BUDAPEST (Reuters) - U.S. billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF) said on Monday it would challenge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Hungarian laws that make it a crime to help asylum-seekers.
But Budapest, which accuses Soros and the liberal groups and causes he backs of trying to destroy Europe’s Christian culture by promoting mass migration, said it would not repeal the laws, whatever the outcome of the court appeal.
Under legislation named “Stop Soros”, anybody who helps migrants not entitled to protection to apply for asylum, or helps illegal migrants gain status to stay in Hungary, can be jailed. Orban has also introduced a 25 percent special tax on aid groups it says support migration.
OSF said the “Stop Soros” legislation, approved by the Hungarian parliament in June, “breaches the guarantees of freedom of expression and association enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and must be repealed”.
“The Hungarian government has fabricated a narrative of lies to blind people to the truth: that these laws were designed to intimidate independent civil society groups, in another step towards silencing all dissent,” OSF president Patrick Gaspard said in a statement.
The provisions of the legislation are so broadly written that “they will have a far-reaching and chilling effect on the work of civil society far beyond the field of migration,” said the OSF statement.
Budapest responded with defiance to the OSF move.
“The government stands by the Stop Soros package of laws.... as the legislation serves the will of the Hungarian people, and the security of Hungary and Europe,” a government spokesman told Reuters.
“The Soros organisation attacks the Stop Soros package with all possible means as the legislation stands in the way of illegal immigration. The aim of George Soros and organizations supported by him is to flood Europe with migrants.”
Hungarian-born Soros denies trying to promote mass migration into Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere. In May the OSF announced it would shut its office in Budapest after more than 30 years and move to Berlin.
Orban, who has been in power since 2010 and won a third consecutive term in April with a big majority, has increased his control over Hungary’s media and courts and put allies in control of once independent institutions.
The legislation on asylum seekers has drawn condemnation from the U.N. refugee agency and the European Union. This month the European Parliament voted to sanction Hungary for flouting EU rules on democracy and civil rights.
Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Gareth Jones