Demolition of Roma neighborhood continues in Miskolc

September 24, 2014

Photo: Andras D. Hajdu

Another house has been razed in the Roma neighborhood earmarked for demolition by the Miskolc city council. The residents, who are mostly Roma families, have already been ordered to vacate the houses, some of them after living in the “numbered streets” for decades.  Most have no idea where to move, while those who have already left have moved only a few blocks away.

“They will make a bit of money from it,” one elderly man said of the group of youngsters collecting bricks from the rubble of the recently razed Béke hotel (Peace hotel), which had housed eight families.

“A car stopped by and they told us to pack up our things in ten minutes,” said a man who had been supposed to vacate his flat next to the demolished building last Tuesday. “I have just arrived back from work and my wife is ill,” he said by way of explanation as to why he had asked for the demolition to be delayed by a day. This man is relatively lucky, as the council has already offered him a replacement flat in a high-rise block in the city’s Avas district. He was even given a choice of two flats, he said, but turned down the one with an outside toilet.

Gyöngyi, who lives in a rented council flat next door with her children and grandchildren, is much less optimistic. She has no idea where she will live if her house gets demolished, and fears it will be impossible to find decent housing with seven children. “They are talking about taking my grandchildren away but in that case I would just hang myself,” she said.

Miskolc City Hall has said it will give HUF 1.5-2 million compensation to any Roma it makes homeless, providing they buy a home outside the city limits and do not return for at least five years. The idea was initiated by Fidesz and supported by Jobbik and the Democratic Coalition (DK). The Socialist Party (MSZP) councillors abstained.

Fidesz mayor of Miskolc Ákos Kriza said: “The program will continue regardless of opposition from the MSZP, the Roma Minority Council and Jobbik. The signatures of 35,000 Miskolc residents oblige us to keep our promise and eliminate all of the slums in Miskolc. We will not turn back before the finish line.”

The mayor’s office confirmed that the council has demolished houses in various locations, including Álmos utca and Dráva utca, as well as the so-called “numbered streets”. Demolition and evictions are possible when the leases expire or if the lease is canceled by the tenant or the city council.  The latter option is open to the government even in the case of small utility bill debts.

The “numbered houses” are in the vicinity of the stadium of DVTK, Miskolc’s football club. Many of its residents’ leases have already expired. They say the city authorities refused to prolong the contracts even for tenants current with their utility bills. Others complained that they had received eight-day eviction notices despite having arrears of only a few thousand forints. According to the eviction notices, all of the tenants are now squatters in the eyes of the law and can be evicted at any time. The official letters threaten to forcibly evict them if they stay past the eviction deadline. For now, the eviction notices are not generally followed by actual evictions. The inhabitants of one house have already received two letters ordering them to vacate their home within eight days. “People were harassed on this level, even in the socialist era,” said local resident “István”.