Hungary’s prime minister wants the EU to provide sizeable aid to countries neighboring Syria to help them cope with the influx of refugees. His country came under fire for what one politician called Nazi-like policies.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in aid should be delivered to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to stop the stream of refugees to Europe.
“If it takes more money, we will increase aid until the refugee flows dry up,” Orban told Germany’s “Bild” newspaper on Saturday.
He said his plan, which called on every European Union member to pay 1 percent extra into the EU budget, would be presented at the next meeting of the bloc’s leaders.
Hungary is struggling to cope with migrant arrivals who have traveled the so-called Balkan route from Greece via Serbia, many of them seeking to reach Austria and Germany. More than 170,000 migrants have entered Hungary so far this year, and the United Nations expects another 42,000 to arrive next week.
In the interview with “Bild,” Orban threatened to send refugees back to where they came from, saying many had not come directly from war zones, but rather from camps in countries bordering Syria.
“They are not fleeing danger – they have already fled and should not fear for their lives,” he said.
They come to Europe not “because they seek safety but because they want a better life than in a camp. They want a German life, perhaps a Swedish life.”
The populist leader, who has faced criticism over his hardline approach to refugees, on Friday warned that people illegally entering his country would be arrested and prosecuted under strict new immigration laws. Hungary is also building a controversial fence on its border with Serbia to keep migrants out.
Likened to the Holocaust
Meanwhile, in an interview with German news magazine “Der Spiegel,” Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann criticized what he described as Orban’s “deliberate policy of deterrence,” comparing it to policies under the Nazi regime.
Faymann lamented the scenes of chaos at Budapest’s main train station about a week ago, when hundreds of refugees boarded a train bound for Austria, only to be stopped and taken to a refugee camp.
“Refugees stuck in trains believing that they’ll go somewhere else entirely brings back memories from the darkest period of our continent,” Faymann said.
He added that there should be financial sanctions “against solidarity sinners” such as Hungary, who are resisting an EU plan to distribute 160,000 refugees around the bloc.
Quota system rejected
In addition to Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark and Poland have all rejected the idea of compulsory quotas. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Prague on Friday to try and change their minds about the scheme, which will be discussed by EU interior ministers on Monday.
Steinmeier warned the influx of migrants could be “the biggest challenge for the EU in its history.”
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 430,000 migrants have arrived in Europe in 2015, with 2,748 dying or going missing en route.
Germany has taken the biggest share, admitting 450,000 refugees so far this year. The government said it had placed 4,000 troops on standby in the country’s south, where around 40,000 more migrants were expected to arrive over the weekend.
Pressure on politicians
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people were expected to rally in cities across Europe on Saturday in a show of solidarity with refugees.
The Europe-wide “day of action” includes dozens of events, with the biggest demonstration expected in London. Other marches are planned for Berlin, Vienna, Athens and Lisbon.
A number of rival anti-migrant events are also due to take place, notably in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
nm/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)