Democracies should be judged not only by how they treat their members but by how they treat their strangers.
(Seyla Benhabib, 1998)
Video: Hajnalka Tulisz / tranzit.hu
2015 has marked several turning points in migration and asylum policies in Hungary as well as around Europe. As the “long summer of migration” peaked this autumn, the so-called “refugee crisis” radically polarized societal debates and political struggles around migration in the EU. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, several European politicians—among others, the Hungarian government—used the widespread climate of fear and insecurity to reinforce and underpin their anti-immigration rhetoric.
Fences or open borders? In the past months, a rapidly growing grassroots movement of volunteers and activists has opposed Fortress Europe’s politics of increased border control and mechanisms of exclusion, showing solidarity with migrants and refugees living in and arriving in Europe. They have played a crucial role in providing humanitarian support at the borders, and in the future, they could also be at the forefront of fighting for the rights of refugees and migrants in Europe, forming the base of a bottom-up political resistance.
How to continue after 2015? What challenges and struggles do migrants and refugees living in Hungary, as well as NGOs and activists active in the area of migration and asylum politics face? What will, what should 2016 bring? Especially focusing on Hungary: is a politics based on exclusion and isolation, advocating “the need to protect the country” and the categorical rejection of the EU quota system, sustainable on the long term? What role and responsibilities does civil society have in the political struggles around asylum and migration?
As part of the two-day finissage of Babi Badalov’s exhibition Poetical Activism at tranzit.hu, curator Katalin Erdődi invited human rights experts, activists, and international humanitarian NGOs to discuss what they expect the “new year” would bring in Hungarian migration and asylum politics. This exchange not only served as a starting point for the thematic issue A Weird Geography, but also marked a period in which the borders were still partially open (although only for Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani citizens) and measures to be taken by European policy-makers were still open to debate.
The above video documents the panel discussion that took place on January 8, 2016. It was followed by a workshop with an exchange in smaller groups hosted by the guest speakers (that is not documented here), allowing for more intensive dialogues that each group summarized in a closing round.
Curated and moderated by Katalin Erdődi, independent curator (Vienna/Budapest)
Special thanks to Júlia Laki, Éva Borsi.
*Quote from Babi Badalov, who paraphrased “I Have a Dream,” the title of a famous public speech given by civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
Cover image: Installation view, Babi Badalov, Migrant Poetry, La Station Nice, 2015.
A contribution to issue #1: A Weird Geography edited by Katalin Erdődi.