FILE - In this April 28, 2017 file photo a police officer with a dog patrols along the border fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border near Roszke, 180 kms southeast of Budapest, Hungary. The Hungarian government is proposing a set of laws that would tax and possibly sanction Hungarian groups who assist illegal migration and receive foreign funding. Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 that such groups would have to register with the courts and pay a 25 percent tax on funds received from abroad. (Zoltan Gergely Kelemen/MTI via AP, file)
A police officer patrols the Hungarian border with Serbia near Roszke © AP

Hungary has unveiled fresh proposals targeting illegal immigration, brushing aside international censure over its treatment of asylum seekers and sharpening its rhetoric as the country’s election campaign season begins.

Under proposals outlined by Sandor Pinter, interior minister, on Wednesday, groups supporting illegal immigration and receiving significant foreign donations would be placed on a database and required to pay a 25 per cent tax on their foreign income. The government will also propose restraining orders on people who organise illegal immigration.

“The Hungarian government opposes illegal immigration through every means possible. We need to strengthen the security of citizens,” the government said.

The text of the draft law has not yet been released and it was unclear which groups might be targeted. Civil rights organisations said the proposal appeared to conflate NGOs campaigning for refugees’ rights with groups organising illegal people-smuggling.

One refugee rights group, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, is suing Budapest for defamation over claims made in a leaflet posted to 8m Hungarians that the group assists illegal immigration.

“I don’t know of any NGO that directly helps illegal immigration — the main enemies identified by the government are civil society groups who are critical of their policies and promote the fundamental rights of asylum seekers,” said Mate Szabo, programmes director at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.

Budapest’s proposals may further raise tensions in its difficult relationship with Brussels and some EU member states. The EU Commission has lodged a lawsuit against Hungary at the EU’s highest court over laws adopted in 2017 targeting NGOs, universities and asylum seekers.

At the same time, Hungary has clashed with Brussels by pushing back against EU-wide policies on migration and asylum. Budapest is playing a part in a growing row among EU member states over plans to revamp the union’s approach to migration, in an effort to avoid a repeat of the 2015-16 crisis.

Some central European countries, including Hungary, want to abolish mandatory refugee quotas, which states such as Germany and Italy argue are essential to ensure each member takes a fair share of people.

A Hungarian government spokesman said the draft laws would be known as the “Stop Soros Act”, alluding to Budapest’s multi-billion forint advertising campaigns against the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. Budapest has accused Mr Soros of orchestrating Europe’s refugee influx. Mr Pinter would not be drawn on whether any evidence linked Mr Soros to illegal immigration.

The Commission did not respond to a request for comment on Hungary’s proposals.

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