HUNGARY: UN experts decry tough new measures against migrants and civil society

(OHCHR) GENEVA (11 September 2018) – UN human rights experts* have expressed serious concerns about tough new measures in Hungary to stop migrants and refugees from entering the country, as well as the increased number of threats cast against civil society actors.

On 1 July 2018, a new law – called “Stop Soros” by the Government and “starve and strangle” by civil society – was adopted, imposing further restrictions on the right to seek asylum, rendering it practically impossible for asylum seekers to submit asylum claims and regularise their migratory status in Hungary.

The law, inter alia, also criminalises “supporting and facilitating illegal immigration”, a new offence punishable with one year of imprisonment for individuals or organisations.

Subsequently, additional laws have been adopted introducing a special 25 percent tax on financing “immigration activities” and imposing restrictions on assembly.

“We are extremely worried by this excessively restrictive legislative framework, combined with a series of attacks directed against civil society right after the elections,” the experts said. “This reveals the Government’s political priorities, obstructs the work of civil society critical to the Government’s policies, and fuels hostility, xenophobia and incites discrimination against migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and all those trying to provide them support.”

The European Commission, the OSCE/ODIHR-Venice Commission, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee, among others, have strongly condemned the new package of laws.

The recently enacted laws follow other legislative changes imposing restrictions on the work of civil society, such as amendments to the Higher Education Law and the NGO Transparency Law, both adopted in 2017.

“Since the last general election, the Government has engaged in smear campaigns against civil society, in particular in connection to migration issues, discrediting and intimidating dissenting voices, notably through its own agencies and through the public media,” said the experts.

Threats against human rights defenders in Hungary are now regular and widespread, evidently encouraged by the Government, observed the experts. In August 2018, the Immigration Office stopped giving food to detained asylum-seekers in transit zones. After the European Court of Human Rights’ issuance of five emergency orders to Hungary, meals were again provided to asylum-seekers in detention.

“The current legislation and the various attacks against civil society, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers run counter Hungary’s obligations under international human rights law and represent a serious breach by Hungary of the obligations and values that found the European Union,” the UN experts said.

“We urge Hungary to refrain from engaging in practices that are threatening fundamental civic freedoms, in particular, the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, as well as the principle of non-refoulement and the ban on incitement to hatred and discrimination.

“We call on the European institutions to continue addressing the deteriorating human rights situation in Hungary and keep on taking decisions reflecting the core values of the European Union: democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights.”


* The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Felipe Gonzalez Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Obiora C. Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.