James Rothwell — Telegraph.co.uk Oct 3, 2016
Hungary’s emphatic vote to scrap EU migrant quotas has triggered a “domino effect” of anti-refugee sentiment across eastern Europe, with the leaders of Serbia and the Czech Republic joining calls to reject migrants from the bloc on Monday.
More than 98% of Hungarians voted to scrap the Brussels-imposed quotas in Sunday night’s referendum, though it failed to meet the turnout threshold and was declared invalid.
Despite this, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s hardline conservative prime minister, says he will push ahead with changing the constitution so that it is impossible for the EU to settle migrants in the country.
“Hungarians have written history…more Hungarians have supported the “No” this time than the EU membership in 2003,” he said on Monday.
He appeared to be comparing the 3.2m “No” voters in Sunday’s referendum against the 3m people who opted to join the EU in a referendum held 13 years ago.
Now Serbia, which hopes to join the bloc in the future , has threatened to shut down its borders entirely – even if it means incurring the wrath of Brussels.
The number of migrants in Serbia has risen to 3,000 since last July and many are unable to leave as neighbouring countries have shut the borders, leading to mounting tensions and violence in refugee camps.
“If Serbia becomes a funnel from which water cannot drain because others further along have shut their own borders, Serbia must shut down its own (borders) regardless of its convictions,” Tomislav Nikolic, the Serbian president, said on Monday.
And in the Czech Republic, president Milos Zeman demanded on Monday that the hundreds of thousands of economic migrants who have arrived in Europe since the start of last year be deported.
He said they should be moved to “empty places” such as North Africa or to “uninhabited Greek islands,” in an interview with the Financial Times.
“I am for deportation of all economic migrants,” he said, going on to suggest that Muslim migrant culture was “fundamentally incompatible” with European society.
The remarks indicate that both countries have been emboldened by the referendum result, which Mr Orban has hailed as a victory for Hungary’s independence and sovereignty.
However, human rights groups have warned that the “xenophobic and discriminatory” rhetoric used in the referendum campaign has spread to neighbouring countries.
“It is a worrying that there is this domino effect. What is happening in Hungary is not specific to Hungary,” Juliana Wahlgren, a senior officer at the European Network Against Racism, told the Telegraph.
“We are seeing it also in the UK after Brexit, in the Nordic countries, and in eastern European countries.”
It comes as the European Union said it had finalised a deal with Afghanistan to speed the return of Afghans who do not qualify for asylum, just ahead of a donor conference in Brussels for the war-torn country.
Under the deal, announced on Monday afternoon, Afghanistan must readmit citizens not permitted to stay in Europe and supply travel documents for migrants without papers within a month.
The costs for sending people back will be covered by the EU.