Hungary: Draft bill criminalises aiding undocumented immigrants

Under the new bill, any individual or group accused of helping irregular immigrants could face up to a year in prison.

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Orban's Fidesz party won national elections in April through a virulently nationalistic campaign [Darko Vojinovic/The Associated Press]

Hungary‘s government has submitted a new draft bill to the Hungarian parliament that criminalises individuals or groups who help undocumented migrants gain status to stay.

Posted on the parliament’s website on Tuesday, the so-called “Stop Soros” bill is part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s campaign against Hungarian-born US financier George Soros, who is accused by the ruling party Fidesz of encouraging refugees to go to the central European country.

“Those who provide financial means … or conduct this organisational activity on a regular basis will be punishable with up to one year in prison,” part of the bill reads.

A separate bill also submitted on Tuesday proposed changes to the constitution so that foreigners who enter Hungary via a third country, where they were not exposed to persecution, would not be entitled to asylum. 

The move was condemned by the United Nations refugee agency for encouraging “rising xenophobic attitudes”. 

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement they are “seriously concerned that these proposals, if passed, would deprive people who are forced to flee their homes of critical aid and services, and further inflame tense public discourse and rising xenophobic attitudes”.

“We are particularly concerned that the government is targeting those who, in a purely humanitarian role, help people who are seeking asylum,” Pascale Moreau, the director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau, was quoted as saying in the statement. 

Orban’s Fidesz party won national elections in April with 49 percent of the vote, maintaining its 133-seat absolute majority in parliament, through a virulently nationalistic campaign that presented him as the defender of “Christian values”, which he claims are threatened by globalisation and mass immigration.

The bill leaves out a 25 percent tax rate for foreign donations to non-governmental organisations that back migration, which was part of an earlier version of the legislation. 

Earlier in May, Soros’ Open Society Foundations announced a move from Hungary to Berlin, citing an increasingly repressive political environment and security concerns for its personnel. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies