BUDAPEST - An overwhelming majority of Hungarians are expected to reject the European Union's migrant quotas in a referendum on Sunday, which should boost Prime Minister Viktor Orban's standing at home and embolden him in his battles with Brussels.
Orban, who has been in power since 2010, is among the toughest opponents of immigration in the EU, and over the past year he has sealed Hungary's southern borders with a razor-wire fence and thousands of army and police border patrols.
While last year hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East crossed Hungary on their way to richer countries in Western Europe, this year Hungary recorded around 18,000 illegal border crossings.
In a letter published in a daily newspaper on Saturday, Orban again urged Hungarians to send a message to the EU that its migration policies were flawed and posed a threat to Europe's security.
"We can send the message that it is only up to us, European citizens, whether we can jointly force the Union to come to its senses or let it destroy itself," he wrote in the Magyar Idok.
Orban said the task in the next few months would be to prevent Brussels imposing rules that would forcefully settle migrants.
While Budapest says immigration policy should be a matter of national sovereignty, human rights groups have criticized the government for stoking fears and xenophobia, and for mistreating refugees on the border.
On Friday, around 1,500 people demonstrated in Budapest against the referendum.