On 13 February 2018, the Hungarian government tabled a controversial legislative package to Parliament, which will potentially affect the function of civic life in Hungary on every level. A broad range of actors have expressed their solidarity with civil society in Hungary and urged an immediate withdrawal of the bills.

Dubbed “Stop Soros”, the legislative package includes the acts: ‘licensing of organisations supporting migration’, ‘immigration financing duty’ and the ‘immigration restraint order’. Following the governmental launch of the package in January, ECRE member the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) outlined that despite the name ‘the proposals not only target those who allegedly engage in supporting or funding ‘illegal migration’, but through less-conspicuous provisions also target the wider group of NGOs.’ The presented measures would cut or divert funding for essential services, stigmatize and criminalize NGO work, put human rights defenders under individual threat and effectively silence their voice.

In a letter sent to the Hungarian Government prior to the tabling of the package to the parliament, the HHC stated: “Since the intention, content and legislative solution of the draft bill fall below the elemental standards of a constitutional democracy, we are of the opinion that the only possibility is the immediate withdrawal of the entire Bill.”

Support for Hungarian based organizations was voiced widely from a diverse group of actors including EU, UN, national politicians and civil society organisations.  “I call once more on Hungary to refrain from penalising, stigmatising or putting at any disadvantage whatsoever NGOs, including those working in the field of migration, and to restore an enabling environment conducive to the work of human rights defenders,” stated the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks.  Critique was also raised by Michael Roth, Germany’s minister of state for Europe and in a joint letter initiated by Amnesty International, 250 organisations across the globe including ECRE, demanded the withdrawal of the draft and the “end of the Hungarian governments “odious campaign against civil rights groups.” The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) issued a similar call to Hungary and further criticized the recently introduced additional restrictions on border crossings. On average, only two asylum-seekers per day are allowed to enter the two Hungarian ‘transit zones’ at the shared border with Serbia.

The proposed legislative package reflects a lengthy process targeting NGOs, in particular those working with refugees and migrants. In 2017, the so-called LexNGO restricting foreign-funding for NGOs was adopted over which the European Commission referred Hungary to the European Court of Justice.


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Photo: (cc) jemufo, April 2010 

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.