BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary has accepted hundreds of refugees with Hungarian ancestry from crisis-hit Venezuela under a government programme involving a local charity, news website index.hu reported on Thursday.
It said Hungary launched the programme nearly a year ago with the help of the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, which has arranged the transfer of asylum-seekers from Venezuela to Hungary.
A spokesman for the Maltese charity in Hungary declined to comment to ensure the safety of those involved.
A government official said there was no contradiction between Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s years-long political crusade against mass immigration into Europe and the Venezuelan programme due to the Hungarian ancestry of the refugees.
“We are speaking about Hungarians and we do not consider Hungarians migrants,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas told a news conference in response to questions about the report.
“They, like any other Hungarian, have a right to return home,” Gulyas said, adding that the first refugees under the programme arrived in Hungary last year.
Index said Hungary provided airline tickets, housing, cultural and language courses to the refugees, as well as documents enabling them to find work. In all, Hungary accepted about 300 people so far, the report said.
It said the refugees were initially housed in hotels in the countryside, but some of them have already managed to find work in Hungary. Index said about 5,000 Hungarians emigrated to Venezuela, mostly after World War Two.
Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Angus MacSwan