Love him or hate him, but you certainly can’t ignore Viktor Orbán, Hungary's conservative-nationalist leader — an opponent of European integration who is often accused of pursuing anti-democratic reforms, curtailing freedom of the press, and reducing the independence of Hungary’s judiciary.
In an interview with the German Bild newspaper, Orbán, a staunch opponent of Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy, vowed to keep Hungary’s borders closed. When he was asked why Budapest does not want to accept any refugees, after attending a meeting of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria last week, the hard-line prime minister replied:
“I can only speak for the Hungarian people, and they don’t want any migration. In my understanding, it’s not possible for the people to have a will on a fundamental issue and for the government not to comply with it.
“Most refugees come to Europe not because they are fleeing dangerous conditions at home but because they want to take advantage of economic opportunities. As such, they shouldn’t be considered refugees so much as Muslim invaders.”
“Asylum seekers must cross four countries [Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia] to reach Hungary from Syria, all of which are not as rich as Germany but are economically stable. So, they are not running for their lives [in these countries]. They are merely economic migrants seeking a better life.”
When asked why Hungary accepted no refugees while Germany took in hundreds of thousands, Orbán, who oversaw the construction of a fence along Hungary's border as the refugee crisis hit Europe in 2015, told Bild: “The difference is, you wanted the migrants, and we didn’t.” He didn’t mince his words, and attacked Merkel’s ‘open-doors’ policy towards refugees, saying:
“The reason why people are in your country is not because they are refugees, but because they want a German life. I've never understood how chaos, anarchy and illegal border crossings are viewed as something good in a country like Germany, which we view as the best example of discipline and the rule of law.
“The recent wave of refugees reaching Europe is merely an invasion. If someone wants to come to your house, he knocks on your door and asks: ‘Can we come in, can we stay?’ They [refugees] didn’t do that, they crossed the border illegally.”
A harsh critic of migration and mandatory migrant quotas, Orbán, once called refugees “a Trojan horse for terrorism” and immigration as a poison. In the Bild interview, he again cast doubt on the validity of refugees’ humanitarian plight:
“Multiculturalism was only an illusion, as Christian and Muslim societies will never unite. The presence of a large number of Muslims results in the appearance of parallel societies. No such situation exists in Budapest due to a low number of migrants.”
The European Union established the quotas as part of a scheme adopted at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015. Hungary and Poland are the only EU countries to have taken in no refugees under the scheme.
In response, the European Commission is planning to sue the two countries, along with the Czech Republic, which has taken in just 12 of its quota of nearly 2,700 refugees.