Hundreds of refugees in Hungary’s capital city are threatening Europe’s “Christian roots,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an editorial published Thursday. The group of refugees — many of them fleeing from conflicts in Syria, Eritrea, and other war-torn countries — were waiting in the Keleti train station in Budapest after being prevented from boarding trains going to Germany. Orban noted that many of them were Muslim.
“Europe and European culture have Christian roots,” wrote Orban in an editorial for the German newspaper, Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung. “Or is it not already and in itself alarming that Europe’s Christian culture is barely in a position to uphold Europe’s own Christian values?” he wrote.
Orban’s comments came as refugees continued to faint from exhaustion in Budapest’s hot train station. Critics of Orban’s approach to the refugee crisis, which included closing borders and shutting off all train service until Thursday morning, have said that the crisis is a humanitarian one — not a question of religious invasion.
Hungary has recently found itself at the center of the summer’s escalating refugee crisis. The nation had became a popular point of first entry for people fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa. Many of those who arrived in Hungary either walked from Syria up through Turkey or landed on Mediterranean islands in Greece and continued pushing north.
Most refugees have wanted to move north, especially to Germany, where the economy is seen as stronger and where Chancellor Angela Merkel has welcomed thousands of asylum-seekers. Those who want to go to Germany, however, must first pass through Hungary, which is the southern entrance to the Schengen area, a group of 26 European nations where people can travel without border controls.
Hungary has become something of a weigh station, where people must be officially documented before they can move on to their final destination.
“The people want us to master the situation and protect our borders,” wrote the prime minister. “Only when we have protected our borders can questions be asked about the numbers of people we can take in or whether there should be quotas,” he said.