Court of Justice of the European Union Rules Hungary Asylum Law Violates EU Law

On Tuesday 16th November 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’) ruled that Hungary had broken EU law by making it an offence for people or groups to help migrants make asylum applications. The Hungarian law also mandated denial of asylum to asylum-seekers who arrived in Hungary after travelling through ‘safe countries’, including Serbia and other Balkan states. The law has been referred to, by some, as ‘Stop Soros’. This is a reference to the Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros, who some claim has encouraged migration into Hungary.

Hungary has been on a collision course with the European Union for some time over this issue. In 2015, Hungary had erected razor wire on its borders with Serbia and Croatia, in order to stop the entry into the country of up to a million migrants who were crossing the mainland Europe. The ‘Stop Soros’ law was passed by the Hungarian parliament, the Országgyűlés, in June 2018. It made the ‘promotion of illegal immigration’ a misdemeanour, breach of which could result in a term of imprisonment of anywhere between 5 and 90 days. Additionally, a term of up to one year imprisonment can be imposed for those who ‘regularly conduct organising activity’ aimed at the promotion of illegal migration. Prior to the enactment of the legislation, Hungarian interior minister Sandor Pinter had stated the purpose of the legislation. He said:

“An action plan is needed in order to protect Hungary. The STOP Soros legislation represents such an action plan. The people of Hungary rightfully expect the government to take action using every means at its disposal against illegal immigration and activity promoting it. The STOP Soros legislation serves this purpose by making the organization of illegal immigration a punishable offense. Through this proposed legislation, we want to prevent Hungary from becoming a country of immigration.

Last week (week commencing 8th November 2021), the European Commission referred Hungary to the CJEU, stating that Hungary had failed to comply with a 2020 Court of Justice order requiring Hungary to reform its asylum legislation. The CJEU has upheld the European Commission’s claims, making two key findings:

· that Hungary’s law violated EU law when it denied asylum to applicants who arrived on its territory via countries “in which that person was not exposed to persecution or a risk of serious harm.”

· that Hungary’s law violated EU law by criminalizing assistance for asylum applicants, despite knowing that the application would be denied.

Zoltán Kovács, a spokesperson for the Hungarian government, reacted to the ruling by saying that Hungary accepts the ruling but will continue to resist "pro-immigration plans".

"Hungary's position on migration remains unchanged: Help should be taken where the problem is, instead of bringing the problem here. In other words, migration to Europe must be stopped and Europe's future must be based on families.

We reserve the right to take action against the activities of foreign-funded NGOs, including those funded by George Soros, seeking to gain political influence and interference or even to promote migration." [1]


Note: This post is for information and educational purposes only. It is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact an appropriate lawyer.

© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2021

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