Please, don't come: Hungary posts ad in Lebanon threatening jail for illegal migrants

© Dado Ruvic
A full-page ad in one of the biggest national newspapers warned people in Lebanon they will be arrested and put in jail if they try to come to Hungary illegally. It was published by the Hungarian government.

The ad, in English and Arabic, was published Monday in An-Nahar daily. It warns that “the strongest possible action is taken” against people attempting to cross Hungarian border illegally and that the punishment for such action could be imprisonment.

“Do not listen to the people smugglers. Hungary will not allow illegal immigrants to cross its territory,” the ad says.

Last week Hungary closed its border with Serbia and erected a 41km fence along its border with Croatia to stop the flood of refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, who are trying to pass through the eastern European country on the way to richer European nations like Germany and Sweden, where they hope to be granted asylum.

Europe is facing a record inflow of people this year, with hundreds of thousands estimated to have come since January. The influx comes amid continued turmoil in war-torn countries like Syria and Yemen and the disintegration of Libya, once a major destination for job-seekers in Northern Africa before the NATO-assisted uprising ousted its government in 2011.

EU members and non-member-states like Serbia affected by the crisis are struggling to find a working solution to house and process the crowds of asylum seekers. Meanwhile increasingly loud voices from the less-welcoming citizens in these countries are calling for harsh measures to stop and send off the migrants.

Hungary’s move follows a similar ad campaign in Lebanon launched by Denmark two weeks ago, which sought to discourage would-be asylum seekers by informing them that it was cutting social benefits and had high requirements for asylum seekers who want to stay.

Lebanon, with a population of 4 million, is sheltering a further 1.1 million people.

Budapest and Copenhagen are hardly pioneers in trying to deal with immigration through advertising. In 2013, the British government launched a mobile billboard campaign that said migrants staying in UK illegally should “go home or face arrest”.

READ MORE: 'Go Home Illegal Immigrants' campaign may spread UK-wide

Critics said the scheme was offensive and aimed at scoring political points for the Conservative Party rather than actually tackling the migrant problem. The ad was eventually banned by the  Advertising Standards Authority.

The campaign was launched as Britain was bracing itself for arrival of migrant workers from Romania and Bulgaria after an expected lifting of travel restrictions for the countries that joined the EU before Croatia.