The Hungarian Experience

Hungary has been functioning as a transit, source, and destination country of both regular and irregular migration.

Historically, one of the most significant migration experience in Hungary occurred in 1956 when, following the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 that started as anti-Soviet student protests and led to Soviet military intervention with Soviet tanks being deployed on the streets of Budapest, some 200,000 Hungarians fled the country towards Austria (180,000) and then Yugoslavia (20,000). 180,000 of them were later resettled to 37 countries.

Regarding more recent emigration trends, according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, more than 350,000 Hungarians have moved abroad since 1989. As a consequence of the decreasing employment rates since the first waves of the international economic crisis in 2008 and low salaries, an increasing number of Hungarian nationals decided to move abroad. 7.4% of Hungarians between the ages of 18-49 lived abroad in 2013 and their number has significantly increased, as evidenced by the 29,400 Hungarians who moved abroad in 2016. Main countries of interest are Germany, the United Kingdom and Austria.

As labour migration of Hungarian citizens has increased Hungary is gradually becoming a country in need of foreign workers in certain economic sectors. In 2017, 42% of third-country nationals who resided in Hungary came for the purpose of work, making labour the most popular entitlement of residence. While the number of foreign citizens living in Hungary is still low, public opinion has remained negative towards immigrants.

Due to its geographic location, Hungary is also one of the main transit countries of asylum-seekers and irregular migration towards other Member States of the European Union. Prior to the construction of the border fences along the Hungary-Serbia and Hungary-Croatia borders, Hungary was one of the main entry points into the EU for migrants seeking to gain access to other Member States.

European Migration Crisis:

In early 2015, prior to the catalyst of the European Migration crisis, Hungary was receiving approximately 274 arrivals/day. By July/August this number has increased more than 400% to an average of 1500 people/day and peaked at cca. 7000 arrivals/day in September/October 2015. By that time the border fence was constructed and a system of transit zones was implemented. Now these two transit zones remain the only place where migrants can legally enter the country, in Röszke and Tompa.