Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban called a European plan to evenly distribute asylum seekers among EU members states “mad and unfair” on Friday, amid UN criticism over the country’s handling of refugees.
“The European idea that somebody allows refugees into their own country and then distributes them to other member states is mad and unfair,” Orban said in an radio interview. “This is not the time for solidarity but to enforce the law. Illegal immigration is an offence.”
His remarks come as Europe faces a rapidly growing influx of refugees from war-torn areas in Syria, Iraq and Africa.
The European Commission, the EU executive, is due on May 13 to present a migration policy that will include proposals to set refugee quotas for all member states. The proposal will go before EU heads of government and heads of state at their June 25-26 summit.
Hungary has the second-highest intake of refugees in Europe after Sweden.
This year, more than 40,550 asylum demands have already been registered between January and May, according to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR. Some 23,800 are from Kosovo, while the rest come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many move on to Germany or Austria.
The Hungarian government recently sparked controversy with a public questionnaire linking migration to terrorism and blaming EU policies for the influx of refugees
“We are deeply concerned by the way the government increasingly vilifies people who have fled from war zones … and who desperately need safety and protection in Hungary,” said Montserrat Feixas Vihe, UNHCR Regional Representative for Central Europe.
Analysts say Hungary’s tough migration stance is an attempt to stop a slide in polls and cater to voters wooed by the far-right Jobbik party.