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Oct 02, 2016

TODAY'S REFERENDUM: Hungary's historic vote on the EU's migrant quotas

The referendum's question is "Do you want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?"

The Hungarian government is holding their historic referendum today to determine whether the people of Hungary will accept the forced migration quotas imposed upon them by the EU.

The referendum's question is "Do you want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?"

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán says "no" votes favor Hungary's sovereignty and independence. He also hopes popular pressure will encourage other EU countries to take similar steps.

Citizens from right around the country will place their vote in what is expected to be a 'no' win.

The Hungarian government’s objections to the relocation scheme have led to today’s referendum. The prime minister says support for the government’s position in the referendum will make it harder for Brussels to ignore Hungary’s quota nihilism.

“The referendum will decide how strong a sword we can forge in the fight against the Brussels bureaucrats,” Orbán told Hungarian news site Origo.hu.

Orbán thinks future EU relocation quotas could compel the country of 9.8 million to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees, which would have long-term impact on society and culture.

“We are only defending the right to remain unchanged,” Orbán said this week on state television. “We Hungarians love Hungary the way it is.”

The EU decided in September 2015 to move 160,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other European countries. There, refugees with a “high chance” of getting asylum would wait for a decision on their applications and, in case of success, receive permission to settle in the country to which they were relocated.

Under this system, Hungary would receive 1,294 asylum seekers and Slovakia would get 902. Both countries reject the mandatory quotas and are challenging the EU’s sharing scheme at the European Court of Justice. In addition to last year's quota decision, the European Commission has put forth proposals for a quota package that would make the redistribution mechanism ongoing and without an upper limit on the number of migrants to be resettled.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, says there were 1.25 million first-time asylum applicants in the EU during all of last year and 1.44 million in the 12 months before Sept. 21.

Germany led the EU in 2015 with 441,800 first-time applicants, followed by Hungary with 174,435 and Sweden with 156,110.

While Germany and Sweden are destination countries for refugees and migrants, Hungary is almost exclusively a transit country and often the first EU country where people heading north from Turkey and Greece register.

Next on the list are two more destination nations: Austria, with 85,505 applications in 2015, and Italy with 83,245.

At the bottom are Croatia with 140 first-time applicants, Estonia with 225 and Slovenia with 260.

Germany is also first in the EU in approving asylum requests, having granted some sort of international protection to 140,910 refugees in 2015.

Sweden is second with 32,215, Italy third with 29,615 asylum seekers recognized last year. France (20,630) and the Netherlands (16,540) round out the top five.

Latvia approved only 20 asylum applications, followed by Croatia with 40 and Slovenia’s 45.
Eurostat said Hungary approved 505 asylum requests in 2015.

The European Commission said just 5,651 asylum seekers of the EU target of 160,000 had been relocated from Greece and Italy as of Sept. 27.

France welcomed the most, 1,952, but was expected to receive 19,714 under the EU quota plan.

The Netherlands had 726 relocations out of 5,947 pledged, while Finland took in 690 asylum seekers out of the 2,078 it was assigned.

Austria, Hungary and Poland did not admit any asylum-seekers from the relocation pool.