Two dozen human rights groups have urged voters in Hungary to boycott an “inhumane” government-sponsored referendum on relocating refugees.
Hungarians are due to vote on October 2 on whether their country should accept a portion of refugees under an EU quota plan without requiring parliamentary approval.
Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban fiercely opposed to scheme, characterizing it an attack on national sovereignty and a bid to "redraw Europe's cultural and religious identity."
Opposition groups have denounced Orban's "campaign of fear" which they say the government is whipping up against refugees.
On Wednesday, a joint statement by 22 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said they had decided to campaign for the referendum to be rendered invalid.
The statement signed by the Helsinki Committees for Human Rights group among others said the referendum "does not allow the promotion of our common values, has no sense and is inhumane.”
Orban has refused to take a single refugee, sending some 400,000 refugees who had arrived in the country to other countries.
His government has built fences on its southern borders and launched an acrimonious campaign against refugees linking them to crime and terrorism.
Posters plastered on lampposts and billboards nationwide read, "Did You Know? Brussels wants to settle a city-sized number of illegal migrants in Hungary."
On Friday, Orban claimed Hungary's future was at stake as he urged voters to reject the EU quota plan. Polls suggest that some 75 percent of Hungarians will back his ant-refugee campaign of “Keep Them Out” in the referendum.
The EU's quota plan envisages relocating 160,000 Syrian refugees among the bloc’s member states.
If Hungarians reject the quota, they must also accept heavy fines of £212,000 for each refugee turned away, which will add up to more than £255 million in total.
Lajos Kosa, the head of the country’s ruling Fidesz Party, said on Tuesday that the EU “will face consequences” if it chooses to turn a blind eye to the result of the referendum.
The ruling government in Poland is emboldened by the June 23 referendum in the UK in which people voted to exit the EU.
“The decision of the citizens will give a very solid authorization for the government… There is no example of the EU ignoring the result of a referendum before,” Kosa said.
Several Hungarian opposition parties have expressed support for a boycott of the poll.
Last month, the government said that it was set to build a second “massive barrier” on its southern border and to increase the number of “border hunters” in an attempt to keep out refugees.
The government built last year a four-meter-high wall, consisting of three rolls of razor wire, along 523 kilometers (325 miles) of its southern frontiers with Serbia and Croatia.
The barrier has greatly slowed the flow of refugees entering Hungary, though most of them only wanted to pass through the country and reach Germany, their ideal destination.
According to official figures, some 400,000 refugees crossed Hungary last year; but less than 18,000 have managed to enter the country so far in 2016.
Europe has been facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Last year alone, well over a million refugees made their way into the continent.