‘How DARE Brussels tell us how many migrants can live in our country?’ Hungary ‘will vote no’ in Brexit-inspired referendum on EU demands to take 1,294 refugees… and pay £255million fine instead
- Hungary to hold referendum on whether to reject EU refugee quota scheme
- Anti-migrant Prime Minister Viktor Orbán leading ‘keep them out’ campaign
- Polls suggest 75 per cent of population will back him in the October 2 vote
- EU asking nations to welcome numbers of refugees or face massive fines
- Hungary would be fined more than 300 million Euros if it rejects the quota
Voters in Hungary are on a collision course with the European Union as they look certain to reject a refugee quota scheme being imposed on them by Brussels bureaucrats.
A referendum is being held on October 2 and the result is expected to be an overwhelming victory for the country’s hard-line Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who is leading the ‘keep them out’ campaign.
He has urged the country to say ‘no’ to all migrants – and polls suggest he is in tune with the nation with over 75 per cent of the population set to reject the EU imposed quota of 1,294 refugees.
Mr Orbán, the most vociferous anti-immigrant leader among the 28 EU nations, announced the date of the referendum days after the UK Brexit vote.
Route: Hungary is a part of the ‘Balkans route’ that tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are using to reach Europe. Pictured, people passing through Hungary into Austria.
He said immigration had been the key issue in the vote, describing Britain as ‘taking back its island’ and praising those who voted to leave.
Analysts said he had been emboldened by the Brexit vote and chose to seize the moment for his own referendum to reject the EU plan to re-settle 160,000 refugees among the existing member states.
Those countries that refuse to accept the quota face heavy fines of £212,000 for each refugee turned away.
With Hungary asked to accept 1,294 people, that amounts to a fine of more than £255million.
Despite the threat, voters across Hungary agree with Mr Orbán’s tough stance and his zero tolerance approach to migration.
Ten months ago the town of Gyor witnessed distressing scenes as thousands of refugees converged on the railway station in their desperation to reach Germany.
Proud: Most of the population of Hungary are worried the new arrivals under the EU refugee quota scheme would create a clash of cultures in the country
Vote: Hungary will be holding a referendum on October 2 to decide whether or not to accept the Brussels refugee quota, and polls suggest 75 per cent will reject the scheme. Pictured, Baroque style town hall in Gyor
Outspoken: Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán (pictured) is the most anti-migration leader among the 28 EU nations, erecting a razorwire fence at his border in a zero tolerance approach to migration
Many had fled war-torn Syria, but others were economic migrants who took the chance for a new life after Germany’s Angela Merkel said refugees were welcome in her country.
But the refugees and migrants were not popular with the locals of the regional town most famous for making engines for the Audi cars.
Fears of a clash of culture, lack of work and refugees failing to fit in with the Hungarian way of life are some of the reasons locals gave for wanting to reject the Brussels imposed quota.
‘My biggest worry is that they will not fit into our society,’ said 30-year-old office worker Eszther Kovacs.
‘To be honest I would be scared if they came to live here in Gyor. We do not know who they are and where they came from. They could be terrorists, we just don’t know.’
Eszther said she was appalled by the sight of rubbish left behind by migrants and refugees when they were last in Gyor, a city of about 130,000 people.
Peaceful: Residents in the picturesque town of Felcsut, where Prime Minister Orbán grew up and still owns a home, are vehemently against the EU’s attempt to rehome refugees within Europe
Desperate: A family crosses the border between Hungary and Austria as they continue their journey into Europe. But Hungary is set to refuse to accept a refugee quota in an October referendum
Help: Refugees arriving into Hungary from Croatia are loaded onto buses and trains by Hungarian police before they depart for Austria. But locals of Gyor claimed there was a lot of rubbish left behind.
‘I know they were on their way somewhere else but they left the place like a rubbish tip. It wasn’t nice to see and lots of people here were upset as it did not show any respect for us,’ she said.
Others interviewed by MailOnline adopted an equally hard-line view when it came to refugees being imposed on the country.
Not one of a dozen people interviewed close to the town’s Baroque style town hall said they would vote to accept the refugee quota.
Germany said they are all welcome and so they should go there. Refugees want to go to Germany so making them live in Hungary doesn’t make any sense.
– Father-of-one Rudolf Toft, 34
Father-of-one Rudolf Toft, 34, said he doubted the refugees would be welcome in Hungary and was concerned they would cost the taxpayer money to support them.
‘I will be voting ‘no’ in the referendum. I just don’t think there will be a place for them here in our country.
‘It was Germany who said they are all welcome and so they should go there. The refugees want to go to Germany so making them live in Hungary doesn’t make any sense.
‘I agree that they have to live somewhere, but Hungary is not the place for them.’
Student Armand Csontak, 22, said he would also be supporting the ‘no’ vote.
‘We have to do what is best for our country, and that means not taking any refugees,’ said the Marketing and Commerce student.
‘I don’t agree with them coming here. We are not rich nation and they would just take more money to look after.’
Retired engineer Carl Palfy, 65, said he would vote ‘no’ in the upcoming referendum.
‘Hungary is for Hungarians,’ he said.
That statement appears to be supported by figures compiled by human rights expert Nora Koves at the Budapest based the Eotvos Karoly Policy Institute.
She found that out of 18,000 asylum applications this year only 76 people were allowed to stay.
The welcome mat will not be put out in Gyor, and the same could be said for almost every town and village in the country.
Hopeful: Refugees and migrants wait in line to cross the border at Zakany, Hungary. But residents of Hungary insist they don’t want to take in any refugees because of a clash of cultures and pressures on taxpayers
Borders: In an attempt to block migration through his country, Prime Minister Orbán ordered the borders with Serbia and Croatia to be sealed. Pictured, a razor wire fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border.
Ever since the migration crisis erupted last year, when more than a million refugees and migrants poured into Europe, Hungary has taken the harshest stance.
The country is on the direct ‘Balkans route’ used by tens of thousands who have made their way from Greece and into Croatia and Serbia.
After the initial flood of people last September, Prime Minister Orbán ordered his borders with Serbia and Croatia to be sealed.
Razor wire has been erected forming a 108 mile fence and the number of police on patrol on the Serbian border more than doubled.
But that still hasn’t stopped more than 17,000 people crossing into Hungary illegally from Serbia this year, according to a Government spokesman.
The landlocked country has borders with seven countries, with Serbia and Croatia the favoured entry point for people hoping to make a new life in northern Europe.
Disrupted: Less than a year ago the town of Gyor witnessed distressing scenes as thousands of people passed through the town in their desperate attempt to reach Germany
Traditional: Of 18,000 asylum applications this year, only 76 people have been granted permission to stay in Hungary, which has refused to put out the welcome mat for people fleeing war-torn Syria and those trying to start a new life in Europe
Positives: The town of Felcsut is a firm backer of the Prime Minister, as it has benefitted hugely from his pet projects – including the Pancho Arena (pictured) which plays host to the local football team
Nation: Sporting an England shirt, Balint Puskas, 42, said he would be worried that the refugees would be a burden on the taxpayer and that there was no guarantee that after the first quota ‘more might arrive’.
The porous borders is one of the reasons the Austrian authorities have enforced a round the clock check point at the main motorway crossing with Hungary that has led to traffic jams of up to 15 miles forming as every truck is searched and car drivers show their passports and submit to checks.
While Austria has adopted a similar hard-line policy on migrants it has still agreed to abide by the EU quota.
Few of the refugees want to stay in Hungary but need to pass through the country to reach Germany where they are likely to be granted asylum following Angela Merkel’s much criticized ‘welcome’ call last year.
Mr Orbán, leader of the right wing Fidesz party, has made no secret of his anti-immigration policy.
He has said the ideal number of migrant entering the country is ‘zero’ and said migration is the biggest problem now facing the European Union.
In a speech last March he said Brussels had to listen to the people and set out his anti-migrant policy which was in direct opposition to what EU chiefs wanted to hear.
‘We are not going to import to Hungary the kind of criminal activities, terrorism, homophobia and anti-Semitism that sets synagogues on fire,’ he said.
Journey: The country is on the direct ‘Balkans route’ used by tens of thousands who have made their way from Greece and into Croatia and Serbia
Difference: Residents of the Hungarian towns of Gyor and Felcsut insisted that the refugees being rehomed by the EU would be too different to them and present a clash of cultures.
‘We will not let others tell us whom should we live with, whom we should share our country with. We refuse compulsory settlement and we will not bow to blackmailing or threats.’
In the October referendum voters will be asked the question ‘Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without parliament’s consent?’
The latest poll by the Budapest based think tank Zezopont found that an overwhelming 77 per cent of voters reject the mandatory settlement of refugees to the country.
Nowhere is the anti-migrant feeling more strongly felt that in the picturesque town of Felcsut where Prime Minister Orbán grew up and he still owns a home.
Sporting an England shirt, Balint Puskas, 42, said he would be voting to ‘no’ to the quota.
‘Having the migrants here would not be good for the country,’ he said.
‘They are from a different culture, religion and have different values. They will not speak the language which will make it difficult for them to settle in.
‘They will also be a burden on those of us who pay tax. They will have to be supported and who says after the first quota more might arrive.’
Hard-line: In an attempt to limit migration into the country, Hungary erected a 108 mile razorwire fence and the number of police on patrol on the Serbian border more than doubled
Waiting: Austrian authorities have enforced a round the clock check point at the main motorway crossing with Hungary that has led to traffic jams of up to 15 miles (pictured) as vehicles are searched.
Others in Felcsut, about 30 miles from the capital Budapest, were more outspoken but declined to give their names or be photographed.
‘I would be very afraid if they came here and if my vote can stop them then I will use it,’ said a 34-year-old mother.
‘It is wrong that Brussels should tell us how many people we should take to live in our country. Why would any of them want to live here? What would they do?
‘I have seen the stories about women being attacked in other countries, and that could happen here.’
In Felcsut, which has a population of 1,688, there is unlikely to be anyone going against what the 53-year-old Prime Minister Orbán wants.
The town has benefited hugely from his pet projects, the most notable being the Pancho Arena which plays host to the local football team.
It has a capacity of over 3,000 – more than double the population – and was built amid widespread claims of corruption.
A café owner, who asked not to be named, said the anti-immigrant feeling was widespread across the country and not just in Felcsut.
‘Anywhere you go, from Budapest to the smallest village, you will find the same answer and that is no to refugees,’ he said.
Since the migration crisis began Hungary has slowly closed down all of its detention camps with just three remaining at Bicske to the west of the capital Budapest, further Vamosszabadi near the Slovakian border and Kormend, near the border with Austria.
Afraid: Women queue to receive food at a migrant and refugee camp situated on the Serbia-Hungary border in Horgos on July 8 2016
Re-homing: Despite polls suggesting Hungary will reject the refugee quota, the country has no plans to leave the EU altogether as it is heavily reliant on subsidies. Pictured, migrants and refugees after crossing the border at Zakany, Hungary
Patrol: The country’s prime minister sees the referendum on migration as a chance to send a message to bureaucrats in Brussels. Pictured, armed members of the Hungarian military guard to razor wire fence erected along the Hungarian-Serbian border in February 2016.
Access to the camps is strictly controlled with media kept away. At Kormend some 200 refugees are living in tents in the grounds of a former police academy. They have been allowed into the country as they are deemed vulnerable and in need of protection.
While Hungary looks certain to reject the refugee quota they have no desire to follow Britain’s Brexit and leave the EU altogether.
The country is heavily dependent on subsidies from the EU and could ill afford to go it alone. Few, not even Mr Orbán, are in favour of what political analysts call ‘Huxit’.
Mr Orbán sees the referendum as the chance to send a message to the EU bureaucrats that they have to listen to what member states want.
But there are real fears his expected October victory will encourage other countries to hold their own referendums leading to a further fracturing or even break up of the European Union.