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Oct 21, 2016

Reports of brutality by Hungarian police towards migrants are untrue

"The people who wrote these [reports] have not been to Hungary, or if they did they are lying," the minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said

Reports of brutality by Hungarian police towards migrants are untrue, Péter Szijjártó, minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has said.

"The people who wrote these [reports] have not been to Hungary, or if they did they are lying," the minister declared on the BBC World’s Hard Talk program.

The host, Stephen Sackur, reminded the minister that the latest report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed that Hungarian police had shown cruelty towards many of the hundreds of migrants who passed through the country on their way towards Western Europe last year.

According to Szijjártó, the Hungarian police are not brutal at all and what happened was exactly the opposite.

“Many of the migrants behaved violently towards Hungarian police; they threw stones at police officers at the border and injured many of them. The international media wrote nothing about this," he declared. “What would the British police do if they faced such behaviour in London?," he asked.

At the beginning of the interview, Sackur asked the minister why Hungary “occasionally behaves like a country that wants to shatter the unity of the European Union”.  For instance, to the government the quota referendum was about receiving a mandate to place Hungarian immigration laws above the joint response to the migration crisis that was jointly decided on within the European Union," the reporter said.

In reply, Szijjártó said that Hungary was adhering to EU regulations (such as the Dublin and Schengen agreements) to a greater extent than any other Member State. Hungary was the only Member State to uphold these regulations last year, even during the most difficult period. “A stretch of Hungary’s borders is the external border of the Schengen Area and it is our duty” to enforce this.

“It would seem to me that you are fundamentally calling into question the collective intent of the EU on several issues. One of these collective decisions was that every country must participate in the distribution of asylum seekers. You have persistently and fundamentally rejected this," the reporter said.

“Because we reject this policy on principle. Because it is not a good solution," the Hungarian minister said. “The unity of the EU is of priority importance, but unity must be based on wise decisions and not ones that lead into a dead end. The decision on the part of the EU’s interior ministers which states that there must be a migrant transfer mechanism which in turn results in mandatory quotas is completely at odds with EU regulations, because it wants to overwrite the Dublin Treaties, and that is something that interior ministers cannot do; that can only occur if the governments agree on it and it is ratified by every national parliament," he added.

According to the host, in the campaign for the quota referendum Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to all intents and purposes sent a message to the country’s people that every migrant must be regarded as a potential terrorist.

In reply, Szijjártó said that “we did not have to influence the Hungarian people, because they had their own experiences regarding the migrants and it was on the basis of this that they voted at the referendum. They saw the migrants crossing the border illegally, occupying public spaces and closing railway lines and motorways. The people don’t want these to be repeated”.

Stephen Sackur raised the point that according to a survey by an independent Hungarian research institute 95 percent of public media reports on the referendum supported the Government’s standpoint, but despite this the referendum was far from valid.

In reply, the minister said that 3.3 million people had voted no at the referendum, a little more than the number who voted yes to Hungary joining the European Union, and fifty percent more than voted for a Fidesz majority at the last parliamentary elections. “Never since the regime change have such a high proportion of people voted in the same way in Hungary," he stressed.

The reporter recalled that one of the Hungarian government’s campaign newsletters claimed that there are nine hundred dangerous no-go zones in the European Union, which Sackur said was absurd.

Szijjártó said in reply that he doesn’t want to offend the British, because Great Britain is a close ally of Hungary, but it is hypocrisy to deny that no-go zones exist in London and Great Britain, and Europe’s current most serious problem cannot be solved in a hypocritical manner.