Hungary Built a Razor-wire Fence to Keep Refugees Out; Now, it’s Facing a Labor Shortage, and Desperately Wants Them to Come

Migrants protest their being stuck in Bicske, Hungary. (Balazs Mohai/European Pressphoto Agency)
Migrants protest their being stuck in Bicske, Hungary. (Balazs Mohai/European Pressphoto Agency)

Hungary went further than most of its neighbors last year to keep fleeing foreigners out of the country: It built a more than 100-mile-long razor-wire border fence and in a strongly criticized practice, still sends refugees who entered the country illegally to prison.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International condemned the country for showing “blatant disregard for its human rights obligations.” The Hungarian government, however, did not seem to really care.

But now, the country has realized it actually needs more foreigners.

Faced with a severe labor shortage, the government is considering plans to invite non-E.U. “guest workers” to live in the country. “Guest workers” are usually allowed to stay and work in a country for a certain number of years but do not hold citizen rights.

Economics minister Mihály Varga has supported demands voiced by the country’s Confederation of Employers and Industrialists to allow “hundreds of thousands of migrants from countries outside of the E.U.” into Hungary, according to Austrian newspaper Die Presse. Estimates predict that the nation will need tens of thousands of migrants to make up for its labor shortage and to prevent negative economic repercussions. But the draft proposal specifies that the country wants “skilled, culturally integrable guest workers” — most likely implying that Muslims are not welcome.

Experts who study the country think that the government is trying to avoid a public backlash over trying to attract foreigners by excluding those it considers not “culturally integrable.”

“They know it will be a hard sell to the Hungarians, given the way the government has staked its legitimacy on being nativist and xenophobic, suggesting that every foreign person who enters the country takes a job away from a native-born Hungarian,” said Holly Case, a Brown University professor focusing on Eastern Europe who added that she did not think the country’s “guest worker” plans would succeed.

“Based on what’s happened thus far, I think if skilled younger workers have a choice between Hungary and other countries where the xenophobic rhetoric has not been so shrill, they will go elsewhere.”

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SOURCE: Rick Noack 
The Washington Post