Red Cross evacuates Roma families in northern Hungary because of right-wing extremists
The Roma community in the northern Hungarian village of Gyöngyöspata has evacuated 277 children and women from their homes because a right-wing extremist paramilitary organization, Véderő (Defense), is setting up a training camp in the neighborhood. The evacuees left the village by bus for a secret location. The MTI press agency reports that as many as 400 police officers have now come to the village and surrounded the right-wing radicals' campground.
According to János Farkas, head of the local Roma community, over the past few days the village has been changed "for all practical purposes into a battleground." He said militia members in military clothing have been patrolling the village for several weeks and local people fear them.
Farkas said members of Véderő came to the village a week ago to find an appropriate place for a training ground. According to the right-wing radicals' website, a three-day training camp will start there today welcoming "all youths and adults who love their country and are interested in learning something about warfare and the basics of self-defense."
Those attending the event have been asked to bring "airsoft" guns with them, plastic bullets, and boxing gloves. "Military discipline will apply at the campground during the entire three days," the invitation reads.
According to local activist Tamás Bangó, police officers are doing their best to prevent the right-wing radicals attending the event from driving through the village. Several Hungarian MPs, diplomats, and representatives of international organizations have also come to Gyöngyöspata, Bangó said.
The Associated Press reports that Tamás Eszes, who leads Véderő, has declared that the organization is not a racist one, that it has not been involved in anti-Roma patrols, and that it has no ties to any political party. However, he did go on to say that "Gypsy crime" is a problem that cannot be denied and that a high percentage of those in Hungarian prisons are Roma people.
Véderő has purchased 6 000 square meters of land in the area, allegedly because of its low price, and plans to hold similar meetings there every month. "We have already organized many camps in various places, but until now we have not had our own base," Eszes said. He claims the main purpose of the action is to improve the physical condition of Hungarian youth, who are in poor shape from sitting in front of computers all day.
"They are inciting fear unnecessarily, they want to label us 'extremists'," said Eszes, who is a karate instructor. "We met with the Gypsy representatives earlier and explained our activities to them."
The Hungarian Red Cross and Roma activists organized the evacuation. They have not publicized the exact location where the evacuees will be staying because they are concerned that the right-wing extremists might hunt them down there. The MTI press agency reported that the evacuees are hiding in several places in Budapest, including the youth camp of Csillebérc in the Buda quarter, while the Associated Press reports they have gone to Balaton lake. Roma men are staying behind in Gyöngyöspata to guard their property.
The Hungarian Government announced in mid-April that extreme-right patrols in the eastern regions of the country had been brought to an end. Previous media reports said the patrols are organized by circles close to the ultra-right parliamentary party Jobbik (Movement for a Better Hungary). The right-wing radicals explained their actions as an effort to draw attention to problems with public order, which in their view is completely non-existent because of Roma people.
Jobbik won a record 16.7 % of the votes in last year's parliamentary elections. One of the main points of their campaign was so-called "Gypsy crime". The party founded the paramilitary Hungarian Guard in 2007, but the courts banned it after two years.