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U.N. office outraged by 'biased' Hungarian survey on migration
May 22, 2015 / 1:59 PM / 2 years ago

U.N. office outraged by 'biased' Hungarian survey on migration

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives attend a debate on the situation in Hungary at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

GENEVA (Reuters) - Hungary’s survey of its citizens’ views on immigration is “extremely biased” and “absolutely shocking” because of questions that suggest a link between migrants and terrorism, the U.N. human rights office said on Friday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban launched the consultation last month to sound out the public, sending a questionnaire to every Hungarian adult. He has decried a European Union plan to take in 20,000 refugees and distribute asylum-seekers more evenly among EU members as “bordering on insanity”.

Cecile Pouilly, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was no reason to assume that migrants looking for a better job or seeking asylum had anything to do with terrorism.

She said the U.N. human rights office was shocked by Orban’s written introduction to the questionnaire, which called economic migrants “a threat which we must stop in its tracks” and which said the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January showed the EU could not deal adequately with the issue of immigration.

“It is this government’s duty to fight against discrimination and xenophobia and by linking these two issues they are doing the opposite,” Pouilly told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.

A boy attends a protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's immigration policy proposals in central Budapest, Hungary, May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

“This is fundamentally discriminatory and ... these people deserve their human rights as well as anybody else.”

The phrasing of the questions in the survey actively promoted hostility towards migrants, Pouilly said.

A girl holds a placard during a protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's immigration policy proposals in central Budapest, Hungary, May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

One of the questions put to the public reads: “There are some who think that mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism. Do you agree with this view?”

Another asks: “Do you agree with the Hungarian government that support should be focused more on Hungarian families and the children they can have, rather than on immigration?”

The questionnaire sent by Orban, whose Fidesz party is losing ground to Hungary’s far-right, eurosceptic, anti-immigrant Jobbik party, has already attracted criticism from the European Commission and the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

”We are deeply concerned by the way the government increasingly vilifies people who have fled from war zones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and who desperately need safety and protection in Hungary,” the UNHCR’s Central Europe representative Montserrat Feixas Vihé said in a statement this month.

Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Andrew Roche

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