“It occurred to us that we have to unite the Roma of Europe so that in the migrant question as well we can represent our interests together.” – Attila Lakatos, Borsod county Roma “voivode”
An organization calling itself the Association of European Roma (Európai Romák Egyesülete) held its first meeting Saturday in Miskolc. The association is urging Roma to participate in Hungary’s October 2 referendum on the EU immigrant resettlement quota.
Attila Lakatos, presumptive president of the new association and prominent Roma “voivode” of Borsod county, told right-wing daily Magyar Idők that the organization includes not only Borsod county Roma organizations, but also Transylvanian, Slovakian, and Transcarpathian organizations.
“Considering the circumstances, in the last month and a half or two months it occurred to us that we have to unite the Roma of Europe so that in the migrant question as well we can represent our interests together,” Lakatos said. “It is important that in the migrant question they hear our voices and that we stand up united against immigration. We don’t want to live in a country where many immigrants are arriving.”
Félix Farkas, the spokesman for the Roma national minority in Parliament, is also encouraging the country’s Roma to vote “no” in the referendum, saying that arrivals would have to receive flats, work and social services from the government, which would put a strain on the national budget and decrease social assistance to Roma.
This mirrors warnings given in recent days by many prominent Fidesz politicians, who have threatened that social aid to Roma would be slashed if immigrants are settled in Hungary. The irony is that Hungary’s Roma minority has already been largely stripped of social benefits, with the exception of the right to engage in public labor for less than minimum wage.
They took our jobs!
Lakatos is worried about how immigration might affect Roma communities. He said it is the duty of the Roma to protect the country, and protect public labor, which “works well, and for which we are thankful.”
“Now, we freely let our children go to school, because no one hurts them,” he said. “If the immigrants come, then we will fear for our daughters, our wives and our families, because no one will be safe. Because of the migrants our workplaces will be endangered as well, because they are uneducated like us and can do the same kind of work as us.”
This is not the first time Lakatos has found his way into the pages of right-wing papers in Hungary. He has made numerous statements on the existence of “gypsy crime“, and warned of a “Roma-Hungarian civil war,” lending credence to claims levied by the Hungarian extreme right against Hungary’s 700,000-strong Roma population.
“Unless we Roma can steer ourselves onto a good road, the Hungarians’ patience is going to run out and it will lead to a civil war,” he warned. “We Hungarians and Roma have lived for hundreds of years together in this country, we know each other’s language and each other’s culture. In this question, we must unitedly say ‘no’.”