A community space containing sports grounds and a playground was built in Hajdúhadház to fight segregation in the town. But the very locals the project was ostensibly meant to integrate cannot get inside the fence and past the security guard unless they pay.
Hajdúhadház is a town of 12,000 people in Hajdú-Bihar county. On its own website, it is called “one of Eastern Hungary’s most disadvantaged towns.” According to index.hu one-third of the town’s population lives in extreme poverty, so for them, a HUF 500 (USD 1.9) entrance fee to the playground is a real obstacle. The dilemma can be described like this: either food or play for a day.
The entrance fee applies per person, so parents should pay as well. A father of seven must pay HUF 4,000 per day if he would like to play with his children. Sándor Balogh, who is such a father himself, said, “We can barely pay the bills,” and added, “here they interpret the law as they [the local council] want to: they won a tender referring to the Roma people, and now it is exactly us they exclude from the opportunities.”
The Hajdúhadház council won an EU tender and received HUF 400 million (USD 1.5 million) in non-reimbursable funding. The community space was built for HUF 85.5 million (USD 323,000) in EU funds and HUF 30 million (USD 113,000) of the town’s own contribution.
After its opening, the playground was accessible for everyone. Now, two years later, equal chances for the disadvantaged seem less important. Hajdúhadház mayor Dénes Csáfordi told local haon.hu that HUF 500 is a “friendly” price.
The Szederjes Sport and Conference Center’s leader told index.hu that the playground can be used for free after a formal registration. The local Roma however have never heard about this. All they know is that they cannot afford the entrance fee, and have to take their children much further to play. This is why they have started a petition so they’ll be able to use the playground they pass by every day.