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CoE commissioner urges dropping of Stop Soros draft

The Hungarian Parliament will debate on Tuesday the draft bill dubbed “Stop Soros.” The stated aim of the law - named in reference to Hungarian-born financier George Soros and his alleged plan to relocate refugees across Europe - is to defend national sovereignty and prohibit the relocation of any foreign population to Hungary, the government insists.

Dunja Mijatović

The Hungarian government last week submitted the latest version of its draft “Stop Soros” law, which immediately drew harsh criticism from Amnesty International, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and the UNHCR - UN Refugee Agency.

“UNHCR is seriously concerned that these proposals, if passed, would deprive people who are forced to flee their homes of critical aid and services, and further inflame tense public discourse and rising xenophobic attitudes,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement in Geneva last Wednesday.

Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó labeled the UNHCR statement “outrageous” and unfounded, and called on critics to ask questions if they do not understand something.

The latest to step into the row is Dunja Mijatović, the newly appointed Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who released a statement on Friday, published on her website, strongly criticizing the draft.

“The draft legislation recently submitted by the Hungarian government to the Parliament, which provides for criminal law sentences, including imprisonment, for those ‘facilitating illegal immigration’ constitutes a worrying human rights development,” the statement reads. “If adopted, the new provisions would result in further arbitrary restrictions to the indispensable work of human rights NGOs and defenders and leave migrants without the essential services provided by such NGOs.”

“The proposed package allows for the criminalization of activities which should be fully legitimate in a democratic society and will inevitably have a chilling effect on any individuals or organizations offering assistance to migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees”

Dunja Mijatović, CoE Commissioner for Human Rights

Mijatović added that she is “alarmed that the new provisions will impact negatively on the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers.”

“By impeding the work of NGOs that currently provide vital legal assistance and information about asylum procedures, the new provisions effectively thwart the realization of the right to seek asylum,” she continued. “Measures of this kind are also likely to incite xenophobia against migrants and mistrust of those committed to helping them,” she stressed.

Mijatović has called on the Hungarian authorities to drop the bill.

“They should refrain from taking any measures penalizing, stigmatizing or putting at any disadvantage NGOs working in the field of migration, and restore an enabling environment conducive to the work of human rights defenders,” she added.