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UN agency claims Hungarian government 'increasingly vilifies' refugees

The United Nations refugee agency has said it is worried about Hungary’s right-wing government trying to portray refugees as a threat. The number of asylum seekers in the country has risen over the last few months.

The UN organization criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government and warned of growing xenophobia in the country.

"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," said Montserrat Feixas Vihe, the regional representative for the UNHCR in central Europe.

Despite being land-locked, Hungary is popular entry point for illegal immigrants crossing the EU border from Serbia or Ukraine, or heading across the Balkans towards richer parts of Europe.

Faced with a recent jump in immigration, right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban launched a "national consultation" about the refugees, by sending out a questionnaire. It asks people whether it's their view refugees should be immediately expelled. The survey also contrasts support for migrants with that for Hungarian families.

One question questionnaire asks: '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?'

Orban (pictured above) also called a European plan to distribute the refugees evenly among the EU members "mad and unfair" on Friday.

"This is not the time for solidarity but to enforce the law. Illegal immigration is an offense," he said.

History of exodus

The UNHCR said the government's questions "intentionally attempt to confuse refugees and asylum seekers with so-called 'economic migrants' and wrongly blame refugees for a number of purported threats to Hungary and Europe."

"Hungary simply cannot return refugees to countries where they would face threats to their lives," the UNHCR's Vihe said.

The UN refugee agency reminded that some 200,000 people fled Hungary after an anti-Stalinist coup in 1956, and were welcomed by the West.

"We call on Hungary, as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to respect the international laws it voluntarily pledged to honour," said Vihe.

Orban's tough stance on migration is aimed to stop a slide in polls and court the supporters of the far-right Jobbik party, analysts say.

dj/jr (AP, AFP, dpa)

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