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Criminalization of homelessness to be included in the Hungarian constitution

Fidesz-KDNP, the ruling party coalition in Hungary, intends to include the criminalization of homelessness in the Hungarian constitution. The Parliament, where Fidesz-KDNP has supermajority, will vote on the 4th amendment to the Fundamental Law in the second week of March. This step is the culmination of the two-year-long campaign of vengeance that the government has waged against one of the most vulnerable and poorest social groups in the country: homeless people living on the street.

Politicians of Fidesz-KDNP have seized all opportunities in the past two years to forcibly shunt homeless people out of public sight. In the fall of 2010, the Law on Constructions was amended to empower municipalities to ban homeless people from public spaces. The Municipality of Budapest was the first to take advantage of this opportunity and passed a local regulation, which basically prohibited homelessness in public space. The next step in the process of criminalization came in November 2011, when the Parliament imposed a $700 fine or jail upon those who repeatedly broke municipal laws regarding “residential habitation in public spaces.” In order to bring the persecution of the homeless to a national level, residential habitation in public spaces was included in the Law on Infractions. From January 2012, it became legal across the country to fine or jail homeless people living in public spaces.

All these changes have been surrounded by intensive grassroots opposition, which still could not prevent the inhumane laws from entering into effect. Finally, at the proposal of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the Constitutional Court examined the Law on Infractions and decided in November 2012 that punishing “residential habitation in public spaces” is unconstitutional . In its arguments, the Court made it clear that „homelessness is a social problem that the state has to solve through social administration and social services and not through punishment.” As a result, the law was repealed immediately.

According to data acquired by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union , between April and November of 2012, altogether 2200 people were charged with “habitual residence in public space.” In more than 1500 cases a total of more than $180 thousand were incurred in fines. These fines were incurred not because the “perpetrators” hurt anyone or stole or damaged anything. They were incurred only because people who have no home resort to sleeping in public spaces .

The ruling coalition was so outraged by the decision of the Constitutional Court that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced immediately that the government would include the prohibition of street homelessness in the Fundamental Law. The following clause will be voted on in two weeks: „Article XXII. (3) Law or local government regulation may condemn residential habitation in public spaces illegal in certain parts of public space in order to protect public order and security as well as public health and cultural values.”

The City is for All, together with many other Hungarian and international NGOs and professional organizations, has stood up against the current regime’s oppressive and discriminative anti-homelessness and anti-poor policies since 2010 . In all our public statements, we have demanded that instead of cruelty and persecution, real solutions be found to address the problem of mass homelessness and housing poverty. We continue our resistance: on March 9, 2013, we will protest in Budapest  with other organizations that represent the millions of people who are negatively affected by the 4th  amendment of the Fundamental Law.

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Note to editors:  In The City is for All, homeless people and their allies work together for an egalitarian and just society. We fight for the right to housing and the dignity of all human beings.

More information : www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu  

Contact : Bernadett Sebály +3670-217-2601, avarosmindenkie@gmail.com

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