Hungary, ruled by Viktor Orban’s racist right wing, has always distinguished itself for its anti-immigrant policy (just think of the barbed wire barrier built in 2015 on the border with Serbia), but those who oppose it are now being harshly punished: in fact, the government has introduced a bill providing up to a year’s imprisonment for those who provide food, legal advice and assistance to irregular immigrants seeking asylum in the country and threatening to ban NGOs active in this field, calling them “foreign agents”. The bill also includes an amendment to the Constitution to prevent European countries from returning migrants and asylum-seekers to the country.
Despite its harshness, the Hungarian government’s initiative is not isolated and could even serve as a model for its local fans, Salvini at the helm. Other ‘bordering’ countries, such as Italy, Greece, Spain and France, have long been committed to a genuine criminalisation of solidarity, even though the methods used so far are less striking and ‘shameful’ than those provided for in the Hungarian draft law.
Arrests and blocking of activists, smear campaigns against NGOs and even boat hijackings are now the order of the day in the central Mediterranean, on the Greek islands and on the borders between Italy, France and Austria. The plan is clear: criminalise those who practice solidarity and help even with great personal risks, dissuade others from following their example, eliminate uncomfortable witnesses and make their work increasingly difficult. All this in order to defend the borders of Fortress Europe from an alleged invasion, trampling on the rights enshrined, at least in theory, in constitutions, conventions and treaties.
While constantly reiterating its distance from the European Union, Orban’s Hungary simply marks a step forward in a ruthless policy towards those fleeing war and poverty (suffice it to mention the agreements with Turkey and Libya, which have reduced landings in Italy and Greece, creating terrifying retrograde conditions and beyond any humanitarian control).
One can only hope that there will also be associations and individuals in Hungary who are determined to continue to defend human rights against all repressive and racist tendencies.