Those of us who gain our foreign news from the Daily Mail, or the Express might be forgiven (but only just) for imagining that the problem with illegal immigration basically involves either the lackadaisical Italians, or the perfidious French. The French who seem just to deliberately encourage the problem away from their shores by shoving them down the Channel Tunnel come in for special condemnation.
But the problem is far wider than that, and sadly even more grave than the Mail and it’s friends paint.
The picture above is of Szeged Railway Station. An old friend who lives there was speaking with me over the weekend and sent it to me. Szeged is a charming youthful university town in the south of Hungary, lying on the Tisza river. It is a jewel of Art Noveau and slumbered away, quietly attracting the occasional delighted tourist. Today it has found itself in the front line in the waves of illegal immigration flowing into Europe.
In the photo above by Balint Hirling, you can see a young woman in an Islamic headscarf with her child. They have come away from the temporary wooden hut standing behind her. This is where the immigrants that come in to Szeged are initially processed by a team of largely volunteer administrators. You can be sure they have not come for the architecture or statuary. The two Police are also part of the story – they were there watching over the refugees. Hirling has cleverly addressed our attention to the sign that states this is Europa, that they have “arrived”.
The second photo is of my wife Ruth, and our friend Tamara, at a rather chic little fish restaurant just outside Szeged on the Tisza. Hungarians are fanatical about fish dishes in hot paprika sauce, and the visit here -just walking distance from the city was a special treat. The river flowing behind now forms the effective border of Europe. Tamara describes how refugees simply walk up through Serbia and along the banks of the Tisza, and how small children are being found hiding in the bushes in the woods opposite. The locals are torn between feeling appalled at their condition and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. 60,620 have come through since the beginning of the year. Those that have been counted that is.
Belatedly, some might say, the Hungarian government is now taking action. First by building a 110 mile fence along the border with Serbia. This is a cooperative matter with Serbia there is no tension between the Governments about this. Indeed the Serbs and the Hungarians along with the Germans (Germany is a destination of choice) are active in joint patrols along the Macedonian border. And this week Hungary has effectively sounded the death knell of the Schengen Treaty, which allows open borders between participating countries by saying it will not be accepting any refugees back from other countries.
This, far more than Greece playing games, is the real issue today in Europe.
Copyright David Macadam 2015