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Open Society Foundations turn to ECHR over ‘Stop Soros’ law

Initiatives

The Open Society Foundations (OSF), the grantmaking network founded by Hungarian-born investor George Soros, said on Monday it is lodging a formal complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Hungarian legislation that makes the promotion and support of what is termed illegal immigration a punishable criminal offense.

The OSF argues that the legislation “breaches the guarantees of freedom of expression and association enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and must be repealed.” It is also filing an appeal against the legislation with Hungaryʼs Constitutional Court, state news agency MTI reported on Monday.

The package of legislation, dubbed “Stop Soros” in reference to an alleged plan for managing the migrant crisis which the Hungarian government has repeatedly attributed to Soros, was approved by lawmakers in June with a vote of 160 for and 18 against.

The package defines support for illegal immigration in the Criminal Code as offering to initiate an application for asylum to anybody who has arrived from, or passed through on the way to Hungary, any country in which that person was not persecuted. 

The first offense is treated as a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to 90 days; however, repeat offenses and the support of such illegal activity by material means may result in imprisonment for a period of up to one year.  

The passing of the package stirred immediate criticism from international human rights organizations, and triggered a fresh infringement procedure against Hungary by the European Commission in July, which said the legislation “criminalizes activities that support asylum and residence applications and further restricts the right to request asylum.”

The OSF also noted the passage of additional legislation in Hungary that taxes funding for organizations that are said to “promote” migration.  The legislation, approved in July, introduced a 25% levy on “material support for the operation of NGOs whose activities support immigration.”

The law subjects NGOs to the levy which support the immigration of non-EU nationals or foreigners without proper residency permits either “directly or indirectly.” It designates activities that are “designed to promote immigration” that may be in the framework of “conducting or participating in media campaigns and media seminars,” “organizing education,” “establishing or operating networks,” or “propaganda that paints immigration in a positive light.”  All proceeds from the levy go towards protecting the borders of Hungary, MTI noted.

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