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article imageHungarian opposition cries hypocrisy over Venezuelan refugees

By AFP     Feb 21, 2019 in World

Hungarian opposition politicians accused the government of hypocrisy Thursday over a programme helping to settle Venezuelan refugees of Hungarian origin, saying it contradicted the right-wing government's strict anti-immigration laws.

The row started when the index.hu investigative website published details of how 300 Venezuelans had come to the country under a generous programme which paid for their airfare, a year's accommodation, Hungarian and English lessons and allowed them to work shortly after arrival.

According to index.hu the programmes was organised under the auspices of the Hungarian branch of the Order of Malta religious mission but at least some of the costs were borne by the Hungarian government.

The opposition was quick to point out the contrast between the programme and the government's strident anti-immigration rhetoric.

Last year, stringent laws were passed slapping taxes on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) deemed to be supporting or positively portraying migration.

"We call on the government to register itself as an organisation supporting migration and to pay the tax," said MEP Csaba Molnar from the liberal DK party at a press conference.

"Just to be clear: We have no problem with refugees and with welcoming them, we support that. What we object to is the government treating Hungarians like idiots, not least its own supporters," Molnar added.

The latest row comes days after Orban's government launched a media campaign accusing George Soros and the EU of supporting illegal migration, dismissed by Brussels as a "ludicrous conspiracy theory".

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff Gergely Gulyas defended the programme, telling journalists: "We don't consider Hungarians to be migrants. We have accepted these people on the basis of their Hungarian heritage."

Hungary is putting up the new arrivals at this  hotel outside the capital Budapest with the cost to ...
Hungary is putting up the new arrivals at this hotel outside the capital Budapest with the cost to be "calculated and published at a later stage," the prime minister's chief of staff said
STR, AFP

"The cost of this action will be calculated and published at a later stage," Gulyas said.

He added that the government had said last year it would accept ethnic Hungarians from Venezuela and that the programme had not been publicised as that way it stood a better chance of attracting more families.

Index.hu said that the Venezuelan refugees it had spoken to had been asked by the programme organisers not speak about the circumstances of their arrival to anyone.

The government insists the beneficiaries of the programme are Hungarians but according to index.hu very few of those who have recently arrived are able to speak any Hungarian or have much knowledge of the country or its culture.

The Hungarian-origin community in Venezuela is thought to largely consist of those who fled Hungary after the failed anti-Soviet uprising of 1956 and their descendants.

Venezuela is enduring the biggest economic crisis in its modern history, with life-threatening shortages of food and medicine and intensifying hyperinflation driving more 2.3 million people to flee the country, according to a recent UN tally.

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