October 22, 2015 / 7:16 AM / 5 years ago

Hungary's Orban urges EU migration debate, sees threat to democracy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban urged European leaders late on Wednesday to change their immigration policies and involve voters in a debate about the continent’s future, saying they would otherwise face a political crisis and a threat to the democratic order.

Hungarian police are silhouetted against the sky as they watch migrants waiting to cross the border at Botovo, Croatia October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Hungary has responded to the largest migration wave Europe has seen since World War Two by building a steel fence along its borders with Serbia and Croatia, a step both welcomed and criticized by various leaders around Europe.

The fence has sealed Hungary’s borders but caused a growing backlog in Balkan countries which are struggling to usher them on to Germany through Slovenia, which has already asked for the European Union’s help.

Hungary’s ruling center-right Fidesz party has taken a hard line against the tide of immigrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Asia, most of them refugees from Syria’s civil war. It has spoken of a threat to Europe’s Christian and democratic way of life and demanded action from the EU, which is deeply divided on the issue.

Orban, who was due to address the European People’s Party congress in Madrid on Thursday, told the state television channel m1 that European leaders had no mandate to let hundreds of thousands of migrants enter the EU with little or no control.

“This destabilizes European democracies,” he said. “We need to start the debate about the future of our continent honestly, without the muzzle of ‘political correctness’, without pretence, talking straight.”

“We need to listen to the people and incorporate their views in our politics. If we can’t do that, we’ll have a political crisis on top of our migrant crisis.”

He said Hungary’s border fence had been meant to turn migrants back from Europe, not divert them along a different path to Germany, and that he had asked Hungary’s Balkan neighbors to help send the migrants back.

“The right thing to do is not to ensure their passage into Europe but to take them back to the refugee camps they started out from,” he said.

“The further they come from their troubled countries, the more difficult it will be for them to return. Therefore these people must remain (in their region) and humane conditions must be created for them (there).”

Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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