One thousand Coptic Christians have been covertly relocated from Egypt to Hungary to flee increasing levels of persecution, according to government officials.
But human rights groups, the Hungarian media and even a few Coptic leaders within Hungary apparently have not found any evidence of the new arrivals, casting doubt on the truth of the claims. The eastern European country has closed its borders and denied entry to hundreds of thousands mainly Muslim migrants and refugees from the Middle East, saying "we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country".
Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, insisted "about 1,000" Coptic Christians had been welcomed into Hungary from Egypt "even if not in a totally open manner".
But Marta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, said the claim was "very mysterious". She told the Irish Times "nobody" had seen the newcomers.
"If this was a compassionate act it was very hush-hush. One-thousand Coptic Christians going by completely unnoticed by the Hungarian leader of the Coptic community – I find it very interesting."
On Sunday the Hungarian people will vote in a referendum over the forced relocation scheme proposed by European Union leaders. They are expected to vote with their government and reject the deal.
Officials have established a special government office to help Christians who face persecution, insisting it would only accept Christians migrants and not Muslims. The office will look to help Christians in the Middle East and also monitor alleged Christian discrimination in Europe.
"We believe this is a kind of moral mission that we have," Kovacs told the Irish Times. "It also goes with our sense of the importance of traditions, including the preservation of religious minorities and preserving Europe's identity."
He went on: "We believe the European Union should be paying more attention to Christian groups in danger.
"But also, as in the non-Christian case, the real way is to bring help to the spot rather than to bring the trouble to the European Union.
"It is about finding ways and means of trying to keep minorities in the places they belong, to provide help, follow their fate and provide security if needed... to keep communities in place."