Hungarian opposition parties seek explanation for secret admission of asylum seekers

By bne IntelliNews January 16, 2018

Despite its all-out attacks on the EU’s refugee quotas, Viktor Orban's government secretly gave permission for the admission of the same number of asylum seekers to the country in 2017 as it would have had to admit under the quotas, Hungarian media reported on January 16.

In an interview published in the Times of Malta last week, deputy state secretary of the Foreign Ministry Kristof Altusz said the reason why the scheme to allow 1,300 refugees to Hungary was not made public was that it could have put them in danger.

Opposition parties accused the government of double standards and want to hear from the prime minister himself why the government allowed in the refugees when it is had embarked on xenophobic anti-immigration propaganda and blocked the resettlement of some 1300 migrants under the EU relocation scheme. Right-wing opposition party Jobbik has called for an extraordinary parliamentary meeting, where Orban should disclose details about the scheme.

Hungary was fighting the mandatory quota scheme because it would relocate illegal migrants in the European Union and strip member states of their right to decide who they want to take in, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.

 “We are bound by the Geneva Convention to afford protection to people who are eligible for international protection. According to the Geneva Convention, people whose lives are in danger have the right to international protection,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. There are currently 490 people living in open or closed institutions maintained by the immigration authorities for housing asylum seekers or people who have been afforded international protection, it added.

The government of Viktor Orban has made the stark rejection to the EU’s compulsory resettlement scheme a center of its policy. It held a referendum on migrant quotas in October 2016, which was invalid due to the low turnout. After the failed referendum, the government stepped up efforts and launched massive campaigns against Brussels and Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros. The national questionnaires on the so-called Soros plan contain claims that Soros was controlling the EU decisionmaking process in promoting illegal immigration.

The migrant crisis and the sharp anti-immigration rhetoric that followed has helped Viktor Orban solidify his positions. Whereas in early 2015, the ruling Fidesz party was leading the polls by just a few percentage points, it changed significantly after the escalation of the refugee crisis, with the massive inflow of migrants to Hungary in the summer of 2015. Fidesz can expect 50% of the votes of the decided voters, according to recent polls. 

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