21 Sep 2015

Hungarian PM warns refugees are ‘brutal threat’ to Europe

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban calls the mass migration of thousands of refugees a “brutal threat” to Europe.

Mr Orban told the Hungarian parliament that Europe is being “over-run”, adding: “Our borders are under threat, our life based on a respect for laws…and the whole of Europe. We are being run over,” he said.

He added refugee relocation quotas put forward from the European Parliament are not a “European action plan”.

This comes as Hungary’s parliament passed a law authorising the government to deploy the army to protect its borders, including the use of non-lethal weapons. The government is also rapidly building a 3.5-metre-high steel fence on its border with Croatia to keep out refugees, similar to the one built on the Serbian border.

Hungary has developed a tough stance on refugees and has faced criticism from other EU member states.

Refugee quotas

Thousands of people continue to arrive in the EU daily in what has been described as Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.

The foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Latvia will kick off the week of intense diplomatic activity with talks today, as the crisis has exposed deep division among European states.

The eastern European nations are expected to reiterate their opposition to the idea of EU-wide quotas for accepting refugees. The head of the European Parliament hopes that EU member states can reach an agreement on relocating 160,000 people.

Martin Schulz, President of the EU parliament, said: “There will be some discussions, but at the end there will be an agreement on the relocation of the 160,000 (migrants)”.

Foreign ministers from the 28 member states are expected to hold talks about the crisis at an emergency summit on Wednesday, in order to find a solution to the mass migration.

‘Germany can’t shoulder this task alone’

German chancellor Angela Merkel has called on other European leaders to accept joint responsibility to cope with the vast number of refugees seeking asylum.

“Germany is willing to help. But it is not just a German challenge, but one for all of Europe,” she told a gathering of trade unionists.

“Europe must act together and take on responsibility. Germany can’t shoulder this task alone. We are a big country. We are a strong country. But to make out as if we alone can solve all the social problems of the world would not be realistic.”

Germany expects at least 800,000 asylum seekers to enter the country by the end of the year – more than any other EU member state. This comes after the German government waived EU asylum rules that require migrants to register in the first EU state they reach.

Mr Orban accused Germany of encouraging the huge influx by welcoming so many refugees. He also rejected the initial EU refugee quotas calling for 120,000 asylum seekers to be distributed among EU nations.

Hungary has become a hotspot for refugees hoping to reach western Europe. However, the Hungarian government has implemented strict border controls and warned that those entering the country illegally could be jailed.

The move sparked a huge backlash and Hungarian riot police used tear gas and water cannon on those trying to cross the border. As a result, asylum seekers have opted for a different route, heading to Germany via Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.

Croatia initially welcomed some 25,000 migrants but then said it was unable to cope with the volume of people and has quickly ferried them onto Austria or Hungary. There were chaotic scenes over the weekend when hundreds of people crammed into trains and buses destined for Hungary.

More than 20,000 people arrived in Austria over the weekend and many say they are headed for Germany and Sweden. It’s thought half of them walked into the country from Hungary.

Croatia has now called on Greece to stop moving refugees from the Middle East on to the rest of Europe. This comes as refugees also attempt to reach Europe by sea, often putting themselves in life-threatening conditions.

In the last two days, 13 people died in Turkish waters near the Greek island of Lesbos when a boat carrying 46 people collided with a cargo vessel and capsized. Six of those killed were children and 20 others were rescued, according to a Turkish coastguard source

The largest group arriving in Europe are Syrians escaping the conflict there, followed by Afghans, then migrants from Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia, fleeing war and human rights abuses.