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Remember 1956 Viktor Orban! When Europeans were a little more united

A train for Switzerland
A train for Switzerland

(B2) October 1956, the Budapest revolution has just been bloodily crushed, the borders are open, the regime has left the borders open, preferring to see a majority of its youth and troublemakers go abroad. Nearly 200.000 Hungarians fled to Austria, first, and then to Yugoslavia, then were resettled in several countries. A certain solidarity is taking place…

A steady and fast flow

In a few days, between the end of October and November 7, 15.000 Hungarians arrived in Austria, including 10.000 Hungarians for the weekend of November 4 to 6 alone, reports the UNHCR. The following week it accelerates. In mid-November, 36.000 refugees arrived. “ The exodus increases, reaching 80.000 at the end of November, with a maximum reached of 8500 people reached in a single day writes Louis Henry in the journal Population (published by Persée, download here). And the flow continues over the following months. We are in the middle of winter. It's cold. The snow has appeared. Austria opens camps, schools. Individuals and churches are mobilizing. In Yugoslavia, coastal hotels are requisitioned to accommodate refugees. In total, until the beginning of March 1957, 173.000 Hungarians arrived in Austria, and 18.600 arrived in Yugoslavia. Vienna and Belgrade welcome but ask for help and solidarity from Europeans and Westerners.

Resettlement not without difficulties

A resettlement plan is put in place, not without difficulties... An internal NATO memo traces the calls for help from Austria and Yugoslavia and their difficulties in taking care of this mass of refugees over a long period of time . “ The Austrian and Yugoslav Governments alone cannot take care of these refugees, maintain them and provide them with the immediate relief they need. (…) Despite considerable financial assistance from governments and private sources, the Austrian and Yugoslav governments have so far borne an excessive share of this burden. continues the note from the political committee of the Alliance (download here).

Europeans a little more united

But, on the scale of the event, and today's situation, we can notice that the mobilization and support is rapid. “ It was the first movement in which refugees were recognized en masse. emphasizes António Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2006, during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of this exodus. " We had resettled 100 people in the first ten weeks which, I believe, is unimaginable today. » At the end of February, 117.000 Hungarians left Austria for several countries, thanks to a policy of reception “quotas” put in place.

But France and the United States… already very stingy

The reception is very uneven, however. In absolute figures, it is the United States (28600), the United Kingdom (18700), Canada (13600), Germany (11600), Switzerland (10300) and France (8900) which welcome the most large number of refugees in absolute numbers. But, in relative share (compared to the population), it is Switzerland (2000 refugees per million inhabitants), Israel (910/million inhabitants), Canada (850/million) and Sweden (550 per million ) who put in the most effort. Several countries (Australia, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and Venezuela) quickly lift the previously indicated ceilings or increase them significantly. Germany (already!) is committed to welcoming, on its own, 10% of refugees. It is the only “large country” to exceed the bar of 500 refugees per million inhabitants welcomed. In the end, it is the United States and France which are the most stingy, which welcome the fewest refugees…” Result consistent with their restrictive attitude towards welcoming refugees writes Louis Henry.

Comment: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the leaders of Eastern Europe, who are meeting at a summit this Friday in Prague, should remember the solidarity that marked the reception of refugees, starting with Austria and Germany who ensured. At the time, Austria, which was barely recovering from the Second World War, could have closed its borders. And Europe could have abandoned Austria and Yugoslavia. This was not the case... A little decency, and quite simply historical memory, would be welcome on the part of its leaders. But the lack of solidarity is not the prerogative of Eastern European countries. We can note the rather embarrassed, and frankly ungenerous, position of both France and the United Kingdom. Outside of Europe, the United States, like Russia, which bears some responsibility for the Syrian drama and is also a member of the UN Security Council, should make a notable effort.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).