Nadia Osman and Oliver Boulton
Hungary joined Slovakia in saying it did not want to accept Muslim refugees.
Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, said that his country did not want to accept Muslim refugees, as he defended his tough approach to border control on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis.
Orbán spoke in Brussels at meetings between EU leaders after images of a drowned Syrian child on a Turkish beach grabbed world attention and said that it was not a moral argument for opening Europe’s doors.
In a later news conference, Orbán said the history of Ottoman rule meant Hungarians would not accept large-scale Muslim immigration, a point made earlier by neighbouring Slovakia.
“We don’t want to, and I think we have a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country,” Orbán said.
“We do not like the consequences of having a large number of Muslim communities that we see in other countries, and I do not see any reason for anyone else to force us to create ways of living together in Hungary that we do not want to see. That is a historical experience for us.”
He went further in an opinion piece in Germany’s Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, writing: “Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. That is an important question, because Europe and European culture have Christian roots. Or is it not already and in itself alarming that Europe’s Christian culture is barely in a position to uphold Europe’s own Christian values?
“Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.”
Slovakia has also said that it will not accept Muslim asylum seekers, as it prepares to take in 200 Syrian refugees as part of EU relocation scheme.
The statements come after last month EU member states agreed to take 32,000 asylum seekers into their borders. The scheme is a response to the growing migrant crisis in Europe.
Amid this crisis, Ivan Metik, a Slovakian interior ministry spokesman, told the BBC, “We could take 800 Muslims but we don’t have any mosques in Slovakia so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?”
The Slovakian Government said it plans to ask the migrants their religion on arrival.
The European Commission expressed its displeasure at the Slovakian plans. “We act here in the spirit of the treaty, which prevents any form of discrimination,” Annika Breidthardt, a spokesman, said.
Orbán also rejected criticism of the razor-wire fence he has thrown up along the EU’s external frontier with Serbia.
Orbán met European Council President, Donald Tusk, who appealed for greater European solidarity and more help for refugees.
Tusk took issue with remarks Orbán made in Allgemeine Zeitung.
“For a Christian,” Tusk said, “it shouldn’t matter what race, religion or nationality the person in need represents.”
In the UK, leader of the euro skeptic right wing party UKIP shared the concerns of the Slovakians and Hungarians about the influx of people from Muslim countries.
Nigel Farage insisted that the UK too could not afford to show too much compassion.
“The EU’s compassion…could be a very real threat to our safety,” he said.
He said he shared the concerns of some Eastern European countries about the influx of people from Muslim countries.
“A lot of these Eastern European countries with very strong Roman Catholic churches and traditions are very concerned about the number of Muslim people [coming here]…My concern is that Isis have actually said that they will use the migrant wave to flood Europe with half a million of their fighters…Even if it’s only 500 I’m very worried about that.”