FW: Foundation for Romani Civil Rights Letter to Hungarian PrimeMinister

From: Bill (newb@xxx.edu)
Date: Fri Jan 26 2001 - 07:34:56 PST


-----Original Message-----
From: European Roma Rights Center [mailto:errc@errc.org]
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2001 5:00 AM
To: errc@errc.org
Subject: Foundation for Romani Civil Rights Letter to Hungarian
PrimeMinister

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is herewith distributing an open
letter by partner organisation Foundation for Romani Civil Rights to
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The views and opinions expressed in
the letter are not necessarily those of the ERRC. The text of the letter by
the Foundation for Romani Civil Rights follows:

Roma Civil Rights Foundation: Open Letter to Prime Minister Viktor OrbĚn

Dear Prime Minister,

On the morning of January 10, 2000, you made an announcement on Hungarian
Public Radio saying that: the government, with the participation of the
National Gypsy Self-Government, will initiate a 300 million HUF housing
construction programme for Roma families who are currently employed and
send their children to school.

You stressed that the National Gypsy Self-Government could only organise
the construction if it undertook to ensure that the new tenants kept their
flats well-maintained. As according to you Prime Minister: "Sadly, the fate
of many homes in Hungary has been that after being beautifully built,
Romany families move in, and before the year is up these houses are
completely derelict, the parquet floors are torn up, the doors and windows
are ruined. As a result many people feel that it is a complete waste of
money for the government to spend their taxes on assisting those need, when
a lasting solution is yet to be found."

This programme should have been welcome news, as it stated that it
allegedly wished to assist at least some of 110 thousand Roma families who
live in the country, 50% of whom face grave housing problems. According to
our estimates approximately 15,000 families live in miserable settlements
and a further 30,000-40,000 families face serious housing problems, are
homeless, or live in condemned or primitive housing etc. This number far
exceeds the national average and necessary steps should be taken to
counteract this situation.

In comparison the 300 million HUF construction programme, given the present
building conditions, is sufficient for the construction of 50-60 flats (a
flat for a family of five presently costs on average 5-6 million HUF), that
is to say the programme aims at only one thousandth of those families in
need. We believe that calling something on this scale a Governmental
National Gypsy Housing Programme is absurd. It is like giving pension
increases to only 300 people instead of to the full 3 million, or
guaranteeing a 2 forint increase for all pensioners. Enough said.

The other condition whereby the Government obliges OC¸ (Gypsy
Self-Government) to ensure that the new flats be well-maintained creates a
host of related problems. OC¸ does not have the money to take on such a
responsibility and to maintain blocks of flats. Neither is the National
Gypsy Self-Government a Gypsy Kingdom that can issue orders to Roma or lay
down regulations for them, it simply represents their interests in housing
affairs.

OC¸, could only make these guarantees, which you and your government
expect, in the name and at the expense of their members. As present
resources are just enough to cover the bodyÝs operative expenses. However
the scale of this so-called National Roma Housing programme is actually
tailor-made for OC¸ as it has altogether 53 elected members! The Prime
Minister's declaration on radio, that Roma destroy homes, tear up wooden
floors, etc. is, on the other hand, seriously prejudiced and offends the
human dignity of Romany citizens. The Prime Minister does not and cannot
have such information at his disposal.

As a result he cannot make official reference to to these facts. It is
possible that the Prime Minister knows of several incidences where needy,
poverty-stricken family, in the absence of social support, were forced to
take down a part of their own house and sell the construction materials, so
that they would not have to steal and be sent to prison, but could at least
feed their children. Indeed there are cases where poor alcoholics neglect
their flats but this has nothing to do with their identity as a minority or
not.

These cases are the result of tragic circumstances and cannot be
generalised and applied to one people or ethnic minority such as the Roma.
Before the political changes in the sixties and seventies the authorities
put about a duplicitous myth concerning the Roma people, who had anyway
been stripped of their rights. The aim of this was to deny that real
poverty existed under socialism and a whispering campaign that whipped up
hatred spread, which maintained that the worthless Roma were to blame. We
initially believed that the political changes would put an end to this. It
is a great shame that the Prime Minister was not aware that his speech
offended many hundreds of thousands of Roma and Roma communities, hundreds
of thousands of people who uphold the Constitution and for whom he is their
elected Prime Minister just as he is for every other citizen in the
country. We feel it is even more unfortunate that in his radio speech he
set the tax-payer against the house wrecking Roma families. It is a tragic
fact that the economic crisis that preceded the political changes, and the
structural changes that came about after them, meant that at least 60% of
Roma were deprived of work and therefore necessarily of their ability to
pay taxes, while these changes only affected 10% of the rest of the
population.

In this situation - given its ethnic aspect - this is especially unjust and
dangerous in regards to the peace of our society and our common future.
You, as our countryÝs, our common homelandÝs prime minister, are especially
responsible for safeguarding this common future and societal peace. We
therefore suggest that you rethink these arguments and take steps to
redress the offense that you have inflicted.

January 16th 2001, Budapest

On behalf of the Roma Civil Rights Foundation

AladĚr HorvĚth
President of the Board of Trustees

Dr JĚnos BĚrsony
Professional Consultant

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The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence
in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European
Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at http://errc.org.

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Telephone: (36 1) 4132200
Fax: (36 1) 4132201

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