A Hungarian member of the European Parliament has suggested that Hungary should hang severed pigs' heads along the border fence to deter Muslim refugees and migrants from entering the country.
Gyorgy Schopflin, a member of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, sparked outrage and disbelief with the suggestion.
He made the comment during an ill-tempered exchange on Twitter with a human rights campaigner.
Andrew Stroehlein, European media director for Human Rights Watch, posted a tweet in which he criticised Hungary for using bizarre, totemic masks made out of beetroot to scare refugees trying to cross the border from neighbouring Serbia.
The existence of the ghoulish vegetable heads was first reported last week by a Hungarian journalist. It is not clear who made them but there has reportedly been no effort by Hungarian police or soldiers to take them down.
“Refugees are fleeing war & torture, Hungary. Your root vegetable heads will not deter them,” Stroehlein wrote in his tweet.
The MEP, a former academic who is a member of the governing Fidesz party, wrote back: “Might do so. Human images are haram. But agree, pig's head would deter more effectively.”
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) August 19, 2016
Might do so. Human images are haram. But agree, pig's head would deter more effectively @otmarianna— György Schöpflin (@schpfln) August 20, 2016
He was described as “a sad old man full of hate” and his comment was branded as “disgusting”.
The pigs' head suggestion reflected a deep current of xenophobia and anti-migrant feeling within the Hungarian government, Stroehlein told the Telegraph.
“With the current government, the idea of putting up pigs' heads and turnips is in many ways the least of the issues. Their treatment of refugees has been appalling - using violence to push people back from the border. Conditions in reception centres are inhumane. Refugees are treated like animals.”
Under Hungary’s right-wing government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the country has has taken one of the toughest stances against the recent mass influx of migrants and refugees.
Hungary closed its southern border with Serbia last year as around a million refugees and migrants, many of them from Syria, sought to travel from Turkey, through Greece and along the Balkan route to Germany and Scandinavia.
It has fenced its border along its neighbours and even prosecuted asylum seekers who crossed the border illegally and were caught.