Hungarian Parliament passes bill to criminalise helping undocumented migrants

Saturday, June 23, 2018

On Wednesday, the Hungarian parliament passed the "Stop Soros" bill, making it illegal to help undocumented immigrants.

The bill was passed by a vote of 160–18. Per the bill, anyone found guilty of helping undocumented immigrants can potentially face a jail term of up to twelve months. The bill was criticised by human rights-focused organisation Amnesty International, as well as the United Nations (UN), Council of Europe, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and European Union. The bill bars non-government organisations from aiding refugees.

The bill is named after Hungarian-born democracy advocate George Soros. Having escaped the Holocaust and emigrated in 1947, Soros later founded the Open Society Foundations (OSF) which funds various NGOs. Current conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who won the election in April, spoke about immigration and national security in his political campaign. Orbán accused Soros of bringing migrants to Europe. Orbán asserted this blockade was to preserve the country's "Christian culture". In May, Soros announced OSF was moving from Hungary to German capital Berlin, asserting "increasingly repressive" condition in Hungary.

Amnesty internationals's European Director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement, "It is a bitter irony that as the world marks World Refugee Day, the Hungarian Parliament voted [...] to introduce a law that targets organizations and individuals who support asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants". According to the UN, the law could come under effect as early as July.

A constitutional amendment was also made, prohibiting "alien population" from living in the country. Hungary's Interior Minister, Sándor Pintér, said, "The Hungarian people rightfully expects the government to use all means necessary to combat illegal immigration and the activities that aid it". He also added, "The Stop Soros package of bills serves that goal, making the organisation of illegal immigration a criminal offence. We want to use the bills to stop Hungary from becoming a country of immigrants".

On Tuesday, 25% taxation of NGOs helping immigrants was proposed by the finance ministry. The ministry, in a statement, said, "The defense against illegal immigration imposes a heavy burden on Hungary's budget, so it indirectly affects the Hungarian people [...] therefore, the government passes that as a manner of burden sharing, the organisations aiding migration should bear additional taxes."

UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)'s European Bureau director Pascale Moreau said, "Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right, it is not a crime".