In Brief

Hungary to make it illegal to help asylum seekers

People aiding undocumented migrants may face prison sentences or fines

The government of Hungary is planning to introduce controversial laws that would make helping illegal immigrants a criminal offence.

Posted on the parliament’s website yesterday, the proposed legislation is part of what has been dubbed the “Stop Soros” Bill - ultra-conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s campaign against Hungarian-born US financier George Soros, who is known for funding liberal causes.

The text of the legislation reads: “Those who provide financial means... or conduct this organisational activity [for illegal immigration] on a regular basis will be punishable with up to one year in prison.”

The new laws could make it illegal to print leaflets with information for asylum seekers, and to offer them food or legal advice, the BBC reports.

Orban also wants to amend the Hungarian Constitution to state that an “alien population” could not be settled in Hungary and that foreign citizens could live in Hungary only if permitted by the national authorities, undermining EU quotas to distribute migrants around Europe.

Both proposals were pledged by Orban’s Fidesz party before the country’s general elections last month, in which the controversial PM secured a third consecutive term - his fourth overall - with a two-thirds majority. This means bills and amendments can be passed “without hitches”, says The Guardian.

The proposed legislation is the latest move in the Hungarian government’s crackdown on illegal immigration, which Orban claims is “eroding European stability” and risks “undermining Hungary’s Christian culture”, Reuters reports.

The plan has met with widespread criticism, says The Guardian. “Rights activists have been worried about the Bill because of the potential for any NGOs working to give legal or other aid to migrants arriving at Hungary’s borders to fall under the definition of supporting illegal migration,” says the newspaper. Reuters adds that the Bill was “immediately condemned by The UN Refugee Agency”.

Although more than one million, mainly Muslim, migrants have entered the EU since 2015, few have sought to settle in Hungary. Official data shows that in 2017, a total of 1,291 migrants obtained some form of international protection in the country, the news agency says.

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