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Hungary bill would criminalize helping illegal migrants

David Martin Reuters
May 29, 2018

Hungary is set to vote on possible criminal penalties against individuals or groups accused of supporting illegal migrants. It's called the "Stop Soros" bill; Orban's government has accused the financier of many things.

Young boys sleep on the Serbian side of a barbed wire, put up by the Hungarian government along its border to keep out migrants
A group of young men sleep by Hungary's barbed wire border fence, erected along the border with SerbiaImage: picture-alliance/M. Moskwa

Hungary's government on Tuesday submitted the latest draft of its so-called "Stop Soros" bill, as it continues its crackdown on illegal immigration and critical political groups.

Under the new bill, any individual or group accused of helping illegal immigrants could face a criminal penalty. If passed, any deed from distributing information leaflets to offering food could, in theory, be criminalized.

Hungary's state secretary, Csaba Domotor, told reporters that the full text of the draft bill would be made available later on Tuesday. The government hoped to get the bill through parliament, where Orban's right-wing Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, as soon as possible, he added. Reports suggest that a vote on the new laws could happen as soon as next week.

Read more: Viktor Orban: Era of 'liberal democracy' is over

When asked what deeds might be outlawed under the new legislation, Domotor said: "This is a legal framework and it will be up to the courts to decide how they will qualify certain activities."

Cracking down on dissent in Hungary

The new law is part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's campaign against Hungarian-born US financier George Soros, who is known for funding liberal causes.

Orban's crusade

Since coming to power in 2010, Orban has campaigned on a fiercely anti-immigration platform — a stance that has put him at odds with the European Union. Orban was re-elected to a third term last month, with his stance on immigration proving popular with rural voters.

Hungary, along with Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, has so far refused to take in any refugees from Syria or Eritrea under the EU's migrant quota scheme.

Orban's spate of new laws has also directly targeted Soros' interests and philanthropic ventures in Hungary. The Prime Minister has accused Soros of seeking to undermine Hungary's Christian culture by flooding the country with immigrants.

Orban: 'We are fighting for the future of our country'

Read more: Hungary's Orban: 'Ethnic homogeneity' vital for economic success

The "Stop Soros" bill already allows the interior minister to ban NGOs deemed to pose a "national security risk" and imposes a 25 percent tax on foreign donations made to groups that openly support migration.

New legislation passed last year also set tougher conditions for awarding licenses to foreign universities, a law widely seen as targeting Budapest's Central European University, a school founded by Soros. The law stipulated that the CEU must open a branch in its "home state” of New York alongside its campus in Budapest, as well as secure a bilateral agreement of support from the US government.

The university has scrambled to abide to the law, opening an additional base at Bard College in New York State. However, CEU is also looking at relocating its main campus, with Vienna the most likely destination.

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