NGOs call for boycott of Hungarian vote on migrants

NGOs call for boycott of Hungarian vote on migrants

BUDAPEST – Agence France-Presse
NGOs call for boycott of Hungarian vote on migrants

A fence is pictured in front of an open migrant camp in Vamosszabadi, Hungary, August 30,2016. Picture taken on August 30 2016. REUTERS photo

Human rights campaigners on Sept. 14 urged voters in Hungary to boycott what they termed an “inhumane” referendum on migrant relocation under an EU quota plan.

The appeal was made by 22 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the Helsinki Committees for Human Rights group.

“We have decided to campaign for the referendum to be rendered invalid [as] it does not allow promotion of our common values, has no sense and is inhumane,” said a statement by the NGO collective.

Some eight million Hungarians are due to vote on Oct. 2 on whether they support the EU quota plan - which would oblige Hungary to take in a share of migrants without requiring parliamentary approval.

Several opposition parties have also voiced support for a boycott of the poll as Brussels seeks to resettle refugees among members of the bloc.

The scheme is designed to ease pressure on Greece and Italy, the main entry points into the bloc for migrants fleeing the Syrian civil war and has been approved by a majority of EU member states.

But Hungary and its right-wing Prime Minister and fierce Brussels critic Viktor Orban has led opposition to a mandatory scheme he views as a bid to “redraw Europe’s cultural and religious identity” and an attack on national sovereignty.  

Hungary built fences on its southern borders last year to stop the migrant flow after some 400,000 people transited the country while Orban has refused to take a single migrant under the plan.

Meanwhile, scuffles broke out on the Greek island of Chios, police said Sept. 15, during a protest by locals demanding the departure of some 3,500 refugees and migrants held there.

Riot police were deployed late on Sept. 14 to keep a crowd of 800 people from approaching two migrant camps, a police source told AFP.

“A few bursts of tear gas” were fired when the protesters tried to break through the cordon and reach one of the camps, the officer added.

State agency ANA said journalists were also chased from the scene. One of them said he was struck by a protester allegedly linked to Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.

Four camp volunteers and a migrant were also briefly detained when they came out of the facility, the police officer said.

There are now over 60,000 refugees and migrants in Greece, most of them seeking to travel to Germany and other affluent EU countries.

But they are unable to do so after a succession of eastern European and Balkan states shut their borders earlier this year.