The attempt by the Hungarian government to criminalize helpers and supporters of migrants has been declared illegal by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The highest EU court upheld a lawsuit by the EU Commission against the “Stop Soros Law” from 2018. It was named after the US billionaire George Soros, who is attacked by the Hungarian government as a supporter of humanitarian organizations.
With the law, the right-wing national government under Prime Minister Victor Orban tried to make it more difficult for activists and employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to do their jobs. Anyone who helps refugees who have no prospect of asylum in Hungary to apply for asylum should make themselves liable to prosecution. According to the ECJ, this law restricts the access of vulnerable persons to legal advice. Such a restriction could not be justified by the aim of the Hungarian legislature to combat illegal immigration.
In the words of the court, the law goes far too far because it means that practically any help in the formulation of asylum applications can be punishable within the framework of an NGO work – even if the helpers observe the procedural rules and act without any intent to deceive. Help would be punishable, for example, if the activist knows that the application has no prospect of success under Hungarian law, but considers these provisions to be unlawful in the EU. “In this way, asylum seekers can be deprived of support that would enable them to challenge the legality of the applicable national legislation at a later stage in the asylum procedure,” argues the ECJ.
The regulation unsettles helpers
In addition: According to the ECJ, anyone who supports an asylum seeker often cannot even know whether the asylum application has any prospect of success when submitting the application. However, one could not expect the helpers to carry out such a test themselves. If only because the asylum seekers themselves could have difficulties “already at this stage to assert the circumstances relevant to obtaining refugee status”.
All of this creates a high level of uncertainty for the helpers. The Hungarian regulation is therefore capable of “deterring to a high degree” any person who wishes to provide assistance to asylum seekers. And this despite the fact that such support is only intended to enable refugees to make use of their basic right to asylum.