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Hungary: Government's national consultation on immigration and terrorism creates widespread debate

A change in the Hungarian government’s immigration policy requires wider social support, and therefore the Government has put together a questionnaire of twelve questions as part of a national consultation concerning immigration, economic immigration and terrorism, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács said. Among the questions in the next national consultation terrorism, citizens will be asked whether or not illegal border-crossers should be detained for a period longer than 24 hours, despite the European Union prohibiting such a measure, and whether immigrants who are proven to be taking advantage of European regulations should be immediately expelled and whether they should be expected to work while in Hungary to defray the cost of accommodation and food, Zoltán Kovács said. He added it would be up to experts and parliament to work out how to combat illegal migration.

The questionnaires containing 12 questions and a letter from the Prime Minister have been mailed to all citizens aged over 18—altogether 8 million people—from early May, and expected to be returned by the deadline of July 1.

The idea of the consultation triggered widespread criticism on behalf of advocacy organisations and researchers. Public statements were issued, and demonstrations organised. Many said that there was no need for a national consultation on immigration. Such a consultation would be a waste of taxpayer money but the prime minister should instead discuss the issue with his European colleagues and migration experts. Orbán participated on a debate in the European Parliament on the issue of the consultation on 19th May.

Others highlighted that the questionnaire lacked any professional and ethical standards, therefore it was not suitable for any in-merit consultation, but could contribute to the already high xenophobia and intolerance toward immigrants. The PM's approach appears to meet the demands of the Hungarian population, two-thirds of which are in favour of restricting immigration, according to a recent research by the think tank Századvég.

Read more on the issue HERE.

An unofficial translation of the questionnaire is available HERE.