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Homeless In Hungary? You’re a Criminal, Says New Law (video)

Homeless In Hungary? You’re a Criminal, Says New Law (video)

Independent United Nations human rights experts have issued a joint call for Hungary to change a recent law that criminalizes homelessness. The new law was proposed by members of Hungary’s conservative ruling Fidesz party and came into force in December; under it, those who are homeless can be fined up to around $600.

Some 30,000 to 35,000 are estimated to be homeless in Hungary, with the capital, Budapest, said to have about 8,000 people living on the streets including women, children, older people and individuals with disabilities. The city only has about 5,500 places in public shelters with most of these providing “dormitory-style accommodations” with 50 people sleeping in one room.

Last year, hundreds of people were forced from underpasses in Budapest and arrested after the city passed a law that made “habitual residence in public spaces” a criminal act. The government has said that Budapest simply could not cope with the numbers of people living in the streets.

Advocates for the homeless in Hungary, as well as the country’s human rights ombudsman, have harshly criticized the law. According to the BBC, Miklos Vecsei, deputy head of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service, has said that “the law had not been passed on the basis of any rational or professional criteria but because the public were fed up with the homeless.” Rather than banning “deep poverty,” a solution — a real solution, not penalizing people already in need and deeply suffering — needs to be found.

At the UN, Magdalena Sepúlveda, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, condemned Hungary’s law. Mate Kocsis, a member of the country’s Parliament from the ruling Fidesz party and a district mayor in the city, introduced the law; he can be seen in this video which also shows one homeless woman, Julianna Szvett,  who has made a shelter for herself in a cave.

Said Sepúlveda and Rolnik in a joint statement:

“By a wave of the legislative pen, the Hungarian Parliament has labelled tens of thousands of homeless people in Hungary as potential criminals. Moreover, the law has a discriminatory impact on those living in poverty.”

Sepúlveda and Rolnik have requested that public funds should not be used to prosecute and penalize those who are homeless but to help them.

The global economic crisis is one reason that more Hungarian families have been forced on the streets. Sepúlveda and Rolnikalso underscored that, especially due to the extreme cold in Europe in the past few weeks, “States have an increased obligation to provide shelter to those in need.” Indeed they do: By criminalizing homelessness, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government is only creating even more problems down the road.

 

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69 comments

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10:33PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

Where does humanity stand in our grand existence in time of this world when we as a people seek to stigmatize the needy and helpless in this way? This type of thinking is taking place the world over. The time is NOW to stand firm against senseless in-humanity, barbarism, greed, and selfishness. There should be no-one on this planet without a safe place, a good home, good food and water and a self full filling purpose in life.

7:02PM PST on Feb 24, 2012

instead of focusing on criminalizing homelessness their time would be better spent putting situations in place so reduce the homeless population

12:51AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

Greatly unfortunate, since I'm a quarter Hungarian, and would like the country to be an upstanding place.

12:50AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

They will pay the fines the same way that American Republicans expect the poor and homeless here work jobs that are nonexistant to support themselves.

2:47PM PST on Feb 19, 2012

How do they think a homeless will be able to pay any fines?

11:14AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

There are ugly things like this happening all over Europe with the crisis. Nicolas Sarkozy said that if he was elected he would hold a referendum about the unemployed, basically asking the rest of the population if they should be forced to take whatever job they are offered, anywhere, at any pay. The idea is to polarize the country, separate the haves from the have-nots to stay in power. It is revolting!

9:58AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

Policies that increase the odds of poverty and homelessness should be criminalized not the victims.

9:48AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

Man's inhumanity to man is unceasingly tragic and diminishes all of us.

9:31AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

WHAT HUMANS DO TO HUMANS, IS WHAT THEY DO TO THE ANIMALS AND ENVIRONMENT. :-( THANKS FOR THE POST.

5:44AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

What a crazy world, when someone who's unfortunate enough to be homeless, is now being hunted with fines/imprisonment, because their forced to sleep rough.
This country should be ashamed.
This ridiculous law needs to be scrapped pronto.
Mans inhumanity to Man!!!

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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