The Hungarian government and Prime Minister Victor Orban have drafted a new law to combat migrant asylum-seekers moving into the EU and to criminalize the aide workers assisting them in Hungary.
If passed in its current form, the law outlaws the provision of information, legal advice and even food to asylum-seekers, threatening jail time for those who do so.
The drafted legislation also amends the Hungarian constitution to prevent the transfer of refugees, currently living in other parts of the EU, into Hungary.
Along with Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary opposes an EU plan to relocate 160,000 Syrian and Eritrean refugees from overcrowded camps in Italy and Greece. This scheme, created in 2015 during the height of the migrant crisis, requested that Hungary take in 1,294 asylum seekers.
Hungary is currently receiving very few migrants, in part due to the thick razor-wire fence built along their southern border. Since January, they have permitted a daily average of just two asylum seekers through the transit zones along this fence.
In 2015, Hungary was on the transit route for an estimated 1 million asylum seekers. One standoff at the Roszke crossing of the Hungarian-Serbian border in 2015 led to the arrest of a Syrian refugee who threw stones at the Hungarian security guards. In March 2018, this man was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of complicity in an act of terror, followed by 10 years banned from Hungarian territory.
Orban was re-elected this April after running on an anti-migration campaign, and has referred to refugees as “Muslim invaders.” He is part of the right-wing Fidesz party with a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Parliament is now reviewing the draft.
This legislation is called the Stop Soros Act – a reaction and opposition to the work of US citizen George Soros, a billionaire and philanthropist who denounced accusations that he is encouraging Muslim immigration into European countries in a speech on Tuesday.
“The EU must protect its external borders but keep them open for lawful migrants,” Soros said. “Member states in turn must not close their internal borders.”
Soros, who was born in Hungary, has donated large sums to various Hungarian NGOs and initiatives via his foundation, Open Society Foundation (OSF), which closed its headquarters in Hungary and relocated to Berlin following Orban’s reelection.
UNHCR encouraged Orban to dismiss the new law in a public statement also on Tuesday.
“We are particularly concerned that the Government is targeting those who, in a purely humanitarian role, help people who are seeking asylum,” Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau Pascale Moreau said. “We are calling upon the Government to halt any measures that would further increase the vulnerability of people who are simply looking for a safe haven.”