June 20, 2018 / 1:31 PM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-Hungary passes "STOP Soros" laws, defying EU and rights groups

BUDAPEST, June 20 (Reuters) - Hungary’s parliament on Wednesday approved a package of bills that criminalises some help given to illegal immigrants, defying the European Union and human rights groups and narrowing the scope for action by non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Under the law, officially called “STOP Soros”, individuals or groups who help migrants not entitled to protection to submit requests for asylum or who help illegal migrants gain status to stay in Hungary will be liable to prison terms.

Parliament, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, also passed a constitutional amendment to state that an “alien population” cannot be settled in Hungary.

Orban’s party was re-elected by a landslide in April after a campaign attacking U.S. billionaire George Soros and liberal NGOs he supports. Orban accuses Soros of encouraging mass immigration in order to undermine Europe, a charge Soros denies.

Orban has led eastern European opposition to European Union quotas to distribute migrants around the bloc.

Two leading European rights bodies, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have criticised Hungary’s new law as “arbitrary” and vague and said it contravenes European law.

The Venice Commission, an expert body at the Council of Europe, had asked Hungary to refrain from approving the new law until a report it co-authored with the OSCE is published.

Reporting by Marton Dunai Editing by Gareth Jones

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