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27 Jun, 2018 08:21

‘You are unbalanced & one-sided’: Hungary’s FM spars with BBC reporter in heated migration debate

‘You are unbalanced & one-sided’: Hungary’s FM spars with BBC reporter in heated migration debate

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hit back at a BBC reporter who suggested his government is xenophobic and authoritarian during an intense interview, in which the politician defended his country’s immigration record.

As Hungary’s foreign affairs chief sat down for an interview with BBC Newsnight on Tuesday, the talk quickly turned heated. Reporter Emily Maitlis recalled how the Hungarian parliamentary election, which happened two months ago, was criticized by the nation’s opposition parties.

“There is a sense of erosion of the rule of law. This is no longer a democracy. It is creeping authoritarianism,” she told Szijjarto, whose conservative Fidesz party won over 70 percent of votes in April. The minister rebuffed the allegations.

“You echo lies on this television. And I don’t think it’s fair. You are unbalanced, you are one-sided,” he responded. “You look only at the opinion of those who are frustrated because they lost the election.”

BBC’s Maitlis also suggested that Hungary’s anti-immigration law “flouts human rights” and recalled the fierce rhetoric of country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known for branding certain migrants “Muslim invaders” and speaking about the need to protect “Christian Hungary.”

“So, this isn’t actually about immigration, is it? It’s about xenophobia,” the reporter told Szijjarto who said that he considered the accusation a “very serious insult.”

“What we don’t want is a massive illegal influx coming from the south to us. We want to keep Hungary a Hungarian country. And we don’t think multiculturalism is by definition good,” he explained. “I understand that the liberal mainstream doesn’t like our laws. But it is the Hungarian voters whose expectations we have to fulfill.”

READ MORE: Hungary approves ‘Stop Soros’ law criminalizing aid to illegal migrants

Orban’s Hungarian government regularly faces criticism from the European Union and human rights groups for its ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards migration from the Middle East and Africa. Hungary is one of the few countries that refuses to accept mandatory migrant quotas proposed by the EU.

Last week, Hungary adopted a controversial bill punishing NGOs and aid workers suspected of “enabling illegal immigration.” The law, like many of Hungary’s anti-immigration measures, was denounced by various human rights watchdogs.

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