifestation of Logos, which acts as man’s conscience.
The syncretism of Philo makes an opportunity to interpret the meeting of cultures not as a crash, but as the fruitful work of different views, efforts and actions. The scene of the encounter of cultures is certainly not the wedding of Susa where Greek soldiers and Persian women were instructed to unite with each other, based on the higher command of Alexandros, the representative of hierarchical power. Instead, it is the scene of finding and recognising each other despite the differences as experienced.
(ii) Applying a multi-faceted approach, with particular regard to coping with the structural vice of global inequality
Migration must be regulated, seeking for a balance between equity and dignity, on the one hand, and the safety of the host country, on the other. The host country has the right to stop immigrants at the state border, to check them and make a review of their case. Such measures cannot compromise, however, human rights.
In addition to honour the principle of non-discrimination in the treatment of aliens, it is also inevitable to try to remove immense economic inequalities that globally exist, to face the structural vice of inequality. The genuine Christian approach to the problem of migration has thus at least three layers:
– to show solidarity;
– to treat different people as the children of God in community with each other in an eschatological perspective; and
– to fight against the structural vice of global inequality.
According to the legend, in the night from Good Friday to Saturday, the dead arose from their graves to frighten the inhabitants of Jerusalem who felt to be guilty in not preventing from killing Jesus of Nazareth. The inhabitants of Western Europe may feel to be guilty in the similar way due to their past of colonialism. Therefore, to show solidarity is not enough if not complimented by raising the question of the structural vice of global inequality. The people of both East and West Europe have to try to drop their narrow-mindedness in protecting only national interests.
Christian conscience and responsibility cannot remain within the strict limits of territorial jurisdiction, and the metaphysics of the nation state, with a view to managing the migration crisis and treating aliens. It comes therefrom that it is necessary for Christians to take a universal approach. It must still be complemented by a critical look at the current world order. Global capitalism is part of the reality. We cannot still be the citizens of saints unless we take part in seeking to improve humans relations in this world in favour of those who are needed.
5. An optimistic vision of the future
One has to recognise that the citizens of Europe – including Christians – have missed to provide assistance in an adequate way to immigrants in the turbulent days of the last August and September. The responsibility of the Hungarian public authorities and the Hungarian Catholic church cannot be set aside. The negligence the Hungarian leaders of the Catholic church manifested and their failure to show goodwill can hardly be forgiven.
More general lessons can also be drawn from the Hungarian case. Conflicts between the protection of European freedom and democracy, and the respect of the human rights of non-European immigrants can be solved as long as the strains arising from the structural vice of global inequality can be mitigated. The West should encounter its colonial past, and the Eastern part of Europe should face the problems of nationalist egoism.
The migration crises cannot be solved, but by force of more centralised European mechanisms. This entails inevitably the transfer of powers from the Member States to the Union. Europe is doomed to go ahead. Regression in European integration would disintegrate Europe. The individual actions of Member States that suspend the free movement of persons across the border cannot help managing the migration crisis and, to be worse, endanger the very basics of European integration.
The political imagination that could be mobilised in favour of European integration can coincide very well with Christian theology. Are the church members wayfarers, and is the church itself a Pilgrim Church, it should be immunised from the disease of homogenisation and nationalistic seclusion. The eschatological perspective, in which the people of God united in the church is seen provides an offer of universalism. On that basis, conflicts between the nation states and the EU institutions, between public security and human rights are not insoluble. The Schengen-model can only be saved if the Dublin-model is viable, and respect of the Dublin-model suggests in turn more European integration.
The European legacy is rich enough that can be relied on. Christians can support the process of Europeanisation by legitimising the encounter of people imbedded into different cultures. It is an idea that has always been entertained by the best representatives of the Judeo-Christian world from Philo of Alaxandria up to the great figures of the enlightenment. We are thus facing with the challenge of reckoning the liberating force of Logos, whether explained by Philo of Alexandria or the great Christian thinkers.