EU court rules Hungary asylum criminal law violates EU law News
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EU court rules Hungary asylum criminal law violates EU law

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled Tuesday that Hungary violated EU law by criminalizing organizational support for asylum seekers.

The Hungarian law at issue restricted asylum admissibility, criminalized activities that facilitate the lodging of asylum applications for non-qualifying applicants, and permitted “restrictions on freedom of movement” for offending suspects. The law further mandated asylum denial for non-EU asylum-seekers who arrive in Hungary after traveling through “safe countries of origin” and “safe third countries,” including Serbia and other Balkan nations. The law was dubbed “Stop Soros,” referencing Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor George Soros.

Late last week, the European Commission referred Hungary to the CJEU, alleging that Hungary failed to comply with a 2020 Court of Justice order, which required it to reform its exclusionary asylum law. The European Commission requested that the CJEU impose a lump sum fine and daily penalty until Hungary amends its law. The Hungarian legislature justified its legislation, claiming that it prevented misuse of the asylum procedure and illegal immigration based on deception.

Nonetheless, the CJEU upheld the European Commission’s action, making two key findings. First, the CJEU found 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.” Second, the CJEU found that Hungary’s law violated EU law by criminalizing assistance for asylum applicants, despite knowing that the application would be denied.

Consequently, the CJEU held that Hungary’s law was “a restriction on the rights enshrined in [the CJEU’s] directives.” The court then recognized that Hungary’s law restricts applicants’ access for asylum and “the effectiveness of the right afforded to asylum seekers to be able to consult, at their own expense, a legal adviser or other counsellor.”

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights and watchdog NGO, welcomed the ruling, stating that it was not intimidated by the threat of prison, and it achieved several legal successes while serving 1800 clients. The NGO called for further action, stating, “Now Art 353/A needs to be repealed and the CJEU ruling fully respected.”