Hungarian PM tells Muslim refugees ‘not to come’

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BUDAPEST: Just days after the image of a toddler’s lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach after a migrant boat sank, left the world shocked, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told Muslim refugees ‘not to come’ as his country does not want to take in large numbers of Muslims, Al Jazeera reported.

The Hungarian premier said refugees should not risk their children’s lives trying to reach Europe, as he defended his tough approach to border control on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis.

Orban, who also insisted Hungary did not want to accept Muslim refugees, was asked on a visit to Brussels about an image of a drowned Syrian child on a Turkish beach which has grabbed world attention this week and said that it was not a moral argument for opening Europe’s doors.

 “If we would create … an impression that ‘just come because we are ready to accept everybody’, that would be a moral failure. The moral, human thing is to make clear: Please don’t come,” Orban told reporters.

“Turkey is a safe country. Stay there. It’s risky to come. It’s better for the family, for the kids, for yourself to stay.”

In a later news conference, he said the history of Ottoman rule meant Hungarians would not accept large-scale Muslim immigration, a point made recently 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,” Orban 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.”

In a pugnacious performance typical of a right-wing leader who has often clashed with liberal sentiment in Brussels, Orban rejected criticism of the razor-wire fence he has thrown up along the European Union’s external frontier with Serbia.

He said he was ready to do the same on the border with Croatia, an EU member but outside the Schengen open-border area, if migrants started to try and cross into Hungary from there.

“We Hungarians are full of fear, people in Europe are full of fear because they see that the European leaders … are not able to control the situation,” Orban said after meeting European Parliament President Martin Schulz, as hundreds of migrants pushed onto trains in Budapest hoping to head west.

Orban said his government was determined to apply EU rules on preventing people from crossing the bloc’s external border except at controlled checkpoints, and to register and identify all those who arrived to claim asylum.

Hungarians feared a failure on their part to control migrants would cause their EU neighbours to reimpose their own border checks on Hungary.

“Hungary did everything to fulfil regulations,” Orban said. Agencies

Egyptian billionaire offers to buy island to help refugees

With the migrant crisis gripping the world, an Egyptian billionaire has offered to buy an island off Greece or Italy and develop it to help hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from Syria and other conflicts.

The telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris announced the initiative on Twitter.

“Greece or Italy sell me an island, I’ll call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country,” he wrote.

More than 2,300 people have died at sea trying to reach Europe since January, many of them Syrians who fled their country’s four-and-a-half year conflict.

Sawiris said in a television interview that he would approach the governments of Greece and Italy about his plan.

Asked by AFP whether he believed it could work, he said: “Of course it’s feasible.”

“You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees,” he said.

Sawiris said an island off Greece or Italy could cost between $10 million and $100 million, but added the “main thing is investment in infrastructure”.

There would be “temporary shelters to house the people, then you start employing the people to build housing, schools, universities, hospitals.

“And if things improve, whoever wants to go back (to their homeland) goes back,” said Sawiris, whose family developed the popular El Gouna resort on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.

He conceded such a plan could face challenges, including the likely difficulty of persuading Greece or Italy to sell an island, and figuring out jurisdiction and customs regulations.

But those who took shelter would be treated as “human beings,” he said. “The way they are being treated now, they are being treated like cattle.”

Sawiris is the chief executive of Orascom TMT, which operates mobile telephone networks in a number of Middle Eastern and African countries plus Korea as well as underwater communications networks.

He also owns an Egyptian television channel.

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