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The idea that Geoge Soros and his Open Society Foundation is promoting the flows of immigrants into Europe is often cited as one of the main reasons why these flows exist and are not stopping anytime soon.

In this article, for instance, Hungary’s ruling party accuses Gorge Soros of this:

George Soros behind plan to flood EU with cheap migrant labour, claims Hungary government

Ignoring Soros's motivation for supporting migration, does he promote such plans?

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TLDR: if we frame the claim narrowly about migrant inflows, it's false as Fidesz has portrayed it; if we consider the context of all the other stuff Fidesz has blamed on Soros, then it looks like a piece of a much bigger puzzle: a Fidesz strategy combining anti-Muslim with (veiled?) anti-Semitic rhetoric, essentially they are alleging a Jewish[-led] plot to flood Europe with Muslims, killing two birds with one stone, from Fidesz's viewpoint.

The article you link says:

Fidesz leaders claim Mr Soros wants Europe to accept one million immigrants annually for labour, according to the Financial Times.

[...]

A spokesman for Mr Soros, Michael Vachon in July dismissed the idea that the financier and philanthropist was promoting a scheme to import millions of illegal immigrants into Europe.

He said: “Soros's actual position on migration is that the international community should provide more support to the developing countries that today host 89 percent of refugees and that Europe should accept several hundred thousand fully screened refugees through an orderly process of vetting and resettlement.”

Last year, Mr Soros wrote a column on a website that stated that the EU could reduce illegal migration by accepting 300,000 refugees annually.

The last statement appears to be correct:

The refugee crisis is not a one-off event; it augurs a period of higher migration pressures for the foreseeable future, due to a variety of causes including demographic and economic imbalances between Europe and Africa, unending conflicts in the broader region, and climate change. Beggar-thy-neighbor migration policies, such as building border fences, will not only further fragment the union; they also seriously damage European economies and subvert global human rights standards.

What would a comprehensive approach look like? It would establish a guaranteed target of at least 300,000 refugees each year who would be securely resettled directly to Europe from the Middle East — a total that hopefully would be matched by countries elsewhere in the world. That target should be large enough to persuade genuine asylum-seekers not to risk their lives by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, especially if reaching Europe by irregular means would disqualify them from being considered genuine asylum-seekers.

This could serve as the basis for Europe to provide sufficient funds for major refugee-hosting countries outside Europe and establish processing centers in those countries; create a potent EU border and coast guard; set common standards for processing and integrating asylum-seekers (and for returning those who do not qualify); and renegotiate the Dublin III Regulation in order to more fairly share the asylum burden across the EU.

[...] Canada provides a good role model (although its geographic context differs from Europe’s). In just four months, it admitted 25,000 Syrian refugees and is integrating them through public-private partnerships and local nonprofits. The government has promised to accept another 10,000 Syrians by year’s end and 44,000 refugees in total in 2016. (At the same time, it is admitting 300,000 migrants in total every year; this would be the equivalent of the EU accepting 4.5 million migrants annually.)

So the number he actually called for is lower (300,000), and Soros is talking about asylum-seekers. I suspect that, as a general rule, in the discourse of Fidesz leaders there's probably no distinction made between asylum-seekers and immigrants "for labour". On the other hand, Soros does mention that hypothethical 4.5 million migrants if EU were like Canada, but he stops short of actually calling for that (migration) to happen. But Soros' article does goes on to say:

given its aging population, Europe must eventually create an environment in which economic migration is welcome. Merkel opened Germany’s doors wide to refugees, but her generous act was not well thought through; it ignored the pull factor. A sudden influx of more than a million asylum-seekers overwhelmed the capacity of the authorities, turning public opinion against migrants. Now the EU urgently needs to limit the overall inflow of newcomers, and it can do so only by discriminating against economic migrants. Hopefully, this is temporary, but while it lasts, it is both inappropriate and damaging.

So Soros does favor some non-zero level of economic migration into the EU, but the rest of his article doesn't propose a specific figure for that.

And an article published by The Telegraph about a month after the on in Express details another rebuttal:

It pays particular attention to the million migrant claim. Although it concedes Mr Soros did say in 2015 that because of the war in Syria the EU would have to accept “at least a million asylum seekers” a year, it points out that a year later the financier reduced his estimate to just 300,000.

Also of note, both newspaper articles also talk about Orban's claim that Soros was behind the resettlement plan of asylum-seekers already in the EU (which sounds a lot more like a conspiracy theory); you don't seem to be asking about that issue, but only about inflows, so I limited my answer to that.

I hesitate to add much more than this as not steal Tim's thunder, but some comments on the affair from a columnist in the Guardian, rearranged slightly:

In Budapest, the far right has Jews plotting to destroy Christian Europe by bringing in Muslims.

The [Fidesz-governed] state has saturated the country with propaganda portraying the liberal Hungarian-Jewish financier George Soros as a menace to the nation. The rootless cosmopolitan is planning “to resettle at least one million immigrants annually” in the EU in general and Hungary in particular, Fidesz warns. As Soros does not command a government, Fidesz would have struggled to explain how he could flood Europe with Muslims. It’s as if UK ministers were pretending the choice before the electorate was between the Conservative party and Human Rights Watch.

But Orbán rarely has to explain. Most TV stations and newspapers obey the government and their hack propagandists have worked to turn the marginal NGOs Soros funds, with no power beyond the ability to seek judicial review of the treatment of refugees, into agents of a supernaturally powerful Jew.

And for the wider context in which Fidesz makes these claims, a 2016 snapshot:

Soros became a prominent scapegoat through Viktor Orbán’s mysterious references to “háttérhatalom/háttérhatalmak,” which I translated as “clandestine power/s.” As far as I can figure out, this clandestine power consists of the U.S. government, the Clintons, George Soros, and the civic organizations financed by him. According to government propaganda, Soros is supporting Hillary Clinton financially for the sole purpose of electing someone president of the United States who has an unfavorable view of the Orbán government. This propaganda, interestingly, seems to have fallen mostly on deaf ears. Only 19% of the people think that Soros and unnamed “clandestine powers” influence Hungarian politics, and a whopping 65% think that “this is just a communication strategy to direct attention away from other serious domestic problems.”

Soros’s name came up on two more occasions. The answers to these questions show that about 30% of Hungarians believe that “George Soros personally has something to do with the refugee crisis” as opposed to 41% who believe otherwise. Note that a lot of people couldn’t or didn’t want to answer. The same was true about Soros’s attitude toward the Hungarian government. To the question whether “he intends to overthrow the Hungarian government” 29% answered in the affirmative. These are high numbers, especially since only 40% think that these accusations are bonkers.

General questions about the refugee crisis show the depth of Hungarians’ confusion over the issue. Seventy-one percent of the respondents believe that “the goal of the refugee crisis is the weakening of Europe.” It is equally worrisome that 53% of the people believe that “American interest groups intentionally generated the refugee crisis.” It is also discouraging that 62% think that “a small elite controls the whole world.” Finally, on another level, 25% of the population believe in the deliberate spraying of people with poisonous materials (chemtrails).

As to the impact of Fidesz's latest claims against Soros there's a 2018 survey:

59 percent of respondents do not believe that NGOs are setting up “immigration organizing offices” to execute the “Soros-plan”, according to a recent poll conducted by Policy Agenda at the request of news site zoom.hu.

Even though the Hungarian government has spent tens of millions of dollars demonizing George Soros and civil society, only 27 percent of the Hungarian society agree with the statement “there are civil organizations in Hungary that seek to open immigration offices to help implement the Soros-plan.”

It comes as no surprise that voters of the ruling Fidesz party are the most receptive to the conspiracy theories of the government propaganda, with 39 percent of them believing that NGOs are seeking to open immigration offices to settle scores of Muslim immigrants in Hungary as per the “Soros-plan”.

What is remarkable, however, is that even the majority of Fidesz voters, some 52 percent, do not agree with the statement. The vast majority of left-wing-liberal voters (78 percent) reject the statement, but even among them, 16 percent believe the government propaganda. 66 percent of Jobbik voters reject the statement, while 24 percent agree with it. Undecided voters also reject the statement by a ratio of nearly three to one.

I think I'm digressing to much here already... since you didn't ask if Hungarians actually buy these claims.

And as if those conspiracy claims coming directly Fidesz weren't enough... a couple of monthts later they've endorsed some more explicit ones:

The book, titled “George Soros,” was originally written in 2016 by Andreas von Rétyi and questions, among other things, whether “Soros caused the refugee crisis.” Von Rétyi’s other books include one about “UFO secrets,” as well as another that backs a so-called 9/11 truther conspiracy theory that the U.S. government was involved in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Originally in German, the Soros book will be printed in Hungarian by a publisher close to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, according to Spiegel. The plan is for 5,000 copies to be printed and distributed to politicians as well as activists across the country.

“The book is a detailed and accurate piece,” János Halász, a Fidesz spokesman, told broadcaster RTL Klub, according to Spiegel.

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    +1, very thorough answer. If you have the time, could you add a summary? – Jordy Jul 13 '18 at 5:34
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    I think there is a very big difference between what the opinion of Soros is, and whether or not Soros is behind an actual "plan" to "flood" the EU with migrant labor. The latter is antisemitic conspiracy nonsense. Favoring "some non-zero level of economic migration" or saying that the EU "would have to" accept asylum seekers is very far from that. I'm not saying that you are conflating the two, but by first focusing on a benign claim and highlighting "correct", and by not addressing the central part of the claim in OP about a "plan", a wrong impression might be left for some readers. – tim Jul 13 '18 at 9:09
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    @daniel Calls to not violate the declaration of human rights and existing laws (too much*) don't really seem the same as a plan to flood the EU with migrants, so I don't see how you get to a "yes" here. [* The right to asylum isn't actually bound to an upper limit of eg 300k people, or going through some special program prior to fleeing as Soros is demanding; Soros is actually to the right of the status quo and various center/center-right European political parties here; spinning that as supporting plans to flood Europe with migrants is just unreasonable] – tim Jul 13 '18 at 12:54
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    @daniel What does "supporting migration" even mean? It's so vague to be meaningless. Even many on the far-right support some migration (by white people). Soros 300k number is about asylum seekers though. And there, he wants to go to the right of the status quo. – tim Jul 13 '18 at 13:34
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    @daniel Regarding migration, Soros writes "But the problem of economic migrants would remain. This brings us to the second point: The EU must regain control of its borders." His solution to economic migrants is border control. Is that "supporting migration"? He also writes "Skilled economic immigrants improve productivity, generate growth, and raise the absorptive capacity of the recipient country.". You can call that "supporting migration" if you want. But again, that's a widely shared sentiment, and doesn't match the claim in the OP. – tim Jul 13 '18 at 13:35
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The "Soros Plan"

To clarify the claim a bit: Orbán has made a lot of references to a "Soros Plan", but the most specific version of this supposed plan is described in a national consultation letter from the Hungarian government. A translation of the points can be seen here. It consists of the following points:

  1. George Soros wants to encourage Brussels to settle at least one million immigrants from Africa and the Middle East annually on the territory of the European Union, and thus in Hungary too.

  2. George Soros, together with leaders in Brussels, also plans for the EU member states, including Hungary, to dismantle the border protection fences and open the borders to immigrants.

  3. Part of the Soros Plan is for Brussels to forcibly distribute the immigrants gathered in West European countries, with particular regard to the countries of Eastern Europe. Hungary, too, would have to participate in this.

  4. Based on the Soros Plan, Brussels would have to oblige every member state, including Hungary, to pay HUF 9 million in state aid to each immigrant.

  5. George Soros also wants migrants to receive lighter punishments for crimes they have committed.

  6. The goal of the Soros Plan is for the languages and cultures of European countries to be pushed into the background in order to ensure the more rapid integration of illegal immigrants.

  7. Part of the Soros Plan is to launch political attacks against countries that oppose immigration, and to impose heavy penalties on these countries.

A similar list, including sources, can be found in a letter from the Hungarian foreign minister to the president of Austria.

The rebuttal

Soros published a rebuttal of the points. While Soros is not impartial, the rebuttal contains sources as well.

Point 1: 1 million immigrants

The sources of the Hungarian government and Soros for this claim are the same, namely the article Rebuilding the Asylum System by Soros from 2015.

In it, Soros writes:

[A comprehensive plan for the EU] has to extend beyond the borders of Europe. It is less disruptive and much less expensive to maintain potential asylum-seekers in or close to their present location.

He also writes:

the EU has to accept at least a million asylum-seekers annually for the foreseeable future.

Soros is talking about asylum-seekers here, not migrants. Note that in 2015, 1.3 million asylum seekers came to the EU. The 1 million named by Soros would be a reduction. Note that a limitation of the right to asylum is legally dubious.

A year later, in 2016, Soros reduced this number to 300 thousand:

First, the EU must take in a substantial number of refugees directly from front-line countries in a secure and orderly manner. This would be far more acceptable to the public than the current disorder. If the EU made a commitment to admit even a mere 300,000 refugees annually, most genuine asylum-seekers would view their odds of reaching their destination as good enough to deter them from seeking to reach Europe illegally – an effort that would disqualify them from legal admission.

300 thousand would be below the average for the years 2011 to 2013, and well below the 1.2 million that arrived in 2016, or the 700 thousand that arrived a year later.

Point 2: Dismantle Borders

Soros wrote:

Second, the EU must regain control of its borders. [...]

Fourth, the EU must build common mechanisms for protecting borders

He made the same point two months earlier:

But the problem of economic migrants would remain. This brings us to the second point: The EU must regain control of its borders.

Point 3: Forcible Distribution

The article by Soros from 2015, which is also the source the Hungarian government named for point 1, contains this:

It is equally important to allow both states and asylum-seekers to express their preferences, using the least possible coercion. Placing refugees where they want to go – and where they are wanted – is a sine qua non of success.

To encourage countries to take asylum-seekers, he wants the EU to pay countries for each refugee they take.

Further Points

Point 4 seems less relevant, and I could not find any evidence for the remaining points.

Summary

Considering the situation at the time, Soros wants the EU to accept asylum-seekers, but is for limiting the amount of asylum seekers accepted into Europe to a number lower than the existing number of asylum-seekers.

In the long term, he wants asylum-seekers to stay in the countries they are.

Regarding economic migration, he wants to strengthen the EU borders against economic migrants, though he also considers "Skilled economic immigrants" to be a benefit.

  • what is the difference between an asylum seeker and a migrant as pertains to this issue? – Mayo Jul 13 '18 at 14:42
  • @Mayo An asylum-seeker is a refugee who is fleeing from a place - because of percecution or fear of bodily harm because of an armed conflict - and requesting asylum in another country based on the right to asylum, eg according to the declaration of human rights or the geneva convention. The majority of asylum-seekers in the EU are from Syria or Afghanistan. Migrants are people who migrate for other reasons, among them the desire for economic prosperity. – tim Jul 13 '18 at 15:00
  • Thanks (+1) for detailing the "plan" according to Fidesz. I could not find it on my quick search... Western media did extract some of Fidesz's claims about what Soros supposedly wanted, but I had no idea Fidesz had came up with such a elaborated conspiracy theory (although I was getting some hints). – Fizz Jul 13 '18 at 15:16
  • wow moderators. just wow for removing that comment. Immigrant can be either an asylum seeker or an economic migrant. Splitting hairs between the two doesn't address the question of "Does Soros ..." – Mayo Jul 13 '18 at 17:28
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    @daniel I know that the far right likes to use that quote, but I could find no context for it (compare that with the three articles by Soros I linked, which provide plenty of context). And even standing on its own, it can be read in a non-sinister way (borders shouldn't be an end in itself (who would argue with that?), and - even if the far right doesn't like it - protection of refugees is a long-standing tradition in the west, and part of EU law and the declaration of human rights). It doesn't match the claim that Soros is behind a "plan" to "flood" the EU with "cheap migrant labour". – tim Jul 14 '18 at 10:06

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