Austrian Chancellor likens Hungary's tough refugee policies to Nazi deportations

"Sticking refugees in trains and sending them somewhere completely different to where they think they're going reminds us of the darkest chapter of our continent's history," said Austria's Faymann.

September 12, 2015 14:14
2 minute read.
Hungary train

Hundreds of migrants struggle to board a train on September 11, 2015 at a train station in Nickelsdorf, at the Austrian side of the border between Hungary and Austria. Yesterday over eight thousand migrants passed through this location and the same number is expected for today.. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR)

BERLIN - Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann criticized Hungary for its handling of the refugee crisis in a German magazine interview published on Saturday, likening Prime Minister Viktor Orban's policies to those used by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

"Sticking refugees in trains and sending them somewhere completely different to where they think they're going reminds us of the darkest chapter of our continent's history," Faymann told Der Spiegel in a reference to the Nazis' deportations of Jews and others to concentration camps.

On September 3, migrants boarded a train in Budapest in the belief that they were heading to the border with Austria but the train was stopped some 35 km (22 miles) west of the capital in the town of Bicske, where Hungary has a camp for asylum seekers.

Riot police forced some to disembark but others refused to leave the train, shouting "No camp, no camp!"

Hitler's Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944 after finding that their former World War Two ally was in secret peace talks with Washington and London and Hungarian authorities then helped them to deport hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Many of the refugees and migrants now arriving in Hungary, an eastern outpost of Europe's passport-free 'Schengen area', want to avoid being registered there for fear of being returned to Hungary later as they travel on to richer countries in western and northern Europe.

Earlier on Saturday, Orban told a German newspaper that he would take a refugee family into his own home if he was sure that this would not encourage others to make the journey to Europe.

Asked in an interview with Germany's mass-selling Bild whether he would put such a family up, Prime Minister Orban said: "Yes, if migrants did not take that as encouragement to come to Europe. That wouldn't be advisable at the moment."

He said his wife and children were already actively helping the refugees.

Orban said refugees should be sent back once Hungary's border is closed. Asked where, he said: "Where they came from. These migrants are not coming to us from war zones but rather from camps in countries neighboring Syria like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. They were safe there."

He said people were not coming to Europe to live in safety but rather because they wanted "a German or perhaps a Swedish life. The living conditions in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria are not good enough for them."

Faymann said Orban was deliberately pursuing a politics of deterrence and added that he was acting "irresponsibly" by suggesting that every migrant was an economic refugee in pursuit of a better life.

Some countries in eastern Europe, including Orban, have expressed concern about the large numbers of the refugees - many of them fleeing Syria's civil war - being Muslim rather than Christian.

But Faymann said: "Dividing human rights by religion is unacceptable."

Faymann praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door response to the refugee crisis, saying she had acted "quickly and correctly".

More than 170,000 migrants have crossed into Hungary from non-EU Serbia so far this year. Many try to avoid being registered in Hungary for fear of being stranded there or returned to the country later in their journey across Europe.

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