In the light of widespread hostility to Syrian, other Middle Eastern and African refugees in Europe and America today, it is instructive to remember that mass migration and refugee movements used to involve mainly people from Europe. For example, Hungary, even though it has closed its borders completely against Syrian refugees now, was once the source of one of the biggest refugee outflows anywhere within the past 60 years.

IOM (International Organization for Migration) reminds us that it helped resettle nearly 200,000 Hungarian refugees who fled to nearby European countries after the Soviet invasion of 1956. It reports that by 1970, it had assisted over 2 million migrants, most of them from Europe.

IOM states:

"...reminding Hungary and other Europeans of their own history as desperate migrants and refugees is sometimes casually dismissed...but the main compelling reason why yesteryear and today's refugees and migrants are desperately migrating in numbers remains the same. Self preservation."


The US was also more generous in taking in Hungarian refugees at the time of the Soviet invasion than it is now with regard to the Syrian refugee crisis. According to a declassified 1958 CIA study: Report on Hungarian Refugees, by Guy E. Coriden, 35,000 Hungarian refugees were relocated to Camp Kilmer, NJ, for processing and eventual resettlement in the US.

The CIA report welcomed the fact that so many of the refugees were young men who would be able to contribute to American society (and hopefully provide valuable intelligence), even though it also recognized that some of them might be Soviet agents assigned to report on the activities of genuine refugees.



Anyone who thinks for a moment that that time, nearly 60 years ago, was less dangerous for America and the world than the present time, or that vigilance toward refugees for security reasons was any less necessary then than it is now, knows nothing about the cold war, one of the most dangerous periods in our entire history.

That fact that times were "different" in the 1950's from the present is not sufficient to explain the contrasting receptions given to European refugees from Russian domination and Communism then, and Syrian refugees from a Russian-backed dictatorship and Islamist extremism now.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas, green cards and US citizenship. His email is