Hungary. The refugee issue also dominated Hungarian
policy in 2017. The government refused to accept asylum
seekers under the EU's mandatory quota system for
redistributing refugees among the member states. At the
beginning of the year, the government also decided to put
asylum seekers and migrants in camp at the border, a method
that was abolished a few years earlier after international
criticism. Now camps were built with vessel containers,
surrounded by barbed wire fences, at the border stations.
In March, Parliament approved the measures, but the UN
and Amnesty International condemned them as violating
international law. According to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán,
the measures were necessary because of threats of terrorism
by migrants and refugees. Hungary also built on barbed wire
fences at its borders.
Countryaah.com, the European Court of Justice granted two migrants from
Bangladesh in March that Hungary kept them illegally
imprisoned at the Serbian border in 2015. The Hungarian
Helsinki Committee felt that the verdict would also be
important for Hungary's new border camps.
In March, President János Áder was re-elected by
Parliament for a new five-year term. Áder comes from Orbán's
party Fidesz and is an ally of the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Orbán's government launched a propaganda
campaign against the EU in the spring with the call "Stop
Brussels". Immigration and terror were linked in leading
questions to the Hungarians. The government also campaigned
against Hungarian American multimillionaire George Soros who
criticized Hungary's refugee policy and supported refugee
organizations in Hungary. The government claimed that Soros
was shaping the EU's migration policy and wanted to send 1
million migrants to Hungary. Posters with the Jewish
philanthropist were reminiscent of anti-Semitic campaigns in
the 1930s. Hungarian Jews urged Orbán to stop the campaign.
It was canceled later in the year, just before Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Budapest.
In April, Parliament passed a law with strict rules for
international universities in Hungary. Unless the rules were
met, threatened closure. The law was considered to be
directed primarily at the Liberal Central European
University (CEU) founded by Soros, registered in the United
States. The decision had about 60,000 people demonstrating
in Budapest against the government, and many foreign
universities protested. In April, the European Commission
rejected Hungary's new disputed university law. The EU, like
the UN, was also critical of a bill on the registration of
NGOs receiving grants from abroad. The law was later adopted
by Parliament and described by critics as targeting the
operations of the Soro Foundation. In October, Parliament
adjusted the disputed university law. International
universities were given just over a year to adapt to the new
In April, the UN Refugee Commissioner said that EU
countries should not send asylum seekers back to Hungary
under the Dublin Convention, as it violates EU rules and
international law in its handling of refugees. Germany
immediately stopped retransmissions, and Sweden followed
Demonstrations against government policy continued during
the spring. On May 1, a major protest was held in Budapest
led by the newly formed political youth movement Momentum.
Thousands of people demonstrated for the EU and against
Viktor Orbán's increased contacts with Moscow and Vladimir
Hungary had appealed the EU migration ministers' majority
decision on mandatory land quotas for asylum seekers. The
ruling came in September from the European Court of Justice
in Luxembourg which rejected the appeal. The Hungarian
government responded in harsh terms but promised to respect
the outcome. However, Viktor Orbán called for a continued
fight against EU refugee policy.
In December, the European Commission decided to sue
Hungary before the European Court of Justice for its refusal
to accept the EU's 2015 decision on refugee quotas.