Close Viktor Orban ally defends Vienna anti-migrant video

UN human rights chief calls Hungary’s leader a ‘racist and xenophobe’

Janos Lazar, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff: of Vienna he said “white Christian Austrians have moved out . . . and immigrants have taken control”.  Photograph:  Bernadett Szabo

Janos Lazar, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff: of Vienna he said “white Christian Austrians have moved out . . . and immigrants have taken control”. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo

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A chief aide to Hungary’s populist prime minister Viktor Orban has rejected criticism of a video that he made in Vienna claiming that immigrants had brought crime, dirt and poverty to parts of the Austrian capital.

Janos Lazar posted footage on Facebook this week of the Viennese district of Favoriten, where he says “white Christian Austrians have moved out . . . and immigrants have taken control”.

“Disorder is much higher, there is much more dirt and litter in the streets and the few Viennese still living here say that crime is a lot higher and people are living in bigger fear,” Mr Lazar claims.

Over melancholy music and between shots of Asian and African passers-by, Mr Lazar concludes: “If we let them in and they are going to live in our towns, the result will be crime, poverty, dirt and impossible conditions in our cities.”

Mr Orban and his ruling Fidesz party have cranked up already fervent anti-immigration rhetoric ahead of Hungary’s parliamentary elections on April 8th, portraying the country as a brave defender of a traditional Christian Europe.

They say the European Union, United Nations and Hungarian-American liberal philanthropist George Soros are determined to flood Europe with migrants and dismantle border fences that Mr Orban built during the 2015 refugee crisis.

Democratic checks

The EU is suing Hungary for refusing to accept a quota of refugees, and over education and NGO laws that critics say undermine democratic checks and balances and the rule of law.

Hungary’s opposition parties derided Mr Lazar’s video and Renate Brauner, Vienna’s executive city councillor for international affairs, said his allegations were “wrong in content and a sad example of xenophobia”.

“We are bewildered and shocked that a politician verbally attacks the capital of a neighbouring country in such a way . . . I can only wish Hungarian cities to be like Vienna – the city with the highest quality of life in the world,” she added.

On Thursday, Mr Lazar said Vienna was a “good example” for Budapest and insisted that his comments were private, not official.

Effects of immigration

“We always try to learn from the Viennese, but we do not stick our heads in the sand,” he said. “I did not intend to offend the Viennese . . . but I wanted to highlight the effects of immigration in Europe’s big cities. This is not a specific Viennese phenomenon, it can also be experienced in other European cities like Brussels and Berlin.”

Facebook removed but then restored the video on Wednesday, saying that it was committed to combating hate speech but that “exceptions are sometimes made if content is newsworthy, significant or important to the public interest”.

Mr Orban’s strident anti-immigration tone and recent comments that it would be dangerous for Hungary to become a “mixed” country prompted Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, to accuse him this week of being “a racist and xenophobe”.

In response, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said Mr Orban’s government “will step into battle [with the UN] and will not let a single illegal immigrant into Hungary”.

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