Thinking through Germany, Hungary and the refugees.

There seems to be a big sigh of relief right now as, according to a quick media check, something under 10,000 refugees and migrants arrived on Saturday in their hoped for promised land, Germany. The relief comes as Austria and Germany opened their borders to these unfortunate souls in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

What a luxury, the ability to say “Sure, let them in, we’ll help.”

None of the countries along the way have had such a luxury. Greece (who as one commenter in an earlier post noted: has received 250k) Macedonia, Serbia and then finally (EU and Schengen Treaty bound) Hungary found their borders overrun. As many as 3000 unfortunates per day crossed the borders, rode trains along this swelling river of humanity until they arrived in a lake.

A lake of refugees that was created when EU and Schengen rules confused by EU states’ disunity and, frankly, fear soaked governmental ineptitude held them in Hungary.

So Hungary is the location of this lake of humanity. For months they came, long before the crisis drew the rapt attention of the West’s short attention spanned press. They arrived with stories that will break your heart. But they arrived in countries filled with similar stories. Don’t be fooled, the countries these people came through have, in the last 100 years, plenty of similar stories. They have had more than their share of war, civil war and oppression. These countries have been and are experiencing incredible economic hardship.

There is a railroad track that connects Subotica, Serbia with Szeged, Hungary. Many media outlets have shown film and photos of migrants walking along this stretch of track, now littered with trash. I ride trains on this stretch several times a year. On the Serbian stretch of the journey the single car train travels about 10mph because the track conditions are so bad. Presumably Serbia cannot afford upgrades. This is to illustrate that the migrants are traveling from war through poverty to the West. But first they enter the EU and Schengen Zone through Hungary. Who is a country bound by multiple treaties to receive, process and hold these unfortunates, thus the lake of habitual developed as people were not allowed to leave their country of entry.

Those gates opened yesterday and it seems between six and ten thousand went through.

Meanwhile, in all likelihood another 2-3000 arrived in the lake from the south. (See EuroNews video below)

The AP reported that an Austrian police spokesman, facing 12k people since yesterday stated that there are rules… “But now at this moment, in this outstanding situation, we cannot handle the procedure, we cannot register all the refugees.” Huh, how about that?

NPR just reported that the migrants are boarding trains but had to change trains at the border. The correspondent implied things in Budapest are calmer.

But this crisis is far from over. With the situation in the Middle East being what it is, this river of humanity will continue to flow. And winter is coming.

The Hungarian government has been all over the place regarding statements made by Orban and then the police and railway policies that seem to change daily. Mr. Orban’s fence is nearly completed and he plans police and army patrols. (see EuroNews video) Is stopping the flow into Hungary the answer? No, this will only create more problems in Serbia, Romania and Croatia.

Leadership is lacking at every governmental level: Local, national and EU. But before you get on your high horse, remember that this, like all of the conduit nations, is a small country with limited resources (that are not managed very well) and a population that is struggling economically.

Cut Hungarians some slack. Thousands of regular folks are reaching out to and feeding and clothing these migrants and war refugees. People are giving of their resources and their time.

Let’s see how the Germans are doing in January IF they receive the 200,000+ migrants that are in the lake and on their way now. Then we will need to cut them some slack as they deal with such a huge influx of humanity. It isn’t hard to predict a possible ouster of the Merkel government once all this settles in on the Geman public who will feel the strain that Hungarians feel now.

Let’s take in the big picture that has been going on for months. This crisis didn’t just start two weeks ago. It won’t be gone when Western reporters go to the next big thing because the attention span of their editors is so short. But the flow of people along that slow track will probably continue. I bet I’ll meet some of them later this month.

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