Activist Campaign Mocks Hungary's Anti-Immigration Posters

Hungarian counter anti-immigration posters
One of the government's "If you come to Hungary..." anti-immigration posters which has been defaced by activists. Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Activists in Hungary have begun a campaign aimed at ridiculing the government's notorious anti-immigration posters, which began appearing around the country earlier this year.

The government slogans are prefixed with the words: "If you come to Hungary..." and continue with phrases such as "you mustn't take away the work of Hungarians" and "you must respect our culture."

The campaign is part of a 'national consultation' on immigration and terrorism devised by the government. The programme also involved Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the ruling Fidesz party sending out a questionnaire to Hungarian voters which appeared to suggest putting illegal immigrants into internment camps and some people argued connected migration with terrorism.

The government announced plans last month to erect a four-metre (13 foot) border fence on its Serbian border to stop the growing influx of refugees into the country.

However, since the beginning of July, a crowdfunded campaign set up by activists has begun putting up its own posters in order to ridicule those of the government.

One giant poster reads "Come to Hungary, we've got jobs in London," a reference to the fact that emigration is a much bigger problem for the country than immigration. Another reads "Sorry about our prime minister." A third government poster, reading "If you come to Hungary, you mustn't take away Hungarian jobs!" has been amended with the words "What jobs?" beneath it. A final one reads: "Immigrants don't work - and they are taking our jobs!"

Behind the campaign is the satirical Hungarian Two Tailed Dog party, which registered last year and aims "to mock the empty promises of the real parties", according to Gergely Kovacs, a street artist and the party's founder. Along with a fellow organiser, Katalin Erdelyi, a journalist and curator of a political blog, they started the crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the satirical posters.

"The government's anti-immigration campaign made us very angry," Kovacs told Newsweek. "Our main issue is that the government is spending money on a campaign that tells them who to hate - it's about the government's abuse of an already weak society in order to gain popularity. They have already fought against the homeless, the gays, the addicts and practically against all minorities."

The campaign has gained momentum in recent months. Having launched the campaign at the beginning of June, in just two weeks it had collected 33m Hungarian Forints (€104,000 or $115,000) donated by more than 7,000 people. The group aims to put up 900 of their campaign posters, which will nearly match the 1,000 put up by the government so far.

Activists are particularly angry that the government is spending money on anti-immigration campaigns rather than doing more to resolve the crisis. Lydia Gall, a researcher, for the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, estimates that the cost of the national consultation questionnaire which was sent to eight million citizens was €3.2 million ($3.5 million), the anti-immigrant posters cost €1.1 million ($1.2 million) and the border fence will cost approximately €200 million ($222 million.)

Yet Kovacs worries that the government's campaign has been effective. "To tell the truth it seems that the government has already achieved what it wanted. Two months ago nobody spoke about the immigrants here in Hungary and now the media is filled with it. People talk a lot about them and many begin to hate them." Activists have also faced arrest - six people from the Együtt (Together) opposition party were arrested last month, but five of the six later admitted to the vandalism and were released, according to the Guardian.

However, Kovacs says he will continue with his campaign. "It is embarrassing for us that foreigners see these billboards created by the government and we'd like to show them that a lot of us think differently about these matters."