Hungary passes law to criminalize helping asylum seekers

On 20 June, the parliament of Hungary passed a series of laws that criminalise any individual or groups who help undocumented migrants seeking asylum in the country.

The suite of bills that the Hungarian government dubbed ‘’Stop Soros’’ – named after human rights philanthropist George Soros, who the Hungarian government has accused of supporting Muslim migrants – permits the government to imprison individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) it deems to be assisting people not entitled to protection, the BBC reported.

A further amendment to the Hungarian Constitution states that an “alien population” may not be settled in Hungary, which is in direct opposition to the European Union’s migrant relocation plan that seeks to disperse more than 150,000 Eritrean, Syrian, and Iraqi asylum seekers among EU countries.

The bills face strong international criticism and opposition from leading rights groups in Europe, such as the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Amnesty International. According to the BBC, the UN Refugee Agency urged Hungarian officials to dismiss the proposed law. Legal experts from the Council of Europe have criticised the new law as ‘’arbitrary,’’ vague, and in direct violation of European laws.

The Budapest vote comes ahead of a crisis talk on Friday by a number of European Union leaders on how to overhaul the asylum system, the BBC says.

Hungary says immigration threatens its national security. Sándor Pintér, Hungarian Interior Minister, that the Hungarian people expect the government to use all means necessary to combat illegal immigration and the activities that facilitate it, according to The Guardian.

“The ‘Stop Soros’ package of bills serves that goal, making the organisation of illegal immigration a criminal offence,” Pintér stated. “We want to use the bills to stop Hungary from becoming a country of immigrants,’’ he added.

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

TMP – 25/06/2018