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19th July 2018, 14:39:35 UTC

Following the European Commission’s new infringement proceedings against Hungary for breaches of EU law ahead of a parliamentary vote on repressive new laws in the country, Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:

“Ireland has been leading globally, including at the UN Human Rights Council, on protecting the role and freedoms of civil society. We hope Ireland will also show leadership within the EU on this grave and urgent issue.

“Hungary’s attempts to prohibit the legitimate and vital work of people and civil society organizations working to protect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers is unacceptable.

“By challenging a legislative package that flagrantly breached EU human rights law, the European Commission has sent a clear and unambiguous message that Hungary’s xenophobic policies will not be tolerated.

“With new restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly also on track for adoption by the Hungarian parliament tomorrow, it is more important than ever to challenge the Hungarian government loudly and clearly.”

“European leaders who have remained largely silent over the human rights crackdown in Hungary must now follow the Commission’s lead and call for these laws to be shelved.

“EU leaders, in particular members of the European People’s Party, the political group in the European Parliament of which the Hungarian government is a member, must now take a stand. We call on the leadership of Fine Gael, part of the EPP group, to demand that Hungary withdraws this legislation.”

Background on the infringement procedure

 The new infringement procedure by the European Commission concerns a package of xenophobic measures that came into effect in Hungary on 1 July 2018. Alongside launching the new infringement procedure, the European Commission has also escalated a previous infringement process and referred Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The infringement procedure will see formal notice of a breach of Community law to the Hungarian government, followed by a number of measures. If no resolution is met, then ultimately this can be referred to the Court of Justice.

Series of ‘draconian’ laws

 Under these new laws introduced on the 1 July, people providing assistance to asylum seekers and migrants, including lawyers and international and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), can have their access restricted to asylum-processing areas and may even face criminal proceedings if they facilitate claims that are unsuccessful.

The measures also make it impossible for people to claim asylum, if they had passed through another country before arriving in Hungary.

The European Commission today found these measures to be in violation of the EU’s Asylum Procedures, Reception Conditions and Qualifications Directives and of the right to asylum. It also pointed out inconsistencies with the EU’s provisions on the free movement of Union citizens and their family members.

Tomorrow, the Hungarian parliament is also expected to adopt a series of repressive legislative amendments, including the introduction of a special tax which could leave NGOs deemed to be ‘supporting migration’ without 25% of their funding.

Another amendment limits freedom of expression by declaring private or family-related activities to be out of the scope of public affairs. The government will also introduce a new law allowing the police to ban peaceful assemblies in advance on vaguely specified grounds.