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May 1, 2018

First they came for… Protecting civil society

There was a buzz of activity at PICUM’s General Assembly two weeks ago, with key discussions including possible threats to civil society and how to cope with the hostile realities of European Governments’ dogged opposition to migration.

The Hungarian situation

The situation in Hungary is one of the most alarming. Civil society organisations are facing unprecedented attacks from the newly reelected Orban government, such as being asked to request permission to continue working with refugees and migrants, as well as pay an extra 25% tax levy on all funding received from abroad.

Please consider signing a collective statement to protest laws criminalising civil society organisations and solidarity work with migrants.

You can add the name of your organisation to this Google Doc.

If for any reason you are unable to access the document, then you read the statement below. You can then copy the text, add your organisation’s name, and send it to Roos at [email protected] [Closing date: 2 May 2018]

Beyond Hungary – meeting in London

While the situation in Hungary is uniquely preoccupying, we have seen similar developments elsewhere – in Greece in particular, where Danish and Spanish humanitarians have been criminalised for working to prevent deaths in the Mediterranean.

For some background reading on this, you can check out the Institute of Race Relation’s report on the criminalisation of humanitarian solidarity in Europe, published last year – Humanitarianism: The unacceptable face of solidarity

Within such a context, it is also worth keeping an eye on recent reviews of the Lobbying Act and the current DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) consultation on Civil Society Strategy.

MRN will be hosting a special meeting for refugee and migrant community organisations and activists on 17 May 2018, 12-2pm (venue TBC) to discuss the issue. To register your interest email Rita Chadha  [email protected]

 

 

[Statement on Hungary]

XXX European civil society organisations call for the withdrawal of the proposed laws targeting Hungarian NGOs working with migrants and refugees

2 May 2018

The new Hungarian parliament which will first assemble on 8th May is set to vote on draconian and regressive legislation[i] which could arbitrarily restrict fundamental rights and freedoms of civil society. The proposed laws would further undermine and victimise organisations working to defend the human rights of migrants and refugees.

The treatment of our Hungarian members and allies and the laws being introduced to stifle civil society are deeply concerning. These will significantly limit their ability to carry out work independently, could ultimately lead to their closure and be damaging to the human rights of migrants and refugees. Such measures that penalise solidarity and support should not be tolerated.

EU civil society actors have long warned against the criminalisation of NGOs, civil society and solidarity work with migrants and refugees. These deliberate moves to shrink civil society space have created an atmosphere where people working for NGOs are threatened and harassed and made afraid and insecure in their daily lives.

We recognise the sovereign right of Hungary to develop and adopt national laws. However, Hungary, as a member of the European Union, has a responsibility to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms and to uphold the values of solidarity, human rights, democracy, equality, humanitarianism and the rule of law. The Hungarian government’s actions threaten these values and principles.

NGOs and civil society actors are an essential part of developed democracies. These hostile moves have created mistrust, closed dialogue and will have lasting impact on the Hungarian civil society and the people they serve.

Each Member State has a responsibility to act in defense of democracy and civil society.  We, the undersigned organisations therefore strongly call for the withdrawal of the Hungarian legislation proposed.

[i] Existing legislation in Hungary already requires full transparency from NGOs and to publish detailed annual financial and activity reports. The first draft bill (T/19776) makes clear that the measures cover groups working on migration and asylum in almost any capacity and requires organizations to apply for authorization from the Interior Minister to continue. The second bill (T/19775) would require the organizations “supporting migration” to pay a 25 percent tax on any funding received from abroad or face large fines. The third bill (T/19774) gives the right to issue restraining orders on citizens working with migrants (suspected of “organising irregular migration”) barring them from approaching any Hungarian Schengen borders closer than 8 km radius. These draft bills build on the 2017 Hungarian Law on Foreign-funded NGOs.  

Undersigned organisations:

[XXXXXX]