Statement by Ambassador Colleen Bell in Szeged

The beautiful city of Szeged has welcomed me today, and shown me its extraordinary culture, its vibrant business community, its historic synagogue, and its marvelous university.  I have also met some of Szeged’s people, who are extremely hospitable — I thank you all for your generosity in welcoming me to your city, and inviting me to get to know the people of Szeged better.

I have heard from many citizens of this community – among other things, I have heard their perspectives on the situation of those people who, in search of a better life, are crossing the border here in southern Hungary.  There are many of them here near Szeged, and near other communities like yours, all across Europe.  There are legal, logistical, security and – of course – humanitarian issues involved.  I appreciate the dedication and professionalism of those in Szeged who are working hard to address these challenges under difficult conditions.

Immigration policy is a matter for each country to decide, in accordance with its obligations under international laws and treaties.

But I also share President Obama’s views that we should choose our rhetoric about migrants carefully, make our policies thoughtfully, and treat migrants with dignity and humanity. As the President has said, “Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And … it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.”

People who have been uprooted deserve more than food, shelter, and medical care. They deserve dignity and respect and the opportunity to build a better future.  As Secretary of State Kerry said this week, on the occasion of World Refugee Day, “For those scattered by violence and oppression, the United States is and will remain their most fervent defender. … We have a duty to the millions stranded away from home, not just to preserve life, but to safeguard hope.”

Assistance makes a difference, and it improves global stability.  Helping uprooted people is not just an act of charity for people far away, whose problems will never touch us.  It is an investment in stability everywhere.

In Szeged, as in every place in Europe, and in every country around the world that wants to do the right thing, we can all do our part.  I applaud the efforts of everyone in this community who works to ensure that humanitarian care is available to migrants, and who works to get resources and services to those who need it.

Thank you for your warm welcome in Szeged, and for respectfully sharing your views with me.