The European Union's top court has ruled that Hungary broke the bloc's rules when it made it a criminal offense for individuals or organizations to help migrants and refugees apply for asylum.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on November 16 is the latest issued by the court against measures that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing government says defend the EU against illegal immigration.
Hungary's government in 2018 introduced legislation that would make it an offense to help people apply for asylum, after erecting a razor-wire barrier on its border with Serbia and Croatia in 2015 as well over 1 million people, most fleeing conflict in Syria, entered the EU.
Orban, who has targeted the work of U.S.-Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, accused Soros of encouraging the migrants.
The ECJ said in a statement that the 2018 legislation, known as the "Stop Soros" laws, "infringed EU law."
Orban, a steadfast opponent of immigration, has repeatedly accused Soros of meddling in Hungarian politics and leading the liberal opposition.
The European Court of Justice said Hungary had failed to fulfill its EU obligations "by criminalizing, in its national law, the actions of any person who, in connection with an organizing activity, provides assistance in respect of the making or lodging of an application for asylum in its territory."
The Luxembourg-based court said the legislation restricted "the right of access to applicants for international protection and the right to communicate with those persons," as well as the right of the migrants themselves to consult a legal adviser or counselor.
Human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the verdict, saying it "sends an unequivocal message that the Hungarian government's campaign of intimidation, targeting those who stand up for the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers cannot, and will not be tolerated."
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