BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A new set of laws would tax and possibly sanction Hungarian groups assisting illegal migration which receive foreign funding, Hungary’s government said Wednesday.
Such groups would have to register with the courts and, if they get more than half of their funds from foreign sources, pay a 25-percent tax on the funds received from abroad, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said. Groups failing to register, and which authorities consider to be adding illegal migrants, could be fined.
Pinter, without mentioning anyone by name, gave an example of someone providing a smartphone containing maps and other information “showing the way to Europe” to a migrant in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and part of the “Balkan route” migrants use to try to reach Germany and other destinations in Western Europe.
Also, restraining orders could be issued against Hungarian citizens considered to be “organizing illegal migration,” preventing them from going within eight kilometers (five miles) of Hungary’s Schengen borders, those with countries outside the European Union, like Serbia and Ukraine. Foreigners found to be aiding illegal migrants could be banned from Hungary, Pinter said.
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Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the expectations were that Hungarian non-governmental groups “which deal with illegal migrants or the issue of migration will follow the law and indicate to authorities … that they are doing this activity.”
The new laws would apparently not apply to, for example, religious charity groups or the Red Cross, which distribute food, medicines and other aid to migrants.
“Giving assistance is not the same as actively … taking part in someone crossing the border illegally,” Kovacs said.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban is an opponent of immigration, especially by Muslims, and Hungary built long fences along its southern borders in late 2015 to stop the flow of migrants.
The government has dubbed the bills “Stop Soros” laws, as it blames Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros for Europe’s migration challenges, partly because of his funding of groups that advocate for the rights of refugees.
Pinter said, however, that “I don’t believe that so far George Soros has told anyone that he takes part in organizing” illegal migration.
Since the government expects groups or people to declare voluntarily if they aid illegal migration, “we are very curious to see” whether Soros will or will not acknowledge doing so, Kovacs added.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a rights group which provides legal aid to asylum-seekers and receives part of its funding from Soros’ Open Society Foundations, drew attention to the government’s proposed eight-kilometer restraining order and compared it to a 1969 decree by Hungary’s then-communist government prohibiting citizens from going nearer than two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the borders.