Hungary is planning to cut cash and other subsidies for asylum-seekers, reduce the individual space they are allotted in detention centres to the size given prison inmates, and scrap measures designed to help them integrate into society, according to draft legislation published Monday.
The government said its amendments to government decrees and the Asylum Act were designed to bring the rights and payments given to refugees in line with those offered to Hungarians.
But the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group, said the government’s true aim was to discourage those granted asylum in Hungary to stay.
“It takes away the possibility of starting a new life even from those the government recognized as needing protection,” said Helsinki Committee co-chair Marta Pardavi. “The objective is to make asylum-seekers leave.”
Other proposed measures include cutting from two months to one month the time that asylum recipients can stay in state-funded reception centers and reducing their eligibility for state-paid health care services from one year to six months.
The amendments taking effect April 1 would ban asylum-seekers from working in reception centers, eliminate school enrollment benefits and take away their monthly cash stipend of 7,125 forints ($25.30).
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has repeatedly warned that an influx of Muslim immigrants poses a threat to Hungarians’ lifestyle and endangers Europe’s Christian culture.
Hungary says it has spent some 80 billion forints ($284 million) so far on the migrant crisis and received only 3 billion forints ($10.6 million) for this purpose from the European Union.
The government last year built fences on its border with Serbia and Croatia to divert the flow of migrants. The Cabinet will decide this week whether to extend the barrier to sections of the Romanian border.
In 2015, Hungary granted asylum or other kinds of protection to 508 newcomers.