Demolition of Miskolc Roma ghetto begins

August 5, 2014


Eviction notices have been served and bulldozers are now ready to demolish the “numbered streets” Roma settlement in Miskolc earmarked for clearance by the Fidesz-led city council in May.

Local Roma leader and We Are Staying In Miskolc group member Gábor Váradi called the move “part of the council’s co-ordinated campaign against Gypsies” and said his organization intends to protest the demolition outside City Hall.

The council claims that the evictions have not been initiated by the city of Miskolc but rather the city-owned council housing authority. Miskolc county press officer Szilvia Kocák said “this is not part of the expulsion but comes from a 2011 case to expel the unofficial residents of the numbered streets of Miskolc”.

Miskolc Fidesz-KDNP caucus leader János Kiss later said eviction notices have only been issued to those who do not have a valid contract with the local housing authority: either because it has expired, or because they have not paid their rent.

The council housing authority told reporters that it had received the consent of Roma residents after sending out eviction notices. However, a newly homeless woman from a demolished street told the Roma Press Center she had heard about the demolition over the phone while attending a course. “I did not sign any paper,” the mother of an eight-month-old baby said.

Miskolc city council voted in May to level the area to make way for a football stadium parking lot.

The idea was initiated by Fidesz and supported by Jobbik and the Democratic Coalition (DK), with Socialist Party (MSZP) councillors abstaining. Miskolc’s Fidesz mayor Akos Kriza argued that the dozen or so streets constitute an area of extreme poverty and that demolishing them would improve public safety.

The city government has said it will give HUF 1.5-2 million to any Roma it makes homeless, providing they acquire a home outside the city limits and do not return for at least five years. Jobbik councillors immediately launched a petition of protest: not against the demolition but the offering of compensation.

Roma activists had soon launched a public awareness campaign about the evictions. Varadi said tents have been erected at several locations around the city, including the settlement and the square next to Miskolc City Hall, “to show the decision makers what is to come if they continue with their inhumane action, and make Roma people homeless”.

Speaking outside the town hall, Roma Civil Rights Movement leader Aladár Horváth said “a kind of ethnic cleansing with the purpose to displace the poor of the city” is taking place. He called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to repeat his promise to protect Gypsies.

Horváth said the “extremely high tension between Roma and non-Roma population” has not yet exploded into violence: the Gypsies “have not put on their gloves” after a series of murders of Roma people. However the evictions are “oil on the fire” of this fragile peace, he added.

Albert Pásztor, who will stand as a DK-MSZP-backed independent mayoral candidate called the eviction mere “land speculation.”

Social disaster threatens the city, but the Fidesz leaders are thinking only of short-term political interests and the approaching local election campaign, Váradi concluded.

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