Individuals or NGOs that help illegal migrants gain status in Hungary could face prison sentences under a new set of government laws, informally known as the 'Stop Soros' plan.
The legislation is part of the right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán government's campaign against George Soros- a Hungarian-born billionaire financier and philanthropist. Orbán's government has vilified Soros the past year as the main backer of illegal migration to Europe.
“Those who provide financial means . . . or conduct this organisational activity on a regular basis will be punishable with up to one year in prison,” said the official text of the proposals.
Meaning that anyone who gives a migrant a sandwich, blanket, or even a bottle of water could end up behind bars.
“We need an action plan to defend Hungary and this is the Stop Soros package of Bills,” the interior ministry added in a comment.
In contrast to earlier versions, the latest draft of the Bill, submitted to parliament on Tuesday, does not propose compulsory security checks for NGOs that work with migrants or a 25 percent tax on their foreign funding.
The constitution would also be amended to stop other EU countries from transferring asylum seekers to Hungary, which rejects European Union quotas to distribute migrants around the bloc.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, who provides legal aid to asylum-seekers, called for the draft law to be dropped and said it threatens to bring back "an era of fear, unheard of since the fall of (the) communist dictatorship."
The United Nations Refugee Agency has urged Hungary to scrap the proposals and said it is "seriously concerned" about it in a statement.
“Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right, it is not a crime . . . We are particularly concerned that the government is targeting those who, in a purely humanitarian role, help people who are seeking asylum,” added Pascale Moreau, director of the UNHCR’s Europe bureau.
Viktor Orbán's Hungary
The legislation was a key promise of Orbán's party Fidesz. It comes a month after he and the party were reelected with a two-thirds majority. It means the bill, which is expected to be voted next week, can be passed without hitches.
On Wednesday Máté Kocsis, Fidesz's faction leader said in parliament: "The citizens participating at the elections clearly and squarely stated their opinion on not wanting Hungary to become a migrant country."
"Unlike the previous proposal, the novelty in it is that it also uses criminal law instruments, which makes it much stricter than the previous proposal," he added.
Since Orbán came to power in 2010, he has increased control over the media and fearlessly campaigned an anti-migrant sentiment.
It included sealing the country's border with fences in 2015 to stop refugees from entering at the height of the migration crisis. It has put Orbán at odds with the European Union who funds the country with billions of euros a year.
Speaking at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris on Tuesday, George Soros said: “The whole of Europe has been disrupted by the refugee crisis. Unscrupulous leaders have exploited it even in countries that have accepted hardly any refugees."
"In Hungary, Victor Orbán based his re-election campaign on falsely accusing me of planning to flood Europe, Hungary included, with Muslim refugees,” he added.