Roma Evicted in Budapest

At approximately 8:30 AM on August 13, 2002, fifteen Romani families, comprising fifty people, including twenty-four children, were evicted from Muflon Street in Budapest's 2nd District. According to ERRC field investigation, bulldozers destroyed the twelve homes in which the families were living and their personal belongings. On August 16, 2002, the ERRC met with the Romani victims. According to Ms Béláné Horváth, a 44-year-old Romani woman, on August 12, 2002, at approximately 5:30 PM, representatives of the local government came to the settlement and informed the families that they had to move out of their homes by 8:30 AM the following morning. Ms Laszlóné Nyári, a 35-year-old Romani mother of two, further informed the ERRC that the representatives of the local government also threatened that members of the Family Protection Office would come in the morning to take their children away. Ms Nyári reported that she spent the night at a local bus stop with her two young children after hearing this, for fear that her children would be taken into state custody.

On the morning of August 13, 2002, Ms Béláné Horváth reported, representatives of the local government came to the settlement with police, people employed to drive two bulldozers, representatives of the Family Protection Office, and a number of so-called "civil guards" ("civil guards are deputised civilians, established under Hungarian law, and organised as a series of not-for-profit organisations under a national umbrella). According to Roma interviewed by the ERRC, local authorities did not present an eviction order. According to 46-year-old Mr Dezső Zsigó, he asked a representative of the local government if they had an eviction warrant but he was not shown anything. According to Ms Béláné Horváth, the Roma came out of their homes when the authorities arrived and were told that they could bring with them what they could carry in bags. Representatives of the local government reportedly informed the families that the rest of their belongings, including furniture, televisions, radios, washing machines, strollers, etc., would be brought to a warehouse for storage. Ms Horváth reported, however, that when the families had taken from their homes what they could fit in bags, the local authorities immediately proceeded to bulldoze the homes. None of the evicted Roma interviewed by the ERRC witnessed the local authorities remove any of their possessions before the homes were destroyed. Mr Alfréd Jónás, a 43-year-old Romani man, testified to the ERRC that the authorities did not search the homes to ensure that all of the Roma were out before they began bulldozing.

According to the Budapest-based Roma Press Center (RSK), the local government had not planned initially to provide alternative housing for the evicted Roma. Following an intervention by the Roma Civil Rights Foundation, forty of the evicted Roma were provided housing at the Kunigunda Worker's Hostel in the 3rd District of Budapest for two weeks. The evicted Roma were also given 5,000 Hungarian forints (approximately 20 euros) per person. On August 16, 2002, 30-year-old Ms Magdolna Horváth told the ERRC that one elderly woman suffering from terminal cancer had set up a tent in the forest near where the families were evicted and was living there with her two children, aged 10 and 14. None of the Roma interviewed knew the whereabouts of the other seven Roma that were evicted. On November 4, 2002, the Budapest-based non-profit law organisation Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI), which is providing legal representation for the evicted Roma with the ERRC, reported that some of these Roma had returned to the area from which they had been evicted, while others had returned to the villages from which they had originally come.

Ms Béláné Horváth reported to the ERRC that approximately three months before the eviction, representatives of the local government had visited the Romani settlement and taken photographs. According to Ms Horváth, on that occasion, when asked if they would have to move, the representatives reportedly told her no. On August 26, 2002, the ERRC requested information from the 2nd District local government on the forced eviction. On August 27, 2002, in a faxed statement to the ERRC, the 2nd District Local Government stated that its representatives had visited the settlement on July 11, 2002, and had informed the Romani families that they would have to move. According to the statement, the event of August 13, 2002, was not an eviction because the sheds that the Roma had been living in were not considered flats under Hungarian law, and therefore they could not be "evicted" from them. Further, the local government stated that it was simply taking back property it owned, and it did not consider the evicted Roma squatters, as they had used the buildings unlawfully, in violation of the laws of personal property. The local government stated that the twenty-year lease on the land had expired in December 2000. According to the statement of the local government, the people who had originally leased the land had built the sheds on the property and since they did not destroy the sheds at the end of the lease, the local government did. Further, the local government stated that because the evicted Roma were not registered in the 2nd District, the local government did not have any responsibility towards them and, further stated that, it was not allowed to help them by law. According to the local government, the government of the district in which the evicted Roma are registered is legally responsible, or if they are not registered anywhere and are therefore homeless, the Budapest City Government is responsible for the provision of temporary aid. The local government stated that it had done more than its lawful duty for the families.

The UN Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights sets out in its General Comment 7 on Article 11 (1) of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights on the right to adequate housing and forced evictions, that "The State itself must refrain from forced evictions and ensure that the law is enforced against its agents or third parties who carry out forced evictions […]. […] Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available."

On September 16, 2002, NEKI informed the ERRC that the evicted Roma's stay at the Kunigunda Workers Hostel had been extended until the end of October following the intervention of the Roma Civil Rights Foundation. On October 31, 2002, this was extended for a further two weeks, according to NEKI. NEKI further stated that it had sent a request to the 2nd District Local Government for 1 million Hungarian forints (approximately 4,110 euros) compensation per family and sent a report to the Ombudsman's Office about the eviction. On November 4, 2002, NEKI reported to the ERRC that it would hold off on filing a complaint because a new mayor had just been elected in the 2nd District and NEKI hoped that it could co-operate with the new mayor.

(ERRC, NEKI, RSK, Roma Civil Rights Foundation)

Ms Ildikó Szabó and Mr Endre Balogh with
their six-month-old boy were evicted in August
2002 from the 2nd District in Budapest.
Photo: ERRC

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