June 1, 2018 / 11:45 AM / 6 months ago

European human rights body urges Hungary to scrap 'Stop Soros' bill

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the supporters after the announcement of the partial results of parliamentary election in Budapest, Hungary, April 8, 2018.REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A major European human rights organization urged Hungary on Friday to drop legislation that could impose jail sentences of up to a year on anyone providing help to illegal immigrants.

The Council of Europe, the 47-nation body said the so called “Stop Soros” bill submitted to parliament on Tuesday would harm aid groups and incite xenophobia.

The bill is part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s campaign against EU migration policies and against George Soros, a Hungarian-born U.S. financier known for funding liberal causes.

“I call on the Hungarian authorities to drop this Bill,” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement.

“They should refrain from taking any measures penalizing, stigmatizing or putting at any disadvantage NGOs working in the field of migration and restore an enabling environment conducive to the work of human rights defenders.”

She added the law was “likely to incite xenophobia against migrants and mistrust of those committed to helping them.”

Parliament is due to debate the bill next week, weeks after Orban was re-elected by a landslide.

Orban’s government has also proposed amending the constitution to state that an “alien population” cannot be settled in Hungary, rejecting European Union quotas to distribute migrants around the bloc.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has also urged Hungary to scrap the bill, saying it would deprive refugees and asylum-seekers of vital services and encourage “rising xenophobic attitudes”.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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