Hungarian court rules Romani children were discriminatorily institutionalized because of their origin and social status
The Budapest Metropolitan Court has ruled in favor of the arguments made by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in a case against the discriminatorily disproportionate representation of Romani children in state care in Hungary's Nógrád County, according to a press release issued on 5 October 2021 by the organization. The 4 October verdict found the Human Resources Ministry violated the children's right to equal treatment when it removed them from their families because of their parents' financial situations, as the majority of them are Romani.
"These families have been discriminated against on the basis of their socioecnomic position, their poverty, and also because of their Romani origin," the court ruled. The ERRC acted as the plaintiff in this actio popularis case, representing all Romani children affected by the removals.
The court agreed with the ERRC demand that the illegal removal of children from their families cease immediately and instructed the ministry to monitor the situation annually for the next five years and to collect data about the numbers of children in state care in Nógrád County who are considered Romani. An action plan must be developed on the basis of the results of that monitoring and the implementation of that plan must be tracked by the ministry.
The monitoring must be performed transparently and the relevant documentation must be published on the ministry's website, the court ordered. "This verdict is a big step forward because it tasks the ministry with the obligation to gather data on ethnicity. The ministry has to create an appropriate protocol for the collection of anonymized data about ethnicity and statistics on the children in state care. That means the ministry can no longer claim not to know who is Romani and that it is therefore not liable for its actions or inaction with respect to its duties when Romani people are being disadvantaged by them en masse," emphasized lawyer Adél Kegye, who represented the ERRC in this case.
The lawsuit was filed after the ERRC learned that the child welfare institutions in Nógrád County, which are administered by the ministry, were receiving Romani children into their care on the basis of their social status and their families' poverty. A survey performed by the Chance for Children Association (Gyerekesély Közhasznú Egyesület) for the ERRC demonstrated that although Romani people comprise less than 20 % of the Hungarian population, Romani children comprise more than 80 % of the children in state care.
The data demonstrated a big correlation between deep poverty, severe deprivation, and the reception of children into the system of state care. The ERRC first brought the lawsuit against the Hungarian Human Resources Ministry in 2017.
The Budapest Metropolitan Court decided in 2019 that the Human Resources Ministry is liable for the massive number of children removed from their families in Nógrád County. However, that decision did not find that this harmful practice had resulted in discrimination against Romani children.
The ERRC appealed that first-instance decision and the appeals court returned the case to the first-instance venue. That court has now issued its verdict that the children have been discriminated against on the basis of their Romani origin.
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