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Hungary rejects widely condemned ban of immigrants

Anti-refugee law could still be introduced as right-wing party announces they could support it in future

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 08 November 2016 13:13 GMT
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People protest against against the migration policy of the Orban government in September
People protest against against the migration policy of the Orban government in September (Getty)

Hungary's parliament has narrowly rejected Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s plan to ban the resettlement of refugees in the country.

The decision is a blow to the leader, who has railed against European Union migration schemes and spouted anti-refugee rhetoric.

Yet the policy could still be adopted as the radical nationalist party Jobbik – which suprisingly voted against the ban – announced they could support the law in future.

Mr Orban's proposals were only two seats short of the required two-thirds majority he needed – receiving 131 votes out of the 199-seat parliament.

After the vote, Jobbik said it would back Mr Orban’s ban on resettling migrants if the government agreed to abolish a residency bond programme for foreigners.

Jobbik said ahead of the vote that it would not back the amendment to the constitution unless Mr Orban abolished the scheme, which was introduced three years ago.

Mr Orban had said the amendment was needed to honour an October referendum, in which more than three million Hungarians, an overwhelming majority of those who voted, rejected migrant quotas the EU sought to agree in order to fairly distribute refugees arriving in Europe among member states.

He said that even though the referendum was not legally binding because of a low turnout, it gave him a strong political mandate to reject quotas stipulating how many migrants Hungary must accept.

Mr Orban's determination to keep out migrants has angered his fellow EU leaders and complicated their task as the 28-nation bloc struggles to cope with an influx of about 1.4 million people since the start of 2015, many fleeing conflicts like the war in Syria.

Last year Hungary was a key entry point into the EU's border-free Schengen zone until Mr Orban erected a razor wire fence along its southern borders with Croatia to stem the flow.

Robert Laszlo, a political analyst at think-tank Political Capital, told Reuters: “This vote today is a temporary fiasco (for Orban), similarly to the referendum which was invalid."

Mr Laszlo said the failure of the amendment was unlikely to weaken Mr Orban, whose Fidesz party has a strong lead in opinion polls ahead of elections due in 2018.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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