Wednesday, June 20, marked the 18th annual World Refugee Day and the day the Hungarian Parliament approved a package of legislation that makes it illegal to help undocumented immigrants. The government gave the laws the name “Stop Soros” after George Soros, who has worked on behalf of Hungarian rights organizations. If the bill is signed into law, the New York Times reports that helping a migrant become a legal citizen by providing them with information about the asylum process or assisting them financially could land a Hungarian citizen in jail for 12 months. Even small acts of assistance like guiding them through an application would be against the law. Support for the law was overwhelming in the Parliament with 159 voting for its passage and only five voting against it. It was proposed by the party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the right-wing Fidesz party that currently holds a super-majority in Parliament and is strongly anti-immigrant. It now awaits the signature of President Janos Ader to become law.
Orban has been very vocal about his opposition to immigration. During the refugee crisis of 2015, large numbers of people seeking asylum passed through Hungary on their way to Germany. The prime minister built a wall along Hungary’s southern border to stop the procession. The number of migrants trying to get into Hungary had dropped drastically since 2015, but Orban has wielded his power over Hungarian media outlets to get out the message that immigration is still a problem, which has increased support for his anti-immigration position and efforts. During his state of the union address in February, he compared immigration to a “flu epidemic” then went on to describe Hungary as “the final bastion against ‘Islamization’ in Europe.”
CNN quotes Amnesty International Europe Director Gauri van Gulik as saying the law is “a brazen attack on people seeking safe haven from persecution and those who carry out admirable work to help them.” He said the legislation is “a new low point in an intensifying crackdown on civil society and it is something we will resist every step of the way.”
George Soros, whose namesake is in the legislation’s nickname, is the founder of an organization called the Open Society Foundations. The organization responded to increasing anti-immigration sentiment in Hungary last month by announcing it would be leaving Hungary and going to Germany due to the “increasingly repressive political and legal environment.” A spokesperson for Orban accused the organization of wanting “to create an immigrant continent and an immigrant country.”