Hungary's Orban: migrants crossing Europe are immigrants, not refugees

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech in Budapest, Hungary, September 7, 2015. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the stream of migrants flowing through south-eastern Europe were immigrants, attracted by the prospect of life in Germany, not refugees.

“If they want to continue on from Hungary, it’s not because they are in danger, it’s because they want something else,” he said, adding that the migrants’ target was Germany and “a German life”, not physical safety.

Unchecked, the stream of refugees would place an intolerable financial burden on European countries, he said, adding that this would endanger the continent’s “Christian welfare states.”

The right-wing leader, who has attracted praise and opprobrium for his hardline handling of Europe’s immigration crisis, defended a controversial package of measures that would include deploying the army to the frontier, saying he hoped this would “hermetically seal” the country’s southern border.

Legislation to use the army in helping to protect borders would not be possible before September 20, he added. He reiterated that Hungary would do its best to protect the Schengen borders of the European Union, unlike Greece.

Reporting By Kriszta Than and Gergely Szakacs, writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Catherine Evans