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A government billboard is seen ahead of April 8 parliamentary election in Budapest, Hungary March 6, 2018. The billboard reads: 'The U.N. wants us to accept migrants on a continuous basis. HUNGARY DECIDES, NOT THE U.N.' © 2018 Reuters

Hungary’s government has smeared human rights groups, the European Union, migrants, and philanthropist and former financier George Soros. Now the Hungarian government has a new target – the United Nations.

Hungary’s Foreign Minister has even demanded the resignation of the UN’s top human rights official Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein – after Zeid, in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council, described as racist comments made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about immigration and race-mixing.

To his credit, Zeid also denounced leaders engaging in shameless xenophobia in Europe, calling for members to stand against leaders stoking hatred for political profit.

Days later, in early March, Hungary’s government declared war on the UN Migration Compact, a non-binding global policy currently being negotiated, designed to cover all sides of international migration. The government plans on using taxpayer’s money to fund a so called “information campaign” on the compact and blocked negotiations of the policy at the EU level.

Hungary’s foreign minister even wants the UN to say migration is “bad and dangerous.”

Now, blue posters across Hungary say the “UN wants Hungary to continuously accept migrants” and that the “UN wants us to pay for the settlement and employment of migrants.”

It’s no coincidence that this is happening shortly before national legislative elections, set for April 8. The prime minister has repeatedly said the elections will determine whether “Hungary will remain Hungarian, or become an immigrant country.” Journalists have reported that the government party at campaign events is portraying nongovernmental groups and media outlets as groups that “have to be stopped.”

Human Rights Watch is one of those organizations. We could even fall under the scope of newly proposed bills penalizing organizations “supporting migration.” The pending bills, which claim asylum seekers are a national security threat, have been criticized by several UN experts and risk blocking vital support to asylum seekers and migrants in Hungary.

This anti-UN, anti-immigrant rhetoric doesn’t seem to be hurting Hungary’s ruling party, which is riding high in the polls. But it is seriously damaging both human rights in the country and Hungary’s international standing – it’s likely to face criticism next week before the Human Rights Committee at the UN where its human rights record will be reviewed.

Whoever wins the vote on April 8 will have bridges to build. As a European Union and United Nations member, Hungary’s pre-election campaigns are harming its status in both places.

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