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Chapter VIII
Imigrants, Immigrants, and Refugees

Historical experience shows that mass demographic movements (population exchanges, mass expulsions, exodus) have not provided a solution in this region to the problems of either the interested states or the national and ethnic communities within them. While we recognize this fact we cannot condemnl the individuals who emigrate voluntarily particularly if their condition has become unbearable or if they face serious danger because of their minority status. In the present century, the third wave of emigration from Romania has now reached Hungary.

The first exodus took place in the period following World War I when according to the records of the National Refugee Office, some 197,000 Hungarians fled from Romania between 1918 and 1924. They were followed by an additional 169,000 refufees emigrating to Hungary at a slower rate between 1924 and 1940. [118] Of the above the largest number of Hungariauns left Romania during the eighteen months between the end of the war and the signing of the Treaty of Trianon. At that time the fate of Transylvania and the legal status of its Hungarian nationality were still uncertain.

Hardly had a generation passed, during which the experiences of the first exodus still lived in the collective memory, when the Vienna Award of 1940 reannexed northem Transylvania to Hungary, leaving southern Transylvaluia as part of Romania.[119] Neither of the two regions was ethnically homogeneous and in the days following the Vienna decision thousands of Romanians and Hungarians left the divided Transylvanian territories in order to establish themselves in their mother countly or in a region contiguous with it. Between 1940 and 1944, about 200,000 Hungarians migrated to Hungary and to northem Tnuisylvania. They fled from intensifying persecution and the foreseeable oppression from the Romanian administration which they had experienced during the past 22 years.[120] Many of the first wave refugees who had earlier emigrated to Hungary now chose to return to their former home in Transylvania. After World War II, some of them remained pemianent residents of Transylvania, which now again came under Romanian rule. Others joined the hundred thousand or so refugees fleeing once more towards Hungary and the West. The present period is witnessing the peak of the third wave of emigration.

Romania's current actual emigration policy seems to contradict its stated principles. One of Romania's primary objectives is to encourage population increase by any means. Official demographic policy tries to limit would-be emigrants in general.

The Intemational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by Romania in 1974 provides in Article 12 that: "Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own."[121] Yet, emigration is strictly limited in Romania. Those applying for permission to emigrate face immediate dismissal from their jobs, as well as harassment and, occasionally, imprisonment. According to Amnesty International's July 1987 report on Romania hundreds of people have been imprisoned for seeking to exercise their right to leave the country.[122]

The Romanian criminal code, which runs counter to the intemational covenant signed by Romania, stipulates in Article 245 that any plan or intention to illegally cross the border qualifies as an attempted bordercrossing and the perpetrator is liable to imprisonment from six months to t hree years. In the majority of the cases known to Amnesty International, persons who attempted to cross the border illegally were those who had earlier been harassed because of their religious, ideological, or political convictions. For this reason Amnesty Intemational recognizes them as political prisoners and takes them under its protection.[123]

Romanian border guards have, on numerous occasions, shot down people attempting to flee across the border. On May 29, 1987, for example, 28-year-old Lionte Gheorghe was shot dead on Hungarian territory by a Romanian soldier who pursued him across the border. Several such deaths have also been reported on the border between Romania and Yugoslavia. All this, however, does not deter those who are determined to leave the country. In 1986, according to some Bucharest sources, the number of unanswered applications for emigration was more than 70,000. Yet an other source dating from 1985 reported about a million and a half such applications. [124]

Romanian policy towards those wishing to exercise their right to leave the country is not uniform. The motto employed earlier by the Iron Guard "Romania without Jews and Magyars! " (Vrem Romania fara unguri si fara jidani!) has now been simplified to A Romanian Romania!. Applications for emigration by minorities living in Romania are considered on the basis of different criteria. Jewish and German applicants fall under one category and Hungarians under another.

In 1930 the Jews comprised 5% of the Romanian population. This proportion was greatly reduced by the Holocaust, and the numbers of the survivors were reduced even further by officially supported emigration. This exodus is now coming to an end. In a country where anti-Semitism has deep historical roots, the government wants to expedite the emigration of the small Jewish community in Romania for two reasons. On the one hand, the ideal of a "Romanian Romania" will come closer to being realized; on the other, the "head money" paid by Israel (and by the Federal Republic of Gennany) for each Jewish emigrant constitutes a special source of income for the Romanian state. [125]

In 1930, there were 760,687 Germans in Romania. Over the course of half a century their number has been drastically decreased. The census data of 1977 shows that they have been reduced to 332,000 by that year. [126] During the present decade, about 15 thousand Germans have been leaving Romania legally every year. Under an unofficial agreement, for permission to leave Rornania, the Federal Republic of Gennany pays DM 10,000 for an active adult, DM 6,000 for an old-age pensioner, and DM 4,000 for a child.[127] According to international press sources, Israel pays $5,000 for a university graduate and $2,500 for a Romanian Jew having completed a course of vocational training.[128]

The number of those leaving the country legally has demonstrably increased under U.S. pressure, since the granting of most-favored-nation status to Romania was made subject to the promotion of emigration. In accordance with its ideology envisaging a homogeneous state entirely Rornanian in both language and nationality, the nationalist regime is interested in seeing that the various minorities leave the country. This solution is not feasible in the case of Hungarians because they constitute a significant proportion of the total population. However, one of the sophisticated measures of denationalization is the promotion of selective emigration. While, for example, the very intention of emigrating leads to serious retaliation for the average person, in January, 1986, a prominent representative of the Hungarians of Transylvania, Geza Szocs, was told by the police that "his safety could not be ensured" any longer, and that "it would be better" for him to leave the country. [129] In the case of persons of distinction. expulsion from the country has proven expedient. This is another disguised method which aims at the complete elimination of the intelligentsia, the leaders of the minorities. Since the middle of 1985, some Hungarians of Romania have found ways to flee to the West through Hungary. Later, following the closing of the Austrian border, most remained in Hungary, since the Hungarian authorities did not compel them to return to Romania when their passports expired. Although ostensibly the Romanian authorities do not approve of emigration, during this period they have issued passports in large numbers to intellectuals whom, in many cases, they had earlier denied the right to go abroad. In this way they have virtually encouraged them to leave.

Conscious selectivity is also demonstrated by the fact that ethnic Romanians who also flee in equally large numbers (many Romanian families are now seeking to settle in Hungary), encounter more difficulty in obtaining the necessary passport. Most likely this is also influenced by the forms of flight. It varies from one social stratum to another, with intellectuals possessing a passport and choosing the legal emigration route, while desperate and helpless lower-strata individuals are more apt to resort to illegal border crossings.

Since neither the Romanian nor the Hungarian government publishes regular statistics on emigration and immigration, we can only rely upon occasional ad hoc revelations and estimates based onl them.

According to an official Hungarian statement of January 28, 1988, the number of applications for resettlement received from persons residing in Romania was 1,709 in 1985, 3,284 in 1986, and 6,499 in 1987. About 80% of these requests have been granted. Thus, the total number of immigrants from Romania increased by more than 50% in 1987. Over a period of five years, Hungary received 17,000 applications for resettlement, 91% of them from people living in neighboring countries, including more than 40% from Romania. On the other hand, the number of registered immiqrants is now 25,000, i.e., 8,000 more than the number of applicants. [130]

According to the spokesman for the Hungarian govenment, those who emigrated from Romania in the past few years did so for reasons of family reunification. (Repatriation, i.e., the "homecoming" of persons born in Hungary virtually came to an end as far back as 1979. [131] In most cases, family reunification disguises nominal rnarriage, although the number of those resorting to this tactic is on the decrease. Until quite recently the situation of irmmigrants, except for those receiving special privileges from the Hungarian authorities, has not been satisfactory. Up until early 1988, they were not assisted in their social and economic adjustment by any official institution, organization, or welfare agency. Instead, they were left to manage on their own in a country grappling with inflation and a serious housing shortage. Consequently, these immigrants were given a mixed reception by society, which has not always been characterized by solidarity. To complicate matters, the majority of those arriving in Hungary are intellectuals. They have fled from cultural degradation, spurred by the desire to provide a more tolerant setting for their children's future.

From June 1985 to October 28, 1986, persons in possession of Romanian passports were allowed to proceed on to Austria by Hungarian border guards. Until quite recently, Austrian refugee authorities also processed Romanan refugees rapidly and efficiently. However, it is not known what destinations they have been directed to and in what numbers.

Romanians and Hungarians of Romania have attempted to leave for the West across the Yugoslav-Hungarian border. This proved a feasible route for a few months in the summer of 1987. Those who were successful placed themselves under the protechon of the Belgrade Office of the United Natiions High Commissioner for Refugees. Those who failed to reach this destination were expelled by the Yugoslavian authorities.

A third avenue of escape is possible because Sweden does not require visas. A Swedish airline ticket sent by mail or purchased with foreign currency in Budapest enables its holder to travel to the West. This escape route has been resorted to by many, mainly with the aid of Hungarians living in Sweden

An ever growing number of people are staying in Hungary illegally, without official documents and without a valid passport. These are people who have either not succeeded in continuing on to other destiations or whose original intention was to remain in Hungary. Many of these people do not wish to continue on to the West even if they were in a position to do so. Among the most emphatic reasons given for their having come to Hungary are the increasing ruthless oppression and the hopeless economic situation in Romania. Until late 1987 it was somewhat easier for these people to find employment in the second economy. A more difficult problem is to obtatin a fictitious declaration of sponsorship by a family and the acquisition of a real home The new tax regu1ation of 1988 has also made it more difficult to provide work opportunities for these people Since early 1988, however, the Hungarian authorities have been issuing work permits to them in incleasing numbers

The onny authority dealing with foreigners in Hungary has thus far been KEOKH, the Aliens Registration Office of the Ministry of the Interior. In many cases, it has prolonged the residence permits of those who stay in Hungary when their passport has expired. At the end of December 1987, for 160 Romania citizens residing in Hungary, it stamped into their passports a short-term "exit permit for one occasion" valid at Romanian border stations At the same time it cancelled the residence permits of several others, whch was taunamount to an expulsion order. As far as is known, twelve of the individuals dealt with in this menner retured to Romania and nothing is known about their fate as yet. Refugees apprehended at the border by Romanian authorities are sent to a labor camp allegedly set up near Timisoara. Two refugees - four, according to another source - were beaten to death by the militia recently. [132]

Hungarian public Opinion responded to the news of the expulsions with letters of protest. In letters addressed to the Prime Minister, some raised their voices against the occurrences and expressed the hope that Hungarian society would embrace the cause of those in hiding and will help them find refuge in Hungary. The harsh measures were deemed an abuse of official authority, and the responsible officials of KEOKH were relieved of their posts

Until recently Hungarian society has lacked private efforts to address social problems. The influx of refugees has spurred the emergence of spontaneous non-govenmental organizations to assist the rapidly increasing number of refugees. These newly established charitable organizations as well as initiatives on the part of private individuals and various church groups emerged around the end of 1987 and beginning of 1988. Clergy men and laymen representing the Lutheran. Calvinist, Catholic, and other denominations have tried, to the best of their abilities, to promote in an organized manner the housing of refugees and the provision of food and clothing for them The churches have also assisted the refugees in solving the problems of resettlement and integration into Hungarian society. [133] A non-govenmental social agency, the Asylum Committe. was established in January 1988. It has called on the Hungarian govenment and Hungarian society, as well as foreign countries to assist them in addressing the Romanian refugee problem. They have tried to coordinate the efforts of all countries in the path of the exodus from Romania. [134] To this end the Committee has already taken the first step to help the refugees.

At the same time, on the governmental level, the chairman of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee has reiterated that necessary measures will be taken to normalize the situation of those possessing valid travel documents who wish to remain in Hungary. The Hungarian government has appropriated 300 million forints establishing a special fund to provide relief for immigrants. An interdepartmental committee has also been formed to deal with the affairs of foreign citizens desiring to resettle in Hungary. Furthermore the Hungarian Red Cross is taking on an ever growing share of the implementation of assistance programs. [135] While the Hutigariall govenunent seeks to solve the problem primarily ttuougil its OWIl efforts. it does not n le oul supporl from abroad as well.


The ever-growing number of Hungarian refugees fleeing from Romania lays before us bewildering examples of the drama of an entire ethnic community's struggle for survival. The Hungarians of Romania live under the double pressure of political and national oppression enforced by an anti-democratic system enslaved by its own extremism. This explains the absurdity - at the end of the 20th century - that people who have lived in their own homeland for more than a thousand years are now facing, in that land the prospects of inevitable emigration or forced assimilation. The more than two million Hungarians of Romsuna, taken as a whole, do not have the option to emigrate but neither do they want to be assimilated. These two considerations lead to one positive certainty: that the chauvinistic state policy of Romania cannot, for a foreseeable future liquidate the ethnic communities by the methods described above. Their collective existence, nonetheless, is in much greater danger today than at any time in past history. They are unable to control their own destiny or to envisage any future. They are exposed to the despotism of an extreme natiolialist diciatorship reminiscent of fascism in both its attiaides and methods. In such a situatio, the Hungarins of Romania can expect assistance only from outsiders, from Hungary and Hungarian society, from the collectivity of European states whic have defined the values of law and humanity in a joint declaration, and from all democratic govenments and social and intellectual forces ready and able to act in their interest.

One must not forget that the present rnass exodus is only a symptom of the general political ills of Romania. Only by removing these ills ca Rornania change in the direction of democracy. The interests of Romanian, Hungarian and other Central and East European democratic forces coincide in the promotion of such a development

The critical change in the situation of the Hungarian minority of Romania also draws attention to the pressing tasks facing the Hungarian State and Hungarian society In accordance with its actul national interests and in line with the norms of international law, Hungary must act decisively and with resolve to defend the Hungarian minority under attack. Systematic solicitude for the Hungarian minority must become part of a comprehensive national strategy, which only an increasingly democratic and renewed Hungary will be able to sustain with success on the international level. The meetings of the Hungarian Democratic Forum. [136] as well as other non-governmental initiatives on the part of citizens, have recently demonstrated that different groups and institutions of Hungarian society seek an active and autonomous role in defending the interests of minorities

The ongoing annihilation of the Hungarian minority's culture in Romania represents a deliberate refutation of the universal human values forged by the community of nations over tbe centuries. The authors of this study acknowledge with gratitude the stand taken in the past few years by important international forums, significant national-political institutions, as well as prominent leaders in many parts of the world, against the policies that have led to the tragic human rights violations in Romania. In situations suc as this, responsibility must rest with mankind as a whole The tragic historical examples of our own century amply demonstrate that this responsibility cannot and must not be declined by referring to the exclusive domestic jurisdiction of the concemed state. The fate of minorities within the borders of any state are no longer simply a domestic concern. In the context of global interdependence their fate has become a common concern!

In the days to come the need for mobilizing Hungarian and international public opinion will, in all probability, become even greater. The extreme jeopardy of the ethntic Hungarians in Romania demands our attention and organizational commitment

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