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Hungary steps up anti-Soros crackdown ahead of election

BUDAPEST — Hungary’s government unveiled a so-called “Stop Soros” plan to crack down on individuals and organizations it accuses of supporting illegal immigration.

Coming less than three months ahead of a general election, the announcement on Wednesday marks the latest escalation in an ongoing battle between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government and George Soros, the 87-year old American-Hungarian financier and philanthropist.

Orbán has repeatedly accused Soros of trying to undermine Hungary’s sovereignty. Soros and other critics say the government in Budapest is rolling back democracy and the rule of law.

Local media reported earlier Wednesday that the government intends to ban Soros from entering the country.

Hungarian Interior Minister Sándor Pintér and government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács said the new package of laws is designed to limit the activities of supporters of illegal immigration. Groups that help asylum seekers and refugees say they do not advocate illegal migration but do humanitarian work to help people in need.

The package includes a proposed 25 percent tax on foreign donations received by those deemed supporters of illegal migration. Hungary is already facing legal action from the European Commission and significant international criticism for a law that targets foreign-funded NGOs.

Pintér also announced that the government will make changes to the law to allow foreign citizens supporting illegal migration to be banned from entry into Hungary.

The minister said certain Hungarian citizens may be banned from accessing areas within 8 kilometers of Hungarian borders that also mark the frontier of the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone.

Such a move could limit activists’ and journalists’ access to the country’s southern border with Serbia. Two container camps for asylum seekers along the border, called transit zones, have triggered alarm among European policymakers and humanitarian organizations. Reports of Hungarian police violence toward asylum seekers along the border have also sparked concerns over the past year and a half.

Hungary holds a general election on April 8. Polls show Orbán’s Fidesz party on course to be reelected easily.

Politico

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