George Soros rejects Hungary’s ‘distortions and lies’ on immigration

Populist government accused of trying to distract from graft and failing services

 George Soros: “With Hungary’s healthcare and education systems in distress and corruption rife, the current government has sought to create an outside enemy to distract citizens.” Photograph:  Luke MacGregor/Reuters

George Soros: “With Hungary’s healthcare and education systems in distress and corruption rife, the current government has sought to create an outside enemy to distract citizens.” Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

 

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has accused Hungary’s government of using lies and propaganda to stoke anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic feeling in the country and distract attention from failing public services and rampant corruption.

Prime minister Viktor Orban’s administration claims the EU is trying to impose the liberal tycoon’s alleged vision of mass immigration, and recently sent Hungarians a questionnaire on seven aspects of this supposed “Soros plan”.

“The statements in the national consultation contain distortions and outright lies that deliberately mislead Hungarians about George Soros’s views on migrants and refugees,” the Budapest-born US financier said in a statement on Monday.

“With Hungary’s healthcare and education systems in distress and corruption rife, the current government has sought to create an outside enemy to distract citizens,” said Mr Soros (87), a Budapest-born Holocaust survivor.

“The government selected George Soros for this purpose, launching a massive anti-Soros media campaign costing tens of millions of euros in taxpayer money, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s.”

In a rebuttal of the questionnaire’s seven points, Mr Soros said four of them misrepresented his views and the rest were pure inventions.

‘Illiberal democracy’

Despite taking a scholarship from Mr Soros to study in England in 1989, Mr Orban now vows to create an “illiberal democracy” that staunchly opposes immigration – a model that is anathema to the billionaire’s vision of an open society.

Mr Orban built fences on Hungary’s southern borders to block refugees and migrants in 2015, and he rejects the EU’s efforts to relocate refugees around the bloc and its criticism of his alleged erosion of Hungarian democracy and rule of law.

Earlier this year, a grinning Mr Soros appeared on thousands of government-funded posters across the country, beside captions saying that 99 per cent of Hungarians oppose illegal immigration and urging: “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh!”

Some billboards were defaced with the words “stinking Jew” and other graffiti, and Mr Soros was among those who accused Hungary’s government of fuelling anti-Semitism.

Mr Orban has also introduced laws tightening control over foreign-funded NGOs and education reform, which could force the Soros-funded Central Europe University in Budapest to close.

Setting the tone for what is likely to be a divisive campaign ahead of parliamentary elections next spring, Mr Orban said last month that Hungary’s security services will investigate how Soros-funded groups operate and who is working with them.