From a recent Freakonomics podcast, Is Migration a Basic Human Right?, Michael Clemens briefly mentions the global resettlement response for Hungarians in 1956 as a moment in history to learn from when thinking about the global response to Syria today —
CLEMENS: We know exactly how to handle this refugee crisis because this is not the first time, by any means, that this has happened. Think back to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In the space of a few months, 200,000 Hungarians fled a Soviet crackdown in and around Budapest, and ended up across the border in Austria — desperate people fleeing for their lives. One of two things could have happened: They could have been put in camps; they could have been shunted from one country to another as everybody played beggar-thy-neighbor, trying to get rid of these people. Or they could have been assisted by a broad coalition of countries around the world. Fortunately, what actually happened is the second one. Thirty-seven countries came together through the U.N. and an organization that later became the International Organization for Migration. They sat down, they shared responsibility for assisting those Hungarians broadly. Some of them went to the U.S., some to Canada, some stayed in Austria, some to Germany. Some went to Paraguay, some went to Colombia, New Zealand — all over the world. And because of that sharing, they ended up being massively beneficial to the places they went. The cinematographer of Ghostbusters was one of them, who moved to L.A. as a kid. The founder of Intel Corporation, which probably made the chip in your phone or computer, was one of them — tremendously beneficial, but only because of a choice. And it was the choice to broadly share responsibility for assisting them. They could have been turned into a burden, just an expense to keep them alive in the camps. Instead they were turned into a resource, in fact, a gift. That’s exactly what Syrians could be. The numbers involved are not numbers that would overwhelm a broad group of countries. They are numbers that can overwhelm one, two, or three countries if other countries don’t assist those places where all of them are ending up. And that’s what’s happening right now, and it’s a terrible shame, not just for the migrants but for the countries that could benefit from those people if they were willing to do what’s necessary to turn them into a resource. It is bitterly ironic that Hungary, which was the source of many refugees in living memory is turning them away.
(links in original transcript)