Hungary: National Assembly must reject law criminalizing assistance to migrants

The ICJ today called on the Hungarian National Assembly to reject Bill No. T/333 that, if approved, would risk criminalizing the work of civil society, lawyers and other human rights defenders and lead to violations of the rights of migrants, especially refugees.

The National Assembly of Hungary is considering today Bill No. T/333 tabled by the Hungarian Government that amends immigration and criminal law.

“This draft law would effectively punish activities that aim to apply legal procedures” said Massimo Frigo. “This attack on the work of lawyers and human rights defenders does not constitute a legitimate aim that would allow for a permissible restriction on the rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association consistent with international human rights law.”

The ICJ warned that the draft law, if approved, would, in contravention of international standards, open the way to arrest, prosecute and convict lawyers or representatives of civil society who assist asylum seekers in filing their application for international protection. It would also make funding of such activities a crime.

The law would effectively prevent lawyers and civil society organizations, under threat of criminal punishment, from providing assistance to asylum-seekers unless they can verify that the person is entitled to international protection, even before the person has begun the refugee status determination procedure.

It would further criminalize any activity aimed at regularizing the position of an irregular migrant who had, for example, married a Hungarian citizen or became a parent of Hungarian children.

“This draft law should be rejected because it could in practice deny legal assistance to any asylum seeker, preventing them from defending their rights, ” said Massimo Frigo.

Bill T/333 has been criticized by UNHCR, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and several national and international civil society organisations. An opinion of the Venice Commission on the law is expected to be published shortly.


If approved in the current form, section 11 of the draft law would insert in the Criminal Code the offence of “facilitating illegal immigration”, as new section 353/A. This provision, if approved, would make it a criminal offence to carry out organized activities to facilitate the initiation of an asylum procedure for persons “who are not persecuted” in their country of origin or in a third country that they passed through, or “do not have a well-founded reason to fear direct persecution.”

This provision would also make it a criminal offence to carry out these activities to assist a person entering illegaly or residing illegally in Hungary to obtain a residence permit.

The draft law would also make it a criminal offence to provide financial means to carry out these activities.

Full Document in English (PDF): Hungary-Statement-National-Assembly-Criminalizing-Assistance-to-Migrants-Law-2018-ENG

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