Hungarian Parliament approves law sanctioning NGOs, amends Constitution to prevent "foreign settlement"
The Hungarian Parliament has approved a package of anti-immigration laws introducing, among other things, punishments for supporting illegal migration, Reuters reported on 21 June. The new legislation, called the "Stop Soros" package, has been criticized by the Council of Europe for facilitating the prosecution of NGOs aiding migrants who have no right to asylum in the country.
The Parliament, where Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's governing coalition has a constitutional majority, also approved a Constitutional amendment preventing members of "foreign populations" from settling in Hungary. "Hungarian citizens justifiably anticipate that the Government will use every means necessary to combat illegal migration and the activities aiding it," Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pintér wrote in the justification for the bill.
"The legislation package called 'Stop Soros' fulfills that aim, the organizing of illegal migration is now a felony as a result of its adoption. We want to take advantage of these laws to prevent Hungary from becoming a country of immigrants," the Interior Minister added.
The criticized laws are aimed especially against organizations supported by the American billionaire of Hungarian origin George Soros. He became the main target of the Hungarian PM's invective during the spring elections.
The PM accuses Soros of actively supporting massive immigration into Europe and interfering with Hungarian politics. The new laws, among other matters, levy a 25 % tax on income to be paid by organizations supporting migration.
Hungary has been criticized not just by the NGO sector but also by the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). According to those international organizations, the Hungarian legislation criminalizes activities that are absolutely legitimate.
Orbán is among the most vocal opponents of the system of redistributing asylum-seekers among the countries of the EU, and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have refused to join the EU program. According to Hungarian statistics there were 3 555 refugees living in the country of 10 million as of this April.
Just 342 people were registered as asylum-seekers during the first four months of this year in Hungary, most of whom are from the Middle East and 279 of whom were eventually awarded asylum. Currently, however, the situation is adjusting itself, according to many observers.
"Instead of providing people with protection from persecution, the Hungarian Government has decided to join the persecutors," Márta Pardavi of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee commented on the adoption of the bill. Orbán's Government is anticipating legal steps to be most probably taken against it by the European Commission over the new laws.
Hungarian legislators voted on the laws on 20 June despite the fact that the Council of Europe's Venice Commission had called on Budapest not to take the vote until after the Friday release of its standpoint on the legislation. The Venice Commission is an advisory group on constitutional law questions.
German State Secretary for EU Affairs Michael Roth expressed regret over the fact that Hungary did not wait for the Venice Commission's analysis. "We share the concerns of the Venice Commission about the criminalization of the activities of NGOs in the area of aid to refugees," he said.
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