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Hungary’s ‘stop Soros’ asylum laws ruled illegal

23 November 20210 comments

Hungary’s new laws criminalising support for asylum seekers and limiting the right to asylum violates EU law, according to the European Court of Justice.

The ruling has rejected Hungary’s plan to criminally prosecute those who help asylum seekers.

The court also effectively ruled that it is not legal “to deny an application for international protection, considering it inadmissible because the applicant arrived in its territory through a State in which he is not exposed to persecution”.

The ruling, against which there is no appeal, concurs with a European Commission move which saw Hungary sued for reforming several laws in 2018 that tightened its rules on asylum.

The pressure on Hungary also increased after the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen asked the CJEU to fine the government led by Viktor Orbán for failing to comply with a previous sentence.

The decision stems from a 2018 Hungarian bill the government dubbed the “Stop Soros” law — a reference to liberal American-Hungarian businessman George Soros, a frequent government target.

The controversial law prevented people from applying for asylum if they came to Hungary from a country where their life and freedom were not at risk.

It also outlawed individuals and organizations from helping illegal migrants claim asylum.

The European Court of Justice found that by passing the measure, Hungary had “failed to fulfil its obligations” under EU law.

The verdict is the latest legal win for the European Commission in its years-long battle over migration with Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling Fidesz government.

To start, the court ruled Hungary could not dismiss asylum applications on the grounds outlined in its law, arguing the EU already had an “exhaustive list” of reasons to reject such applications.

“The ground for inadmissibility introduced by the Hungarian legislation corresponds to none of those situations,” it said.

The court also ruled that Hungary couldn’t criminalise such assistance for asylum seekers, arguing that it restricted the EU-enshrined rights of individuals to communicate with asylum seekers and for migrants to seek legal counsel.

After Hungary passed the contested 2018 law, the European Commission sued the country and sent a letter of notice blaming Budapest for violating the EU’s Asylum Procedures Directive and the Reception Conditions Directive.

 But Hungary did not change its legislation, and the Commission followed up with an opinion in January 2019 before referring the country to the courts.

Hungary and the EU have been clashing for years on issues ranging from judicial independence to media freedoms and refugees’ rights.

President Orbán has repeatedly accused Brussels of working against the country’s national interest and meddling in its internal politics.

The Hungarian government acknowledged the ECJ ruling but has said it wouldn’t back down from its approach to immigration

“We reserve the right to take action against the activities of foreign-funded NGOs, including those funded by George Soros, seeking to gain political influence and interference or even to promote migration,” a spokesperson said.

“Hungary’s position on migration remains unchanged: Help should be taken where the problem is, instead of bringing the problem here. In other words, migration to Europe must be stopped and Europe’s future must be based on families.”