Imprisonment for giving  a sandwich to a migrant?

In an unprecedented move in the European Union, members of NGOs could be sent to prison for helping those in need in Hungary.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Imprisonment for giving  a sandwich to a migrant? - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

Hungary's infamous "Stop Soros" bill, which targets NGOs, could be passed in the early summer, and the public learnt alarming details of the draft bill on Tuesday.

Those who “help illegal migration” could be imprisoned for up to one year, although it is unclear how the law would be applied in practice.

The draft bill is worded so vaguely that based upon it, an individual could be imprisoned for offering sandwiches or handing out information brochures to migrants. 

The draft bill has already drawn heavy criticism. The UN Refugee Agency called upon the Hungarian government to drop it.

“UNHCR is seriously concerned that these proposals, if passed, would deprive people who are forced to flee their homes of critical aid and services, and further inflame tense public discourse and rising xenophobic attitudes,” said Pascale Moreau, Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau.

In short, this is a new low in the persecution of NGOs in Hungary. 

Details from the story:

  • "It is a barbaric policy which is alien to European norms,”  said Zsolt Zadori, a member of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an NGO that could be a victim of the Stop Soros bill. 
  • The bill bears the name of George Soros, a Hungarian-American billionaire, philanthropist who has been accused by the Hungarian government of being personally responsible for sending refugees to Europe.
  • Despite what the government claims, migration is not a threat in Hungary. As the UNHCR pointed out: since Hungary effectively closed its borders to almost all people wishing to seek international protection, on average, only two asylum-seekers a day are allowed to enter the country through the two “transit zones” at the border with Serbia.
  • Apart from the Stop Soros bill, the Hungarian government wants to curb the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly. As part of a constitutional amendment in the near future, "the freedom of expression cannot result in invading another person’s private or family life”. In practice this could result in banning any protest in a public space. 
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