Monday, 22 April, 2019

Hungary passes 'Stop Soros' law making it a crime to help migrants

Hungary passes 'Stop Soros' law making it a crime to help migrants Hungarian parliament passes law banning help for migrants
Jeannette Daniel | 23 June, 2018, 21:37

The laws will bring in a punishment of up to a year in prison for anyone convicted of helping a person who entered Hungary illegally from outside the Schengen zone, and whose life wasn't in immediate danger.

The Hungarian parliament has passed new legislation that criminalises lawyers and activists who help asylum seekers. Orban's government has accused Soros of supporting Muslim migrants.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been a vocal critic of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door migrant policy and has led eastern European opposition to EU quotas that aimed to distribute asylum seekers around the bloc.

PM Orban and his Fidesz party are fiercely anti-immigration, having won a parliamentary majority in April on a platform criticising USA billionaire George Soros' encouragement of mass immigration as a way to undermine Europe, a claim he denies.

Orban accuses Soros of encouraging mass immigration to undermine Europe - a charge Soros denies.

"The Hungarian people rightfully expects the government to use all means necessary to combat illegal immigration and the activities that aid it", Interior Minister Sandor Pinter wrote in a justification attached to the draft legislation.

Parliament, where Fidesz has a two-thirds majority, also passed on Wednesday a constitutional amendment to state that an "alien population" can not be settled in Hungary - a swipe at Brussels over its quota plan.

Critics of the "Stop Soros law" have branded it as vague and claim that organisations offering legal advice and charity to immigrants could fall foul of it.

When some 400,000 people travelled through Hungary in the middle of the migrant crisis of 2015 on their way to Western Europe, Mr Orban ordered fences put up to halt the influx.

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The measures passed Wednesday include a constitutional obligation for all state institutions to "defend Christian culture", as well as a ban on homeless people spending the night in public spaces.

Amnesty International called Hungary's new law "draconian" and noted the irony of the legislation passing on World Refugee Day.

Immigration has become a major concern for voters across the European Union, helping to propel anti-migrant populists to power in Italy and Austria and threatening to fracture Merkel's three-month-old coalition in Germany.

Hungarian lawmakers voted to tighten the country's asylum eligibility rules and threatened Wednesday to incarcerate people who help asylum-seekers, votes that coincided with a United Nations' observance dedicated to refugees.

"The Hungarian government has made a decision to persecute instead of to provide protection against persecution", co-chair Marta Pardavi said.

"The constant stoking of hatred by the current government for political gain has led to this latest shameful development, which is blatantly xenophobic and runs counter to European and worldwide human rights standards and values", he said.

On Monday the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe urged the Hungarian government to hold off on the vote until Friday, when it was expected to publish its opinion on the bills.

Orban has also tightened state control over the media, major business sectors and the courts since taking power in 2010.

Taken together, these changes to Hungarian law pose a serious threat to the right to seek asylum, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and expression and the right to be free from discrimination.

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