Wednesday

18th Jul 2018

MEPs challenge Orban's 'horrible' migration survey

  • "We shall not allow economic migrants to jeopardise the jobs and livelihoods of Hungarians” says Viktor Orban (Photo: Klara Zalan)

Liberal members of the European Parliament on Tuesday (April 28) urged the European Commission and fellow members states to verify that a public consultation on migration launched in Hungary complies with EU values and laws.

In a questionnaire to be sent out to 8 million citizens over 18 years of age, Hungarians are asked to answer 12 questions on whether “the mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism”.

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  • According to official data, 1.4 percent of the 10-million population are foreigners in Hungary. The EU average is 4 percent. (Photo: Axel Buhrmann)

They are also asked if they would support the Hungarian government in detaining illegal migrants who “themselves should cover the costs” of staying in Hungary.

In a letter accompanying the survey, prime minister Viktor Orban writes: “Economic migrants cross our borders illegally, and while they present themselves as asylum-seekers, in fact they are coming to enjoy our welfare systems and the employment opportunities our countries have to offer”.

Orban adds: “We shall not allow economic migrants to jeopardise the jobs and livelihoods of Hungarians”.

“The questions are leading and manipulative,” said Dutch MEP Sophie In' t Veld in a statement, referring to the whole questionnaire as "horrible".

Cecilia Wikstrom, a Swedish liberal MEP, said it showed how Orban is distancing Hungary from Europe and “transforming Hungary into a mini-Russia".

The Hungarian government wants to be able to detain all those who cross borders illegally, something that is only allowed in exceptional cases under EU law.

It also wants to have migrants work to cover the costs of their accommodation or detention in Hungary.

Orban’s rightwing Fidesz government is keen to immediately deport migrants “who prove to have merely abused the European rules which encourage illegal migration,” spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told press last week.

Budapest says it needs the public consultation so Orban can stand up to the European Commission with the backing of the majority of Hungarians.

After last week’s emergency EU summit on migration, Orban called the EU's existing immigration regulations “stupid" and said that "immigration should be stopped”.

There has been a spike in the number of asylum seekers over the last few months in Hungary – part of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone – rising from a few thousand in 2012 to 43,000 in 2014, according to official data.

Almost all migrants travel onwards to Austria and Germany. Hungary’s stringent migration policy means only a few hundred get asylum annually.

According to official data, 1.4 percent of the 10-million population are foreigners in Hungary. The EU average is 4 percent.

Some suggest Orban, whose Fidesz party has seen a plunge in polls recently, is seeking to embrace issues championed by the far-right Jobbik party, the largest opposition force in Hungary.

Death penalty

Another issue where Orban has echoed Jobbik is on the reintroduction of the death penalty, forbidden in the 28 members of the EU.

He raised the matter on Tuesday after a deadly stabbing grabbed local headlines.

Orban told reporters in the southern city of Pecs that existing punishments for serious crimes were too soft.

"The death penalty question should be put on the agenda in Hungary," he said.

An effort to reintroduce capital punishment, so far only pushed by Jobbik, would put Budapest on a collision course with Brussels.

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The EP's civil liberties committee is to discuss Hungarian PM Orban's recent flirtation with reintroducing the death penalty, and a controversial Hungarian survey on immigration.

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