June 12, 2015 / 1:36 AM / 4 years ago

'Hungarians come home!' Group mocks Hungary's anti-immigrant drive

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A spoof Hungarian political party is mocking the government’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, suggesting its first priority should be to encourage droves of Hungarian job-seekers who have emigrated to come home.

Government billboards vilifying immigrants destroyed by opposition activists are seen in Budapest, Hungary, June 10, 2015. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban has raised a furore at home and abroad with tough rhetoric on immigration at a time when his Fidesz party has been haemorrhaging support to the far-right, eurosceptic, anti-foreigner Jobbik party.

Last month Orban linked migration to terrorism in a voter survey on the subject, drawing a condemnation by the United Nations human rights office.

Orban’s government also has launched a billboard campaign suggesting immigration threatens jobs with slogans like “If you come to Hungary you cannot take away Hungarians’ jobs” or “If you come to Hungary you must respect our culture”.

To Gergo Kovacs, a former street artist who founded the spoof group Two-Tailed Dog Party, this was the last straw.

He began a two-week crowd-funding drive this week to fund his own giant posters, poking fun at the government’s inability to stop Hungarian job seekers from emigrating at a time when it wants to stop immigration.

“Do come to Hungary, we already work in England,” a digital mockup of one of the posters says. “If you leave Hungary, please come back at some point.”

The posters were an instant hit on Facebook and within two days Kovacs had collected more than 25 million forints ($90,000). He says that if he can raise 60 million forints his campaign could match the government’s in scope.

“(Orban’s party) Fidesz has picked on drug addicts, gays, the homeless,” Kovacs said. “Solidarity is weak enough in Hungary. A government should know better than to worsen it.”

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs, no relation to Gergo, said the official billboards were designed to boost participation in the immigration voter survey. It was sent to 8 million Hungarians and some 500,000 have returned it so far.

“Xenophobia is no stronger in Hungary than in other EU nations,” Kovacs told Reuters.

The central statistics office said that at least 31,500 Hungarians left the country in 2014, 46 percent more than in 2013. The pollster Tarki said one in ten Hungarians planned to emigrate, by far the highest figure since the 1989 fall of Communism.

Estimates vary about the number of Hungarians living abroad, but tens of thousands probably live in London alone. Kovacs says he will put up a giant poster in London and also one in Berlin at the request of donors there.

Editing by Mike Roddy and Mark Heinrich

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