Human rights activists and charitable organizations are outraged by a new law in Hungary that essentially criminalizes homelessness.
According to European media reports, a new regulation that was first proposed by Mate Kocsis, an MP from the ruling conservative Fidesz party, homelessness will be punishable by up to a $600 fine or even imprisonment. If someone is found sleeping on the streets he or she would initially receive just a warning from authorities.
The law was passed by a majority last month in parliament.
Reportedly, there are now about 10,000 homeless people on the streets of the capital Budapest alone and the government feels the city cannot cope with these numbers.
However, charities counter the law cannot be enforced.
Miklos Vecsei, deputy head of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service, told BBC that the problem of deep poverty in the country needed to be addressed before the government started persecuting the poor and homeless.
Critics of the law plan to launch demonstrations against the government.
The problem of homelessness in Hungary is deep and seemingly intractable.
According to The Budapest Report, the mayor of Budapest István Tarlós has said that “those who believe that all problems would be solved if homeless people were given housing… are mistaken.”
Like many European countries, Hungary is in a deep financial crisis. Now only did credit agencies downgrade the country’s sovereign bonds to ‘junk’ status, but the florint currency has tumbled to almost all-time lows versus the euro.
The national unemployment rate is about 10.7 percent -- however, for the country’s principal minority, the Roma (popularly known as ‘Gypsies’), the jobless rate is believed to be anywhere from 60 percent to 90 percent.
RTT News reported that almost half (48 percent) of Hungary’s jobless have been out of work for more than a year.