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Hungarian journalist Petra Laszlo caught tripping Syrian refugees on camera

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

The video begins with hundreds of desperate migrants running across the Serbian border into Hungary, one step closer to a country that might shelter them. Many of these people have escaped from Syria, home to perhaps the world's most devastating war, and just want to get past the crushing police presence at the border and into the European Union. Imagine witnessing all of that, and then doing what this camerawoman does in this video:

That's right: She sees a Syrian father carrying his child, and decides the best thing to do is to trip him. Other points in the video show her kicking other refugees, including children.

It seems, and is, inhuman. And it also speaks to some major, major issues in Hungary — and some of the reasons why migrants into Europe are being treated so badly.

This camerawoman is part of Hungary's far-right movement

Literally the world's worst human.


The camerawoman's name is reportedly Petra Laszlo, and the Syrian father and son she attacks are Osama and Zaid Muhsen.

And they're not even the only refugees Laszlo attacked. She launched what the Associated Press describes as "karate-style kicks" at "a young man and a pony-tailed teenage girl."

Laszlo was reportedly fired by her employer, N1TV, afterward. But maybe N1TV shouldn't have been surprised by her behavior: It's a nationalist outlet that's generally identified with Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, which is very hostile to immigration of all kinds.

Jobbik opposed the construction of a new transit zone for refugees in Budapest that would give them access to running water and toilets, arguing (shades of Trump here) that the city should "spend the money on buses transporting the migrants away rather than building a transit zone." It has proposed stripping voting rights from refugees who are granted asylum in Hungary. It rose to prominence on nasty anti-Roma and anti-Semitic rhetoric. In 2012, Jobbik's leader called for the country to put together a list of Jews who posed a "national security risk" to Hungary.

And here's the scary thing: Jobbik is hardly an unpopular fringe movement in Hungary. In the 2014 parliamentary election, they won 20 percent of the national vote. They've been a force pulling Hungary's already right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban, and Hungarian politics even further to the right.

The story of the Muhsens

The backstory of the Syrian father and son makes Laszlo's attack even more unconscionable. Osama and Zaid Muhsen are Syrians, fleeing both regime violence and ISIS. They initially settled in Turkey, but saw no real future for themselves there — so they went to Europe in search of something better.

Their story was reported in full by the excellent Dubai-based journalist Jenan Moussa, of Al-Aan TV, who tweeted a series of highlights from her conversation with them:

This is in line with Hungary's anti-refugee politics and policies

Migrants walk toward a pickup point in Hungary.

(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A lot of refugees trying to get into Hungary don't even want to stay there: They're trying to pass through to Germany or another, friendlier European country. This isn't surprising: Hungary's government is viciously, openly hostile to migrants of all kinds.

Attempting to cross the border is, to begin with, a miserable experience. "People are kept in pens like animals, out in the sun without food and water, without any medical assistance," Human Rights Watch's emergencies director, Peter Bouckaert, said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Once migrants are in the country, the opportunities are scant. "If we stay in Hungary there is no work," Azad Darwish, a 23-year-old, told the New York Times. "We can’t study. The language is very strange, and they’re not helping refugees."

This refusal to welcome refugees is, to be clear, a matter of policy. Since the refugee crisis began, Prime Minister Orban has been consistently opposed to letting more refugees into Hungary. He's built a razor-wire fence on the country's southern border, and made going around the fence a crime punishable by imprisonment. Train service to Germany has been suspended, in order to deter migrants from even entering Hungary. Orban's avowed goal is to stop all refugees from crossing over into Hungary.

"For us, Europe is at stake today; Europeans’ way of life; European values; the survival or demise of European nations, or rather, their transformation beyond recognition," Orban said in a July speech.

Once you understand that this is the man making policy, the miserable experience for migrants crossing over into Hungary — and that they were stampeding away from police in the first place — starts to make more sense. Geographically, Hungary is a useful waypoint for migrants into the European Union. But politically, it's a nightmare.

Why Hungary is so awful to refugees

Viktor Orban.

(Matej Divizna/Getty Images)

Anti-refugee sentiment exists across Europe, and has for some time. As Amanda Taub explains, the notion that migrants represent a threat to the fundamentals of European values is unfortunately common.

But Orban represents something scarier: genuine authoritarianism. He's cracked down on freedom of the press, and called for turning Hungary into an "illiberal" state. He openly admires Vladimir Putin as a model. "He is the only Putinist governing in the European Union," Joschka Fischer, a former German foreign minister and liberal activist, told the New York Times.

Orban wasn't always this way: In 1989 he was a pro-democracy, anti-communist agitator. He explains his new vision as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, which he sees as evidence of the failure of liberal politics. "What we should instead view as our starting point is the great redistribution of global financial, economic, commercial, political, and military power that became obvious in 2008," he said in a 2014 address.

Orban's illiberalism and far-right politics express themselves in many ways; one of them is his nationalistic embrace of "Christian" and "European values" and an overt hostility to refugees. Despite his radical views, or perhaps because of them, Orban held onto power in Hungary's elections last year.

And there's even scarier news: 2015 polls have found Jobbik to be the most popular opposition party. Increasingly, it's looking like the alternative to Orban isn't a liberal party but a party that's even further to the anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant hard right — the party of people like N1TV camerawoman Petra Laszlo.

And that's what makes Orban's anti-immigrant stance especially troubling: It's radical and immoral, but seemingly effective politically. Orban is marrying nativism with economic anxiety, and doing it in the service of avowedly authoritarian politics. If that sounds a little fascist, that's because it kind of is.

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