Mike Phipps

Crackdown in Hungary

Mike Phipps

In June 2018, Hungary passed a new law - with only 18 MPs against - that criminalises a range of lawful activities in support of asylum seekers. New crimes, punishable by up to ninety days in prison, include border monitoring, preparing or distributing information materials and operating a network in support of facilitating “illegal immigration”. 

The bill’s terminology is deliberately vague on these activities but is designed to entrap volunteers, family members and NGOs who help migrants. Amnesty International itself could be a target of the new law, which criminalises activities that are lawful under EU and international law.

A separate measure was also passed to amend the constitution to require state authorities to protect Hungary’s “Christian culture”. It also bans the settlement of foreign populations - putting Hungary at odds with its EU obligations - restricts peaceful protest, undermines judicial independence and criminalises homelessness. 

The UN branded the new law as “shameful and xenophobic” and the Council of Europe demanded the rules on illegal immigration be repealed. But a week later the government placed a new bill before Parliament that would prevent freedom of assembly, that is a gathering of more than two people, without a licence, with the police being empowered to ban meetings. Evidently this is what prime minister Viktor Orban meant when he declared that the era of liberal democracy was over, after being re-elected to a fourth term as Hungary’s prime minister.

Amnesty’s report can be read here https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR2786332018ENGLISH.PDF