Hungary: Roma forcibly displaced in Miskolc as Budapest markets Roma neighborhood to tourists
The news server www.neweasterneurope.eu reported at the end of last month that members of the Romani community in Hungary are still being evicted in the eastern city of Miskolc despite international pressure and a Supreme Court ruling against the process. The news server likened the local authorities' policy to "ethnic cleansing" and said it sets a dangerous precedent.
Miskolc passed an ordinance last year to permit the termination of its contracts with residents of its social housing (called "low-comfort" housing) by offering them monetary compensation if they would agree to purchase property not in Miskolc and then not sell that property for five years. Most of those tenants were Romani and many began to emigrate to Canada en masse this past May as a result of the evictions.
Prior to the Supreme Court ruling it illegal, the town's measure was effectively a legalized way to force Roma out of Miskolc and prevent their return. Local authorities argued that it was the best way to get rid of the city's slum areas.
This spurning of the Supreme Court comes as anti-Romani sentiment, along with anti-immigration and general anti-multiculturalism sentiment, shows no sign of abating in Hungary, according to a report on news server www.opendemocracy.net authored by Dr Annabel Tremlett of the University of Portsmouth and Vera Messing, a research fellow with the Center for Policy Studies and research associate of the Institute of Sociology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Their piece notes that the country has just passed laws tightening the rules for granting asylum and is building a much-publicized fence along its border with Serbia to keep immigrants out.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has reportedly said that Hungary cannot cope with immigration because it has no experience of "multiculturalism". However, Tremlett and Messing characterize the country as having "always" been multicultural, with 10 - 12 % of its citizens coming from various minorities.
The academics also report that in May the Hungarian Government sent a questionnaire to every household as part of what it called a "National Consultation on Immigration", an effort that reportedly cost EUR 3.2 million. The questionnaire included questions such as: “There are some who think that mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism. Do you agree with this view?
Over the past six months, 71 200 immigrants are said to have entered Hungary. Tremlett and Messing argue that Orbán is using that issue to divert the country's attention from its longstanding and deep-rooted inequality, extensive "oligarchic" corruption, and the daily institutional harassment that many experience there irrespective of ethnicity.
Meanwhile, a Canadian newspaper has published an Associated Press (AP) piece on tourism in Budapest that mentions none of this bigger picture. Entitled "Budapest’s 8th district a hidden gem", the piece featured a photograph of "Gypsy musician Zoltan Farkas" playing the violin in the 8th district, described as the "gritty" Bronx or Harlem of the Hungarian capital.
The AP describes Romani volunteers providing tours of the district to tourists not just from abroad, but also from within Hungary itself who would reportedly be too afraid to go to the quarter without guides. The piece says Budapest is now regularly featured among the top 10 tourist destinations in Central Europe.
Canada has invested a great deal of diplomatic effort into making sure Romani people stay in Hungary, including racially profiling Romani air travelers while they are still in Europe to keep them from entering the country. Roma rights activist Viktoria Mohacsi, who served in the European Parliament from 2004-2009, left Hungary for Canada in 2012, probably the most high-profile Romani figure to emigrate from Hungary.
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