September 12, 2015 / 10:16 AM / 2 years ago

I'd house a refugee family if it didn't encourage others: Orban

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech in Budapest, Hungary, September 7, 2015.Bernadett Szabo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hungary's leader Viktor Orban, who has drawn criticism for his tough stance on migrants, told a German newspaper that he would take a refugee family into his own home if he was sure that this would not encourage others to make the journey to Europe.

Asked in an interview with Germany's mass-selling Bild whether he would put such a family up, Prime Minister Orban said: "Yes, if migrants did not take that as encouragement to come to Europe. That wouldn't be advisable at the moment."

He said his wife and children were already actively helping the refugees.

More than 170,000 migrants have crossed into Hungary from non-EU Serbia so far this year. Many try to avoid being registered in Hungary for fear of being stranded there or returned to the country later in their journey across Europe.

Orban, a conservative populist always keen to undercut his main political rival, the far-right Jobbik party, has said Hungary's southern border with Serbia will be closed with a high fence from Sept. 15.

Orban said refugees should be sent back once Hungary's border is closed. Asked where, he said: "Where they came from. These migrants are not coming to us from war zones but rather from camps in countries neighboring Syria like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. They were safe there."

He said people were not coming to Europe to live in safety but rather because they wanted "a German or perhaps a Swedish life. The living conditions in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria are not good enough for them".

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Ros Russell

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