Hungarian Uprising 50th anniversary marked by UNHCR

Briefing Notes, 10 October 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 October 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The 50th anniversary of the start of the Hungarian Uprising takes place in just under two weeks, on 23 October. The crisis that followed the crushing of the uprising was in many ways the first big refugee emergency of the modern era and the first to appear on television. In all, some 200,000 refugees fled after the Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest on 4 November, 1956. The relief and resettlement operations that followed were quite extraordinary 100,000 people were resettled out of Austria in the first 10 weeks alone. In all, 37 countries spanning five continents took in resettled Hungarians in an unprecedented wave of international solidarity on behalf of refugees.

There are many echoes with the current world of refugees and some marked differences. Most Hungarians crossed the border with the aid of smugglers, to whom they paid a fee. Many arrived without documentation.

UNHCR was only five years old when it was appointed lead agency during the Hungarian refugee crisis. It changed the organization, and had a profound and lasting impact on international refugee law, as well as on the conduct of major emergency relief operations.

To commemorate this important Cold War anniversary, UNHCR has produced a special issue of REFUGEES Magazine which contains all the facts and figures, as well as interviews with seven former Hungarian refugees living all across the world, including a co-founder and former CEO of one of the world's biggest IT companies.