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Top EU court tells Hungary its ‘Stop Soros’ anti-migrant law is illegal

European Court of Justice says Orban’s government broke EU law by criminalizing helping refugees to apply for asylum

This poster featuring US billionaire George Soros in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, reads, 'We can't let Soros get the last laugh.' It was part of a government campaign, July 6, 2017. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)
This poster featuring US billionaire George Soros in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, reads, 'We can't let Soros get the last laugh.' It was part of a government campaign, July 6, 2017. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union’s top court ruled Tuesday that Hungary broke EU law by making it a criminal offense for people or organizations to help migrants and refugees apply for asylum, in a new legal blow to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government.

Hungary erected a razor-wire barrier on its border with Serbia and Croatia in 2015 as well over 1 million people, most fleeing conflict in Syria, entered the EU, often from Turkey via Greece. Tens of thousands moved north, deeper into the EU, in search of sanctuary and better lives.

As more people arrived, Orban began to accuse Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros and groups linked to him of encouraging the migrants. In 2018, Hungary’s government introduced legislation known as the “Stop Soros” laws that would make it an offense to help people apply for asylum.

The Hungarian government also started a billboard campaign against the Jewish billionaire and philanthropist, which was deemed antisemitic.

The posters showed a large picture of the émigré laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,” a reference to government claims that Soros wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.

The European Court of Justice said Tuesday that Hungary had failed to fulfill its EU obligations “by criminalizing, in its national law, the actions of any person who, in connection with an organizing activity, provides assistance in respect of the making or lodging of an application for asylum in its territory…”

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a round table meeting at an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, October 15, 2020 (Yves Herman, Pool via AP)

The Luxembourg-based court said the legislation restricts “the right of access to applicants for international protection and the right to communicate with those persons,” as well as the right of the migrants themselves to consult a legal advisor or counselor.

The court said the law cannot be justified by the aim of preventing “the assistance of misuse of the asylum procedure and of illegal immigration based on deception.”

Orban’s government is a staunch opponent of immigration. Its treatment of migrants and refugees has brought it into frequent conflict with many of its EU partners and the executive branch, the European Commission, which supervises the respect of the bloc’s laws.

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