Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a populist leader known for his hardline anti-immigration stance, said that the European Union's migration policies threaten the "sovereignty and cultural identity" of Hungary, in an interview published Monday.
"We don't see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders," he told the German daily Bild newspaper.
In the interview, he said Syrian refugees were not fleeing their home country — where a multi-sided war has been raging for almost seven years — out of fear for their lives.
Instead, he said the decision of thousands of migrants to journey to richer western European countries like Germany while passing through less wealthy "but stable" countries like Hungary was proof that they could not be classed as refugees, but rather "economic migrants in search of a better life."
Orban also rejected the idea that Hungary should be open to accepting people from majority-Muslim countries, saying his country "doesn't want to be forced."
"We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite," Orban told the paper.
"Multiculturalism is only an illusion," he added.
Germany 'wanted the migrants'
Orban also addressed the ongoing spat between Budapest and Brussels over a refugee resettlement quota, which Hungary and Slovakia unsuccessfully challenged at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
When asked by a Bild reporter why it was fair that Germany accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants while Hungary accepted none, Orban responded: "The difference is, you wanted the migrants, and we didn't."
He said in Bild that if the September ECJ ruling had fallen before the quota's validity was to run out, Hungary would have accepted the refugees.
The ECJ decision fell on September 6 while the European Commission decision mandating the quota system expired on September 26.
At the time of the decision, however, Hungarian officials rejected the ruling and decried it as political, with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto saying: "Politics has raped European law and values."
Orban also told Bild that it is "a double standard" that Hungary was the "only" country in the bloc that was criticized although the quota "wasn't implemented in over 20 countries."
According to the latest European Commission figures, only two EU member states took in no refugees under the quota system — Hungary and Poland. Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic took in a handful of refugees under the program.
A total of 22 countries involved in the resettlement scheme fell short of their "legal commitment." Although Germany took in more refugees than any other involved in the program with 9,169, it still fell short of its quota of 27,536.
Orban has been ramping up his anti-migrant statements ahead of elections in Hungary this April.
The interview with Bild followed Orban's controversial appearance last Friday at the party conference of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).
Suffering from losses at the polls in last year's general election, the CSU has been calling for a tougher stance on immigration.