The United Nations slammed Hungary’s controversial anti-immigration bill Friday, saying its measures against pro-refugee groups amounted to an “assault on human rights.”
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva the bill represented “an unjustified restriction on the right to freedom of association and is a worrying continuation of the government’s assault on human rights and civic space.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s nationalist government tabled legislation in parliament Tuesday that would allow it to ban civil society groups that help immigrants and refugees.
The bill, dubbed the “Stop Soros” package, is part of Orbán’s wider campaign against the liberal politics of Hungarian-born financier George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist who has devoted much of his wealth to championing open borders.
The law explicitly targets organizations that “sponsor, organize or otherwise support a third-country national’s entry or stay in Hungary via a safe third country in order to ensure international protection.”
Under the proposed law, groups would need a permit to operate, and could be banned by the government on “national security” grounds, while pro-asylum activists could be issued restraining orders to prevent them from traveling near Hungary’s borders.
Any groups that were approved would have to pay a 25 percent tax on international funding aimed at helping migrants and refugees. “Such a tax is likely to result in reduced budgets and disrupt fundraising, thereby undermining NGOs’ ability to carry out their activities and services,” Colville said.
Orbán, a right-wing populist, has campaigned heavily on immigration issues in the lead-up to national election on April 8. He has framed the law as being essential to secure Hungary’s independence and thwart forces that want to transform it into an “immigrant country.” His government accuses Soros of being the mastermind of a plan to flood Europe with hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year.
Opinion polls show Orbán’s party, Fidesz, on track to win more than 50 per cent of the vote, with the far-right Jobbik party set to come in second.
Cover image: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addreses a press conference with his Austrian counterpart at the Chancellery in Vienna on January 30, 2018. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)