Open Society Foundations Statement on the Situation in Hungary

BUDAPEST—Volunteers and civil society organizations in Hungary are showing a responsible and humane way to tackle the refugee crisis. The Open Society Foundations stand ready to support them.

After more than three decades working with Hungarian civil society, we are inspired by the response of organizations and ordinary citizens, and their commitment and steadfastness in supporting all those fleeing war and persecution in search for international protection.

Jordi Vaquer, director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe said, “In Hungary, as elsewhere in Europe, these practical expressions of solidarity with the plight of refugees highlight the gap between a lack of political will and the readiness of thousands of ordinary citizens to do more.”

Hungary finds itself on the main route currently used by asylum seekers. Amid scenes of confusion and despair, there are admirable volunteer and civic efforts help those people in Budapest and other parts of the country who seek European protection.

We appeal to the Hungarian government, as well as all other transit and destination states, to uphold international standards of protection in its handling of the refugee crisis. European countries must ensure that no new pain and suffering are added on their soil to the tragedies that asylum seekers left behind in their countries and make good on their international commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention. We urge caution in the language used to debate the refugee crisis by public officers. The rhetoric of fear and repression may contribute to discriminatory and even violent attitudes towards refugees.

The Hungarian crisis demonstrates the dangers radical populist regimes pose not only to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, but also to the values of Europe and to the humanity of the local populations. Márta Pardavi, cochair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, adds, “The Hungarian government should not hinder but rather enable the arduous efforts of civil society groups and volunteers, who provide help to refugees where, despite its legal duties, the Hungarian state is unable to or unwilling.”

The current surge in arrivals of asylum seekers and migrants through the Mediterranean and Central Europe is a test of solidarity and commitment to human rights for all of Europe. The challenge is big but in a not so distant past, Europe successfully managed even bigger refugee flows from the conflicts in the Balkans. We hope that, through solidarity and real political will among European governments, Europe will again fulfill its international duty to protect those who flee war and persecution.


The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, we support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education. In Hungary, the Open Society Foundations have been actively supporting Hungarian civil society for the last 30 years. Through the Hungary Project, we work towards building broader and deeper constituencies for open society in Hungary.