The large numbers of people now seeking sanctuary in Europe should be seen as immigrants, not as refugees, because they are seeking a “German life” and refuse to stay in the first safe country they reach, Hungary’s prime minister said on Monday, as he also rejected planned migrant quotas.
Viktor Orban, a right-wing populist whose robust handling of the migrant crisis has drawn both condemnation and praise, said the European Union (EU) should consider providing financial support to countries such as Turkey which are near to the conflict zones so that migrants stay there and do not move on.
Syrians, Iraqis and others entering Greece, Macedonia, Serbia or Hungary are safe in those countries and, in line with EU rules, should have their asylum applications processed there, Orban told a gathering of Hungarian diplomats in Budapest.
“If they want to continue on from Hungary, it’s not because they are in danger, it’s because they want something else,” he said, adding that the migrants’ target was Germany and “a German life,” not physical safety.
The vast majority of migrants reaching Hungary aim to travel on to Germany and other wealthier western European countries. A Bavarian official said Germany expected about 2,500 refugees to arrive by early afternoon on Monday after some 20,000 came in over the weekend.
Left unchecked, this inflow will place an impossible financial burden on the EU, Orban said, endangering what he called Europe’s “Christian welfare states.” He has previously said the arrival of large numbers of mostly Muslim migrants posed a threat to Europe’s Christian culture and values.
“It’s absurd… when the Germans say they will spend billions on providing for the new arrivals instead of giving the money to the countries around the crisis zone, where the (migrants) should be stopped in the first place,” he said.
“It would be better for everyone. They wouldn’t come here. It would cost less. And our approach couldn’t be called into question morally either.”
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Europe’s worst migration crisis since the Balkan wars of the 1990s has led many of the continent’s leaders to call for a quota system to distribute refugees among the EU’s 28 member states — an idea that Orban opposes.
While Hungary would remain part of the EU’s passport-free “Schengen zone,” Orban said discussion of a quota system was premature.
“As long as Europe cannot protect its external borders it makes no sense to discuss the fate of those flowing in,” he said, adding that he did not rule out a “fair” discussion of quotas at a later stage.
He defended a planned package of laws that would allow the army to be deployed to defend Hungary’s southern border, which he added was being threatened “perhaps not by war, but by being overwhelmed.”
Orban said he hoped the measures would succeed in “hermetically sealing” the border, with people crossing at official crossing points only. Legislation to use the army in helping to protect borders would not be possible before September 20, he added.
Oscar Velasco, of the Red Cross, captured this video near the Greek town of Idomeni, near the border with Hungary, on September 7.
The EU executive has drawn up a new set of national quotas under which Germany will take in more than 40,000 and France 30,000 of a total of 160,000 asylum-seekers it says should be relocated from Italy, Greece and Hungary, an EU source said on Monday.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is due to unveil new proposals on Wednesday. EU officials have said he will propose adding 120,000 people to be relocated on top of a group of 40,000 the Commission previously proposed relocating.
Leading the quotas among the 120,000, of which 54,000 would come from Hungary, Germany would, if EU leaders agree to the scheme, be asked to take in 31,443 and France 24,031. Earlier on Monday, French President Francois Hollande said France would take 24,000 of the additional 120,000 people seeking refuge.
Confirming figures published by Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, the source said the Commission also planned to put Turkey and all the non-EU states of the Western Balkans on a new list of “safe” countries, whose citizens would face accelerated reviews of asylum claims to speed deportation for most of them.
Meanwhile, Austria said on Sunday it planned to end emergency measures that have allowed thousands of refugees stranded in Hungary into Austria and Germany since Saturday and move step by step “towards normality”.
Austria had suspended its random border checks after photographs of a Syrian toddler lying dead on a Turkish beach showed Europeans the horror faced by those desperate enough to travel illegally into the heart of Europe, which is deeply divided over how to cope.
After 71 people suffocated in the back of a truck abandoned on an Austrian highway en route from Hungary, and as thousands headed from Budapest towards Austria on foot, Vienna had agreed with Germany to waive rules requiring refugees to register an asylum claim in the first EU country they reach.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said that decision was being revised following “intensive talks” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a telephone call with Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, bitterly opposed to the waiver.
“We have always said this is an emergency situation in which we must act quickly and humanely. We have helped more than 12,000 people in an acute situation,” Faymann said.
“Now we have to move step by step away from emergency measures towards normality, in conformity with the law and dignity.”
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