Budapest (AFP) – Hungary hit back Wednesday at a top UN rights official for calling Prime Minister Viktor Orban a racist over recent anti-immigration remarks.
“The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has started a fight with (Orban) and Hungarian migration policy,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters in Budapest, branding the UNHCR an “extremist pro-immigration” body.
“We are taking off our gloves… we will step into battle, and will not let a single illegal immigrant into Hungary,” he said.
The comments marked a new escalation in a feud between Budapest and the High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Last month, Zeid called Orban a xenophobe and racist after the Hungarian leader said in a speech that “(Hungary does) not want our colour… to be mixed in with the others”.
That led Szijjarto to call for Zeid’s resignation but Zeid hit back in a statement on Tuesday, saying “it is time to stand up to the bullies of Mr Orban’s ilk”.
“I stand by every single word… hatred is a combustible force; and it will not win -– not in Europe; and not today,” he said.
Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party has placed immigration at the centre of its general election campaign ahead of an April 8 vote, claiming that an influx of Muslims and Africans poses an existential threat to European culture.
Orban has also accused the Hungarian-American billionaire investor George Soros, as well as the United Nations, of wanting to fill the country with migrants.
A video posted on Facebook on Tuesday showed Orban’s chief-of-staff Janos Lazar speaking in a Vienna neighbourhood, saying it had been abandoned by “white Christians” and taken over by immigrants.
Lazar alleged the area had become dirtier, poorer and more crime-ridden as a direct result of the presence of immigrants and warned the same could happen in Budapest if the opposition won the election.
Local politicians in Vienna — even some from the far-right Freedom Party — criticised the video’s portrayal of the city, which regularly tops global rankings of cities for quality of life.
The Social Democrats demanded an apology from Lazar and called the video “a totally made up nightmare image” of the area aimed at “incitement against certain groups”.
Facebook later “censored and deleted” the post, Lazar said on Wednesday.