Monday

20th Jan 2020

UN rebukes Orban's 'vilification' of refugees

  • Orban: 'We'll be able to protect Hungary from economic migrants' (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban on Friday (8 May) said plans to distribute refugees among EU members states are "mad and unfair".

"The idea that somebody allows some refugees in their own country and then distributes them to other member states is mad and unfair," he said in an interview on state radio.

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His comments come as the European Commission is drafting a proposal to share the burden of a growing influx of refugees among EU member states.

"This is not the time for solidarity but to enforce the law," he added, saying "illegal immigration is a crime, and not a venial sin, a joyful afternoon fun."

EU leaders will discuss the plan at a summit at the end of June.

Orban said the refugee crisis has to be dealt with outside Europe. He supports destroying or seizing traffickers' ships, and preventing migrants from leaving for the EU.

Hungary has seen a surge in migrants, with more than 40,550 asylum demands registered this year, compared to just a few thousand in 2012.

The country grants 400-500 people asylum status a year. Most of the migrants move towards western Europe, particularly Austria and Germany.

Orban wants to be able to detain every person who crosses Hungary's border illegally, which is against EU rules, and review if they are really fleeing for their lives. He insists most of the asylum-seekers are in fact "economic migrants" looking for jobs and a better life.

"If the European Union would not force unrealistic rules on us, which we intend to shake off, then we will be able to protect Hungary from economic migrants," Orban said in the interview.

On Friday the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR condemned his remarks.

“We are deeply concerned by the way the government increasingly vilifies people who have fled from war zones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and who desperately need safety and protection in Hungary,” Montserrat Feixas Vihe, the UNHCR’s top official for central Europe, who is based in Budapest, wrote in a press release.

The agency also raised concerns over the language of a recent government-mandated survey on migration, which, the UN says, blames refugees for perceived threats to Hungary and Europe.

Death penalty

Meanwhile, Orban once again raised the issue of the death penalty, saying it should be left to member states to decide on capital punishment.

"We want to form European public opinion toward bringing back to national competency level the question of whether to introduce the death penalty," he was quoted as saying by AFP.

"If that happened, then we could decide whether to bring it in or not. There is no reason for all EU countries to think the same on this question," he told state radio.

Orban last month called for a debate on the issue, earning himself heavy criticism from 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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Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

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