A child receives toys from Terre des Hommes partner organisation Novi Sad Humanitarian Centre while travelling from Serbia to Hungary.

When Hungary pushed through new laws ordering authorities to detain child migrants in guarded camps at the beginning of March, it appeared a new low had been set in the country’s treatment of children on the move.

Yet barely a month later, Viktor Orbán’s government has added yet another chapter to its catalogue of abuses against migrants – including migrant children – with its much criticised ‘national consultation’ sent out to all homes across the country.

The consultation is an attempt by the Fidesz party to drum up anti-EU sentiment within Hungary to use when defending legislation that breaks European values. It consists of six misleading questions, purposefully phrased to encourage the public to answer in a way supportive of the party’s plans, which recipients are encouraged to answer and return to the government.

Migrants and refugees are specifically targeted by the consultation, as well as civil society organisations that support them. One question asks:
In recent times, terror attack after terror attack has taken place in Europe. Despite this fact, Brussels wants to force Hungary to allow illegal immigrants into the country. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) For the sake of the safety of Hungarians these people should be placed under supervision (felügyelet) while the authorities decide their fate. (b) Allow the illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary.

This question is brazenly trying to drum up support for locking up migrants – including children – while decisions are made on their asylum or migration status, despite this breaking international law.

While forced detention is harmful for all migrants, it is especially disturbing for children. Children held in detention are attempting suicide, cutting themselves and abusing drugs to escape the hopelessness of their situation, according to a recent report by Save the Children – with Orbán looking to inflict such misery onto every child migrant who enters Hungary.

Consultation questions on non-governmental organisations are also designed to gather support for the Fidesz party’s wish to inhibit civil society opposition to their increasingly authoritarian grip – including groups speaking out against the mistreatment of children on the move. One such question asks:
By now it has become clear that, in addition to the smugglers, certain international organisations encourage the illegal immigrants to commit illegal acts. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Activities assisting illegal immigration such as human trafficking and the popularisation of illegal immigration must be punished. (b) Let us accept that there are international organisations which, without any consequences, urge the circumvention of Hungarian laws.

The Hungarian government accuses other organisations of breaking Hungarian laws, while flagrantly disregarding how Orbán’s government itself is violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by locking up children purely because of their migration status. Not only are these accusations blatant hypocrisy, but they aim to sweep away dissent against the mistreatment of migrants in Hungary – while disassembling organisations working to promote human rights along the way.

The Hungarian government is trying to scapegoat migrants, refugees and civil society, while simultaneously breaking international laws protecting migrant children. The international community and the Hungarian people must now stand up for some of the most vulnerable children on the planet, and send a message to Orbán and his government that this will not be tolerated.

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