State of the nation: half of Hungary averse to Roma, abuses on-going

02 April 1998

The international press reported on January 16 that approximately 50% of Hungarians surveyed in a recent Gallup poll admitted that they do not like Roma. A third of Hungarians also would like restrictions on „coloured” immigrants, while 13 percent admit being anti-Semitic, according to the survey, which was also published on January 16 in the Hungarian daily Népszava. The poll showed the following differences in levels of anti-Roma sentiment: persons with a basic school education or less, 52%; persons with a secondary education, 47%; and persons with a higher education, 41%.

Another survey published recently indicates a high level of abuse of prisoners in Hungary, with Roma particularly vulnerable. One third of seven hundred individuals questioned in a survey conducted by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Constitutional and Legislative Policy Institute in Hungarian prisons said they had been subjected to police abuse. The study, which was published on December 23, also found that foreign prisoners, Roma and young offenders were more often exposed to police violence than others. The two organisations additionally criticised the poor conditions and overcrowding in the prisons.

Physical abuse of Roma has been documented in the second half of 1997 in Hungary. The Hungarian daily Blikk reported on December 4 that three Roma had been beaten in a bar near Almássy tér in Budapest’s 7th district the previous day. The fight evidently began when a group of non-Roma entered the bar and requested a song from the pianist. The Roma began to sing with them, but then switched languages and sang in Romani. „Glasses, chairs, tables and blood...” reported Blikk, „The Roma were taken to the trauma unit of a local hospital, while the non-Roma were taken to the police station.”

Instances of police brutality were also documented by the ERRC. A Romani man in his mid-twenties named Antal Magyar reported to the ERRC that he had been beaten by police officers in the northeastern town of Kemecse in August. Mr Magyar told the ERRC that he was working for the local authorities and had been sent to collect tyres from a factory on August 4 when he was approached by the chief of police who, in the presence of three of Mr Magyar’s colleagues, knocked him to the ground. Mr Magyar reported the incident to the mayor the same day. Still on August 4, Mr Magyar was detained at his home by two police officers who allegedly brought him to the house of the chief of police, where he was met at the gate by the chief himself. According to testimony by the victim, the chief of police then hit him ten or fifteen times and insulted members of his family. He also allegedly threatened to expel Mr Magyar from the town if he attempted to report him again. Mr Magyar returned home bruised, and he told the ERRC that despite the police chief’s warning, he spoke openly about the beating in town. He was subsequently harrassed once more by two police officers at home and again threatened with being beaten if he attempted to file a complaint against the chief of police.

(Agence France Presse, Blikk, Budapest Sun, ERRC, Népszava, RFE/RL)


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