Hungarian City Set to ‘Expel’ Its Roma
Budapest, 25 June 2014: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is deeply concerned about a recent local government decree designed to expel Roma from Miskolc, a major city in Eastern Hungary. The ERRC sent its legal analysis to the European Commission to underline the unlawfulness of the action, urging the European Commission to take action against Hungary as its local decree is in breach of EU law. The local Romani community is holding a public rally in the city today to protest the Miskolc government’s actions.
The government of the city of Miskolc recently amended a decree on social housing that in effect seeks to drive Roma out from the city limits – adding a new, worrying chapter to this city government’s history of excluding Roma.
The decree foresees the demolition of the most impoverished low-comfort social housing neighbourhoods in the city (the so-called ‘numbered streets’) which are almost exclusively inhabited by Roma. The decree explicitly discriminates against people living in low-comfort social housing. It offers compensation to them to terminate their contracts, but only if they buy a property strictly outside the territory of Miskolc. That property cannot be sold or mortgaged for at least 5 years. No such restrictions apply to tenants of full comfort social housing – most of whom are non-Roma.
The local government has hardly concealed its aim to expel the Romani community of this neighbourhood, as the city’s equal opportunities programme acknowledges that low-comfort social housing neighbourhoods are occupied by Roma.
People living in these neighbourhoods will not only be forced out of the city, but will be at risk of becoming homeless.
The authorities of Miskolc have been pursuing since at least 2009 a policy of excluding and stigmatising the Romani population. Public statements from the police chief on the existence of ‘gypsy crime’ and from the mayor who spoke of his wish to clear the city from ‘anti-social’ Roma, prepared the ground for this attempt to expel Roma from the town. The local government’s law enforcement have also conducted 45 property inspections within a ten-month period targeting Roma neighbourhoods. The Romani tenants felt humiliated, particularly as no such measures were taken in any other areas of the city.
The ERRC considers this an egregious example of systemic discrimination and racism in an EU member state. The plans of the city of Miskolc contradict the Hungarian Constitution, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Race Equality Directive of the European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights, and commitments of Hungary under the European Union Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.
The ERRC has urged the European Commission to remind the Hungarian authorities to adhere to their obligations and take steps to stop these violations of fundamental rights. The Commission should call on Hungary to nullify the decree, and if necessary, start infringement proceedings for this breach of EU law.
The ERRC’s Memorandum on the lawfulness under European and international law of amendment to Miskolc social housing law can be found here.
For more information, contact:
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre