Publication: The Sunday Times

Full Citation

  • Title Hungary widens door to West
  • Publication Title The Sunday Times
  • Collection The Sunday Times Digital Archive, 1822-2006
  • Date Sunday,  Aug. 6, 1989
  • Issue Number 8608
  • Page Number 17
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Times Newspapers Limited
  • Copyright Statement © Times Newspapers Limited.
Hungary widens door to West THE Berlin' Wall may still stand but there are growing cracks at the edges. In a remarkable turnaround, Hungary has changed its pol - icy towards refugees, offering holidaying East Germans the temptation of a possible escape route to the West, writes Peter Millar. Since May, when Hungary began dismantling its border fence with Austria — a gilded piece of which was presented to President George Bush dur - ing his visit to Budapest last month as a token of the coun - try 's new openness — the Hungarians have had an am - biguous policy, allowing some through to the West but halt - ing many others. Nearly 200 East Germans have used a holiday in the "fraternal socialist state" to flee to Austria. But a further 600 have been apprehended by frontier guards and sent back with a stamp in their passport that spells disaster should they re - turn to East Germany. West German spokesmen warned that going from Hungary to Austria was "still not just a walk in the woods". Last week, however, Judith Todt, of the Hungarian in - terior ministry's refugee office, said a law was being drafted to fall into line with the United Nations refugee convention which Budapest signed last June. This obliges countries not to send home people who can prove "well-founded fear" that they would suffer persecution for political opinions. East Germans would, therefore, not be sent back automatically be - fore a fair hearing. The decision is particularly good news for 150 East Ger - mans who have taken refuge in Bonn's Budapest embassy rather than go home to find they have lost jobs and future travel possibilities, and may face imprisonment Todt said camps set up to house the flood of ethnic Hungarians fleeing Romania would be open to all refugees. She "could imagine" Hungary might eventually grant East Germans refugee status. Bonn has greeted the move but warned it is not a guar - antee of acceptance as a refu - gee . Jean-Pierre Hocke, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has been urged to seek clarification on visiting Budapest this week. To travel to Hungary, East Germans must acquire a pass - port and exit visa. The only country they can visit freely — simply having to show an identity card — is equally repressive Czecho - slovakia . Travel to Poland came to a virtual halt after the rise of Solidarity in 1980. Any West German embassy has a constitutional obligation to give an East German a passport on demand, but the Hungarians have refused to recognise that as valid. One West German news - paper printed a poignant re - mark from a young East German who holidayed regu - larly in Hungary: "We come to a fork in the road and there is a signpost pointing left to Vi - enna and right to Bratislava (in Czechoslovakia). "Every time I have to turn right although I would rather turn left to Vienna, and that reminds me that I am not a free man." The new Hungarian attitude is expected to lead to a drastic reduction in East Germans permitted to travel there. East Germany's hardline leadership under Erich Honecker has consistently re - acted to cracks in the wall by pouring on cement