Unexamined Premises

The 'Migrant' Crisis: Merkel's Folly, Europe's Peril

Migrants at Keleti Railway Station, Budapest, Hungary - 09 Sep 2015

Mama Merkel’s Muslim ‘Migrants’

Everything which is now taking place before our eyes threatens to have explosive consequences for the whole of Europe. Europe’s response is madness. We must acknowledge that the European Union’s misguided immigration policy is responsible for this situation.

Irresponsibility is the mark of every European politician who holds out the promise of a better life to immigrants and encourages them to leave everything behind and risk their lives in setting out for Europe. If Europe does not return to the path of common sense, it will find itself laid low in a battle for its fate.

 — Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban

The crowds are gone from the Keleti central train station, and few middle-eastern faces now appear on the streets of Budapest.   But the recent tidal wave of humanity – whether deemed “migrants,” “refugees” or, more accurately, “unarmed invaders” – has left a new resolution implanted in Hungary and, indeed, this part of Europe that once labored under the Muslim yoke.  And that impression is: this much and no more.

It is, of course, a stunningly politically incorrect attitude, but one the Hungarians don’t mind articulating for the benefit of their mighty neighbors to the northwest, the Germans.  For it was Germany’s morally exhibitionistic decision to announce to the Muslim world that Deutschland and its cradle-to-grave welfare system was now available to all who could set foot in the Bundesrepublik that triggered the human tidal wave and, despite a growing domestic backlash against the policies of the Merkel administration, triggers it still.

It is perhaps ironic that this world-historical event should be taking place in exactly the same place that an earlier one did, on the Hungarian-Austrian border.  For it was in the summer of 1989 that the Hungarians threw open their fortified border with the West and allowed a surging tide of East Germans, who had been vacationing in Hungary, to flee their oppressive Soviet satellite state.  It happened, as these things tend to do, in part because of an accident: a misunderstood directive in East Berlin, a poorly worded communique… and suddenly the whole rotten edifice of the Warsaw Pact and, soon enough, the Soviet Union itself, came tumbling down.

Now history is repeating itself, this time not as triumph, though, but as tragedy in the making; indeed, to paraphrase Marx, it might even be farcical were it not so threatening to the Western way of life, and to Western civilization itself.  The Hungarians are merely the canaries in the coal mine here; Jean Raspail might have predicted the current crisis in his novel, The Camp of the Saints, but in reality the threat comes not from Indian boat people but ancient enemies, long since banished to the European fringes by Martel, Sobieski, and Don Juan of Austria, who come again in conquest, this time wielding cell phones instead of scimitars.

“Migrants of every kind – refugees from wars in Syria and Iraq, Christians fleeing persecution throughout the Middle East, ordinary people from the Third World seeking a better life in the freer societies of Europe, criminals and terrorists hiding in these human waves for their own nefarious purposes – have suddenly laid siege to Hungary in huge numbers,” writes John O’Sullivan in the September 2015 issue of Hungarian Review.

They climb fences, hide in cars or under trains, swim across rivers, commandeer boats and sail for European beaches, buy places in the lorries of people-smuggling operations, right with police, and in general seek to overwhelm the land and sea barriers that protect the frontiers of Hungary and Europe against the threats of illegal migration and invasion.

We must ask indeed: Are these two threats not really the same threat?  Are these human waves not a form of invasion?  It sounds harsh and exaggerated to say so… Given the instability, wars, kleptocratic governments, and economic failure of many countries in Asia and Africa, however, the number of potential migrants from there runs into the billions… they are likely to arrive in such large numbers as to overwhelm our capacity to help them, to impose hardship on our own poorer citizens, to ratchet up social divisions in our own societies, and to weaken the bonds of national cohesion.

An American might be forgiven for noting that this sounds very much like the Cloward-Pivening of Europe: flooding the continent with so many people that the institutions cannot cope, civil order breaks down and the system collapses.  For while the world’s attention was riveted on the events of summer, in reality the “refugee” problem has been going on for some time now, as the Third World has been testing and probing Europe’s willingness to defend itself.

Hungary Migrants

This, among other things, I learned from Barbara Piazza-Georgi, a Hungarian-born woman raised in Italy and South Africa, married to an Egyptian Coptic Christian, a former UN official, and a member of the Knights of Malta who worked with its auxiliary in offering assistance to the migrants this past summer.  Over tea at Gerbeaud (a capital landmark in Pest, not far from the Danube), she told me that the influx actually began late last year, with the arrival of a contingent of Kosovars requesting asylum in Hungary.

In retrospect, this can be seen as the first probe of Europe’s good intentions.  The West, in the form of NATO, fought a war in 1998-99 against Serbia – which had legitimate, historic claims to the province – in order to give the Albanian Kosovars a semi-autonomous homeland of their own. Why were Kosovars then claiming asylum in Hungary?  What, really, were they fleeing?

Who knows?  One of the major problems attending the sudden and unprecedented influx of largely Muslim foreigners is that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them once they force their way into the European Union and, especially, its passport-free Schengen Zone, which comprises twenty-two of the EU’s 28 countries.  “Ninety percent of asylum applicants disappear after processing,” Ms. Piazza-Georgi noted

She ought to know.   As a longtime official (she retired in 2012) with the United Nations Development Program and the UN Population Fund – serving in, among other places, Burundi, Jerusalem, Syria and Algeria, as well as with the World Bank in Soweto – she has had hands-on experience with these intractable problems for decades.  Now working with an NGO called the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta – the Knights’ auxiliary corps – she was at the Keleti station to assist the migrants as they arrived, and downplays the fear that the arriving Syrians and others pose a demographic threat to what used to be called Christian Europe, noting that Arab birth rates fall dramatically once they arrive in First World countries.

At the same time, she told me there is no appetite in Hungary – a relatively poor country that, while a member of the European Union, maintains its own currency, the forint – for taking in immigrants.  As a result, and in addition to building a fence along its formerly porous border with Serbia, Hungary now simply collects “immigrants” along its southern borders, bundles them onto buses and trains and ships them directly to Austria.  They want nothing to do with them and, as the quote from Viktor Orban above makes clear, cannot understand what is motivating Frau Merkel and her open-door policy.

According to Ms. Piazza-Georgi, what appears to have sharply increased the Hungarian authorities’ sense of urgency was the discovery in August of 71 dead migrants in an abandoned truck, just over the border in Austria.  “Hungarian and Austrian police stepped up patrolling on the ‘green border’ between them, diverting migrants to the railways,” she said, “and this was, I suspect, the main cause of the much-mediatized sudden crisis at the Keleti train station in late August.”  Further, the evidence that an international mafia of human-traffickers was operating with near-impunity within the country’s borders resulted in a series of measures that were in part humanitarian and in part self-defensive, including arresting the illegal migrants who break through the fence along the Serbian border, and hustling the others through the country as quickly as possible.

What Europe could do – establish refugee camps in Islamic countries, stop the traffic on the Mediterranean by intercepting the makeshift flotillas on their way to Italy and Greece and returning them to port in Libya, and make an example of the illegals by deporting as many as possible to their countries of origin – it will not do.  A “higher morality,” perhaps evident only to Angela Merkel, is at work here: a hollowing-out of the idea of the nation-state by eliminating the nation and leaving only the state.

Yet memories linger here in eastern Europe, especially among what Ms. Piazza-Gorgi refers to as the “Trianon” countries – a phrase I found mysterious until she reminded me that she referred to the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, via which the post-World War I boundaries were re-drawn, and the dismemberment of Hungary took place; the country lost two-thirds of its territory and half its population to neighboring states such as Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.  (Some of the territories in the east were briefly regained during Hungary’s ill-fated and unfortunate alliance with National Socialist Germany between 1938 and 1945.)

This is not the place to delve into the complexities of Hungarian history; suffice it to say that the Hungarians see themselves more as victims than victimizers – longtime defenders of Europe’s southern and eastern boundaries, often at great cost.  This is not a view widely shared on the left; during the Keleti station occupation, the British newspaper The Guardian savaged the overwhelmed Hungarians: “‘Hungarians look after animals more than people, they treat dogs and cats better,’ said student Jamal al-Deenberra, 23, whose flight from Syria had come to a halt a week ago.  As conditions deteriorated, Keleti became a symbol of the migration crisis, a shameful rebuke to Europe’s confused and cruel handling of the thousands of people flooding across the borders.”

As Gerald Frost wrote in the October issue of Quadrant regarding the Orban-Merkel difference of opinion concerning the “migrants”:

The situation is not without irony.  For here was an instance where the pugnacious Eurosceptic Hungarian leader was trying to enforce EU rules and to protect Schengen’s external border while the German Chancellor, described by Time magazine as the “Conscience of Europe,” was offering an open-handed inducement to millions of people to flout them.  Predictably it was Mrs Merkel who received the plaudits and Mr Orban the opprobrium.

After the chaos of the summer, the Hungarians seem relieved that the current crisis has, for now at least, abated.  There are very few non-European faces on the streets of the capital – a few black Africans here, some noisy Arab boys there – and for the most part that, it seems, is exactly how they like it.  The pantheon of Hungarian heroes includes Saint Stephen, Saint Laszlo, Bela IV, and Janos Hunyadi, who distinguished themselves as Christian soldiers in wars against paganism, the Mongols, and the Ottoman Turks.  Nationalism is not a dirty word in Hungary.

That it is elsewhere – in western Europe and, latterly, in the United States – is not the Hungarians’ problem; defending their language, their culture, their language and their way of life is. And this brings into focus the critical aspect of the “migrant” crisis – what is the end game?  Thanks to the human smugglers and the speed of modern communications, “refugees” from as far away as Afghanistan are washing up on the landlocked shores of central Europe – legions of able-bodied young men from the ummah of Islam advancing nearly unopposed into the Dar al-Harb of Christendom.

And yet this crucial aspect of the crisis has largely gone unremarked, as has the threat to Western values embodied by the “Syrians” and others who have traveled great distances to march with impunity through the undefended internal borders of the European Union and demand – not ask, demand – asylum in the Bundesrepublik as if that were a self-evident right.  That they trek through formerly Islamic lands like Hungary to do so is just another one of history’s little ironies that may eventually be seen as not ironic at all.