February 2018 / Hungary’s crack down on civil society requires urgent action
The Hungarian government started the year with the latest attack in its war of attrition against civil society, the “Stop Soros” package of laws that continue the country’s assault on democracy and rule of law.
Knowing that an outright ban on organisations and individuals would be unacceptable (possibly even to its EPP allies), it is proposing a set of measures that will make the work of many civil society organisations impossible.
A detailed analysis is available here; in short, the package combines three tactics learned from authoritarian leaders elsewhere: taxes and fines that make NGOs financially unviable (and open up the possibility of prosecution for tax evasion should they refuse to pay – the Al Capone strategy); personalising the attack by going after individuals with sinister provisions that will allow many working in civil society to be categorised as a “national security risk” with restrictions on their freedom of movement; and stigmatisation, with constant classification of opponents as traitors and peddling of conspiracy theories to turn the public against them – easy when you control the media.
The strategy of the government is clever, but outsiders should not be fooled: terms such as “illegal migration” and “border protection” are carefully chosen to deceive by making this seem narrower and more reasonable – and to appeal to policy-makers in other countries who are not fans of NGOs working on migration.
View full comment of Catherine Woollard, ECRE Secretary General
March 2017 / Hungarian government wants to harden its immigration policy with plan to detain all asylum-seekers
The Hungarian government submitted a new bill to the parliament on February 14 to be voted on during the spring session. If passed, it will increase the use of collective push-backs and introduce automatic detention of asylum seekers.
The bill foresees the prolongation of the «state of emergency due to mass migration» for another six months. One of the most worrying changes is the new rule according to which a third country national irregularly residing in Hungary will be automatically deported, without a right to challenge the removal order or to access the asylum procedure. This amounts de facto to collective expulsion and is an extension of the July 2016 amendment which legalised push-backs in the border zone.
Further, under the bill the asylum procedure will take place in designated transit zones, which asylum seekers are prohibited to leave. All asylum seekers staying at open reception facilities at the time the bill enters into force will be transferred to these zones. This is an extension of the use systematic detention, an established practice as demonstrated by the latest AIDA report on Hungary.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) stated that the proposals are an extreme and flagrant violation of European asylum law and international human right standards and if passed they should be challenged by the European Commission and other EU institutions; they plan legal proceedings against Hungary if the rules are adopted. Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe, Gari van Gulik stated: «This is further evidence that the EU needs to stand firm on Hungary’s flagrant disregard for European and International law.»