SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

Orban calls refugees ‘poison’ after Kern meeting

Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday described the arrival of asylum seekers in Europe as "a poison", saying his country did not want or need "a single migrant".

Orban calls refugees 'poison' after Kern meeting
Photo: European People's Party/Wikimedia

“Hungary does not need a single migrant for the economy to work, or the population to sustain itself, or for the country to have a future,” he told a joint press conference in Budapest with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern.

“This is why there is no need for a common European migration policy: whoever needs migrants can take them, but don't force them on us, we don't need them,” Orban said.

The populist strongman added that “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk”.

“For us migration is not a solution but a problem… not medicine but a poison, we don't need it and won't swallow it,” he said.

Orban is a fierce opponent of the European Union's troubled plan to share migrants across the 28-nation bloc under a mandatory quota system.

Hungary has filed a legal challenge against the proposal and will hold a referendum on its participation in the scheme on October 2.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees trekked through Hungary and Austria in 2015 as they sought to reach wealthy European nations.

But the flow slowed to a trickle after Orban's government erected razor wire and fences along the southern borders last autumn and brought in tough anti-migrant laws.

However, numbers have been rising again in recent months, reaching almost 18,000 so far this year.

In response Budapest introduced further security measures this month, including the controversial forced return to no-man's land between Hungary and Serbia of any migrant found within eight kilometres (five miles) of the southern border.

'We have to assist'

In early July, Austria promised to send 20 police officers to the Serbian frontier, where around 20 asylum seekers a day are allowed to cross into a border “transit zone” and apply for asylum.

The offer marked a turnaround for Vienna, previously a vocal critic of Hungary's hardline treatment of migrants.

Kern, on his first visit to Hungary since becoming chancellor in May, said migration to Austria and Germany had declined thanks to Hungary's tough measures.

“If we are beneficiaries from this process, then we have to assist it,” he said.

But Kern also stressed that nongovernmental aid agencies should be allowed to help people stranded on the Serbian side of the border.

Around 1,400 people are waiting in squalid makeshift camps at the border, according to the UNHCR.

Kern and Orban also discussed the return of migrants from Austria to Hungary, which has been a recent source of tension between the two countries.

After their meeting, Orban said his government was willing to take back from Austria asylum seekers registered as having entered the EU in Hungary.

This affects primarily Balkan migrants, which only make up a small number of those Vienna wants to send back.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

IMMIGRATION

‘Discrimination’: Austria’s benefit cuts for immigrants ‘go against free movement’

Benefit cuts imposed by Austria on immigrants whose children live in their country of origin contradict EU law becasue they constitute "discrimination on the ground of nationality", a legal adviser at the bloc's top court said on Thursday.

A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg
A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg on January 13, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The opinion is the latest legal hitch to befall a series of measures — imposed by a previous government that included the far-right — which sought to restrict benefit payments to foreigners.

Richard de la Tour, advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said the cuts to child benefits constituted “an infringement of the right of free movement conferred on EU citizens”.

The specific case relates to reforms that came into effect in 2019 which indexed child benefits according to where the recipient’s children live.

This meant reduced payments for tens of thousands of eastern Europeans who work in Austria — notably in the care sector — but whose children remain in their countries of origin.

The advocate general’s advice is not binding on the court but it is seen as influential.

De la Tour found that the cuts were “indirect discrimination on the ground of nationality which is permissible only if it is objectively justified”, and that Austria had failed to do so.

They contravened the principle that “if a migrant worker pays social contributions and taxes in a member state, he or she must be able to benefit from the same allowances as nationals of that state”, he added.

In 2020 the European Commission, supported by six eastern member states, brought an action before the CJEU claiming Austria was “failing to fulfil its obligations”.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had said he hoped the cuts would save 114 million euros ($130 million) a year but in 2019 they recouped 62 million euros.

The former coalition also introduced benefit cuts for immigrants who failed to reach a certain level of German, but those measures were subsequently overturned by the Austrian courts.

The government that introduced in the cuts was brought down in a corruption scandal in May 2019.

It included the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), which is still the senior partner in the current government.

However their current coalition partners, the Greens, opposed the benefit cuts at the time.

SHOW COMMENTS