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Geneva – Un High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has condemned the decision by the Hungarian Parliament to pass legislation that criminalizes individuals and groups deemed to be supporting asylum-seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants.

“Parliament’s decision is an attack on fundamental human rights and freedoms in Hungary. The constant stoking of hatred by the current Government for political gain has led to this latest shameful development, which is blatantly xenophobic and runs counter to European and international human rights standards and values,” said Zeid.

“As I have stressed repeatedly, we recognize the responsibility of the Hungarian State to govern its borders, but this legislation threatens the safety and human rights of migrants and refugees, as well as the vital work of Ngos and human rights defenders providing protection and assistance to them. It makes illegal the act of helping those who may be in dire need,” he said. “To target those dealing with the most vulnerable, simply because they are foreigners, is truly disgraceful.”

The new legislation, which may come into force as early as 1 July, criminalizes a range of activities, including distributing information on migration-related matters, providing advice to migrants and refugees, and conducting human rights monitoring at borders.

The authorities will be able to arrest, charge and immediately remove from Hungary’s border area with non-Schengen countries any lawyer, adviser, volunteer or legally resident family member suspected of helping a person to make an asylum claim or obtain a residence permit, or of providing other legal or humanitarian assistance.

Under the legislation, individuals could face up to one year in prison and organisations could be banned. In addition, foundations that provide funding for Ngos that work on migrant issues could face charges. Hungarian authorities also announced this week that they would introduce a 25 per cent tax on funding for Ngos which “support immigration”.

The ability of civil society organisations to work and function freely and independently, including having access to funding, is an integral part of the rights to freedom of association, and of opinion and expression, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Hungary is a State party.

“This legislation also strikes at the heart of the European Union’s values of pluralism, tolerance and solidarity, as enshrined in Article 2 of the Eu Treaty. It continues and deepens the Hungarian Government’s assault on civic space, threatening those who work on behalf of the most vulnerable and in defence of our highest human rights values,” the High Commissioner said.