Hungary passes law criminalizing homelessness, says rights watchdog
Holding a sign that says “Poverty is not a crime," protesters outside Hungarian parliament on 30 September 2013. (Human Rights Watch.)
As if being homeless wasn't bad enough.
Hungary is a country whose government has been making news for unfortunate reasons recently. Many Roma from Hungary have fled to Canada, claiming they have been persecuted by both the government and its supporters.
HRW and other human rights activists have been worried by what they've seen happening in Hungary since the country's 2010 elections, when the far-right political party Jobbik won 17 per cent of the popular vote, stoking mistrust of Roma and whipping up anger over alleged "Gypsy crime."
Now, Hungary seems to have its sights set on the homeless, another vulnerable group.
Hungary has passed a new law that criminalizes homelessness. (Hungary has about 30,000 homeless.) Parliamentarians voted 245 to 45 for the new bill, Human Rights Watch reports.
"Municipalities across the country now have a green light to impose fines, community service, and even jail time (if convicted twice within six months) on the homeless," HRW researcher Lydia Gall writes. "And it’s straight to jail for those convicted of erecting makeshift shelters."
The new law follows a decree passed this summer by the city of Budapest that banned "dumpster-diving." That law introduces fines of up to 150,000 Hungarian forints ($655), or even jail sentences for repeated violations.
Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead