“Hungary Helps Program is an Outstanding Initiative”

“Europe does not have the capacity to take repeated mass waves of immigration,” according to Jennifer S. Bryson, an expert in Terrorism & Radical Ideologies National Security at Hudson Institute. The American analyst, - who used to work as an interrogator at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps for two years -, praised the Hungarian government’s asylum policy and the Hungary Helps Program at last week’s international conference on Christian prosecution (ICCP).

“Hungary Helps Program is an Outstanding Initiative”
„Being against illegal immigration is not being anti-immigrant, because illegal migration puts immigrants themselves in a terrible situation”
Fotó: MH/Katona László

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban said at the second International Conference on Christian Persecution, the Christian culture is currently under attack. How big is the threat to the European Christianity?

In the view of many Europeans, there are two threats to Christians in Europe. There is the anti-religious secularism and the Muslims. But we have to note that not all of the immigrants who are coming from Muslim majority countries to Europe are necessarily a threat. Some of them are fleeing from ISIS and thus some of them are Muslims who hate the extremists. But it’s complicated. This year I translated a report by the German government about antisemitism among Islamists in Germany, which was very interesting to me, because Germany specifically identified that they need to take the integration of the immigrant population seriously to prevent the growing threat to the Jewish minority in Germany.

Europe is divided on the issue of migration, in Western Europe and in the institutions of the EU the Hungarian government is often attacked for its anti-immigration measures. What do you think about the Hungarian migration policy?

I admire Hungary for defending its own culture. It is a very different situation for example in Germany, because they let in so many migrants over the years. They can’t go back to defending some older concept of being a German, and it is also a really sensitive issue there, because of their 20th century history. However, Hungary still has the opportunity to defend its own culture and it is also very important that Hungary is defending its own language. If you have too many immigrants too fast, they are less likely to learn the local language, and if your children don’t know your own language, you lose your culture. Countries are completely legitimate to say, if you come here, we actually have some expectations. I don’t understand how the fabric of society can hold together in a country, where they’re letting in limitless immigrants with no plan for what they’re going to do with them.

Some immigrants in Europe are unable or unwilling to integrate. For example, they do not know the language of the host country, cannot find a job, only have contact with their own community, which is often leading to the emergence of parallel societies. How can a country made the integration more effective to solve this problem?

Language instruction should be a priority and this may include creating financial incentives. For example, giving financial awards for doing well on language tests. I also think that the children in these parallel societies are very isolated, and governments have got to take education in those settings incredibly seriously. If those children don’t learn the language and don’t learn about the society of the host country, they don’t feel that they have a future there and that’s dangerous.

What do you think, what would be a reasonable answer to immigration in European level?

Europe needs to look at the immigration problem in two ways at the same time. One is dealing with the current situation of the populations who are in their country, including those who came recently. Besides Europe has to think very seriously about the future of immigration. I think Europe does not have the capacity to take repeated mass waves of immigration. The Europeans need to consider security cooperation on the southern border, including the Mediterranean Sea. Some European countries aren’t taking questions of securing borders seriously, which I think they should. Illegal immigration is bad for immigrants and bad for the receiving country. Being against illegal immigration is not being anti-immigrant, because illegal migration puts immigrants themselves in a terrible situation.

At the conference on Christian Persecution in Budapest, the Hungary Helps program was also discussed. What do you think about the measures taken by the Hungarian government to support Christian communities?

I think Hungary Helps program is amazing. One of the things I like so much about it is that it’s trying to help the Christian minorities where they are. Displacement of populations is bad for those who are displaced and it can be a problem for the receiving population. I think Hungary Helps is very strategic because Christianity is an ancient part of the Middle East and by preserving these communities, you preserve an important part of the fabric of these societies. I also saw a statement by the Hungarian foreign minister that European stability is linked to the stability in the Middle East and Africa. I think it’s very smart to look at it that way and not just say that’s far away and don’t think about it. Fostering stability there, like what Hungary is doing with the Hungary Helps, is helping people who are in need but it’s also strategic.

What could inspire a person, who is living in the Western world, in a democracy, to join a jihadist group in the Middle East?

Most of those who went to the Middle East and joined the ISIS were young people. Young males have a huge amount of energy and that energy needs to have somewhere to go. If they can’t find a constructive place to go, they’re going to find a negative path. Poverty itself is not a single cause of terrorism, there are many wealthy and educated people who become terrorist leaders, because they get caught up in these ideas of liberation, utopia, perfection. For a young person who’s confused and who doesn’t have an alternative these violent extremist groups could sound very exciting.

Turkey started to send back home foreign citizens who are being held in Turkish prisons because of their link to the Islamic State. What can a country do to defend its security?

One of the options that some countries have taken is to revoke those people’s citizenship. It does mean these people will become somebody else’s problem but it also sends a message to other people who are thinking to join a jihadist group in another country, that there will be consequences. There need to be a lot of tools in the toolbox, and one of them is revoking citizenship. There are also young people who get involved in these situations and start to realize: maybe my future is not going to be with these violent people. I think it’s worth pursuing ways to offer those young people opportunities with accountability to see if they’re serious about wanting to open a new path. It’s incredibly important to offer a way out for those who seriously want a way out.