Hungary Should Repeal Immigration Tax, Rights Organizations Say

(Bloomberg) -- Hungary’s immigration tax violates freedom of expression and association and should be repealed, two inter-governmental rights watchdog organizations said.

Legislation passed earlier this year imposing a 25 percent tax on groups seen as aiding immigration is “vaguely worded” and can have a “chilling effect” on non-governmental organizations engaged in “legitimate human rights activities.” That’s according to a joint statement on Friday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, known as ODIHR, and the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s legal experts.

Hungary approved the levy earlier this year in connection with what the cabinet dubbed the “Stop Soros” package of laws that also make it possible to impose a jail term of up to a year on those seen as helping illegal immigration. Prime Minister Viktor Orban championed the steps after winning a third straight election victory in April on an anti-immigration platform. During his campaign, Orban vilified George Soros, the Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire-philanthropist known for his support of open societies.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, has filed a lawsuit against Hungary to force it to repeal the “Stop Soros” laws.

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