Hungary's Prime Minister Orban addresses a news conference at the end of an European Union leaders summit in Brussels
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks at a news conference at the conclusion of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels Dec. 9, 2011. Reuters

Refugees escaping conflicts and poor economic conditions in the Middle East will hurt European values, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview on Spanish television Friday. The outspoken leader of one of the republics in the former Soviet Union has regularly been critical of immigration into the European Union, recently slamming the continent’s rulers for applying high quotas with respect to the numbers of refugees that member-states have to accept.

“We do not know who these people are, what their plans are, how they wish to maintain their own ideals, and we do not know if they will respect our culture and laws. This is an unregulated, uncontrolled process, the definition of which is invasion,” the official Russian news agency Sputnik International quoted Orban as saying on the TV show. “If someone wants to live together with us, they must first reveal who they actually are and what their intentions are, and all these issues must be clarified.”

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Commenting on the refugee crisis engulfing many European nations, including Hungary, which recently closed its borders to neighboring states, Orban described the people crossing over the border as “looking like an army,” according to the Guardian in the U.K.

More than 4 million people have been become refugees originating in Syria during the four-plus years since that country’s civil war began, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. More than one-half of them have taken refuge in Lebanon and Turkey.

However, the wave of refugees entering the EU in 2015 has stoked the flames of discontent among conservative-leaning nations and led to a crisis inside the Schengen Area, where people inside Europe are allowed to pass over borders without documentation. Originating mostly in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 680,928 refugees have arrived on the continent by sea this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Hungary in general and Orban in particular have been at the center of the controversy surrounding these refugees: At one point, Orban ordered the country’s military to build a fence to keep them out.