Soros-founded university pulls refugee course over new tax

US billionaire George Soros, seen in 2017, founded the prestigious Budapest-based Central European University

A prestigious Hungarian university founded by liberal US billionaire George Soros said Tuesday it is suspending education programmes for refugees and asylum-seekers due to a new government tax on groups deemed to support migration.

The Budapest-based Central European University (CEU) said it had pulled both a programme for registered refugees and asylum seekers and its administration of an EU-funded migration policy research grant.

"We are suspending these programmes while we await clarification of our tax and legal situation," the CEU said in a statement.

Part of a sweeping package of anti-immigration measures approved by parliament in June, a 25 percent levy on organisations "supporting migration" came into effect on Friday.

The first tax declaration, covering the second half of August, is due by September.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says migration imposes a financial burden on the state which should instead be borne by groups like NGOs that provide legal or other aid to migrants.

The CEU insisted Tuesday its educational training was provided "only for persons legally admitted to Hungary".

The potential tax liability had "forced" it to shelve the programmes.

The government measures also included possible jail terms for helping persons enter Hungary illegally and were dubbed a "Stop Soros" package by the government.

The firebrand nationalist Orban accuses the Hungarian-born 88-year-old Soros of plotting to facilitate mass immigration into Europe from Muslim countries.

Orban promised the "Stop Soros" laws prior to his thumping win at a general election in April that was dominated by anti-migrant and anti-Soros messaging on pro-government media.

A month later, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) run by Soros announced they were closing their office in Budapest and that their work on Hungary would continue from Berlin, citing the government's "repressive" policies.

A higher education law placing tough new requirements on foreign universities which passed last year was also widely seen as targeting the CEU.

Attracting students from over 100 countries, the university has long been seen as a hostile bastion of liberalism by Orban.