Thousands of Hungarians are taking part in a crowd-funding project to poke fun at a government-sponsored billboard campaign targeting asylum seekers.
The Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party, which is organizing the funding push, has raised 32 million forint ($117,000) from as many as 7,000 people, Gergely Kovacs, the president of the satirical movement, said by phone Wednesday. That’s enough to erect as many as 800 billboards, and they should start going up in July, he said.
“We’d like to make sure that the government’s campaign won’t be successful,” Kovacs said. “There are a number of issues that the government would rather not talk about, and a few of the billboards will be dedicated to those.”
With debate raging over the biggest wave of migrants to enter the European Union since the 1990s, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has erected 1,000 billboards to tell asylum-seekers to stick to local laws and not take jobs from Hungarians. The UN reacted by putting up its own posters in Budapest subways to highlight the positive contribution of immigrants. The cabinet also announced plans to build a 4-meter-high (13 feet) fence along its southern border with Serbia to keep migrants out, irking its Balkan neighbor.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic rebuked Hungary for its decision on Wednesday, saying building fences isn’t the answer and compared the decision to creating World War II era concentration camps.
“Serbia will not close itself in, we will not live in Auschwitz,” Vucic told his country’s state television station RTS from Oslo.
Hungary has defended its actions, saying it already handles a disproportionately large number of migrants. The number of border violators will top 60,000 by end of this month, ruling party parliamentary leader Antal Rogan told state TV on Wednesday. That compares with 43,000 such cases in all of 2014. The cabinet estimates as many as 130,000 undocumented immigrants will arrive in Hungary this year.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his government’s billboards portray the country as “open and friendly,” he told state radio June 12. In the same interview, he said they are also aimed at smugglers and immigrants, with a message that “you don’t stand a chance in staying here.”
The immigrant debate has flared after the conflicts in Syria and Libya triggered a spike in immigration that saw EU member states taking in 185,000 asylum seekers in 2014, an increase of almost 50 percent from 2013. Bulgaria has also started to build a fence on its southern frontier with Turkey.
The Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party, which has previously ridiculed populist policies by promising voters a lifetime of free beer, would like to “tone down” the depiction of Hungary as a country intolerant of immigrants, Kovacs said. The government should rather concentrate on issues that really matter, such as fighting corruption, he said.