Hungary’s Orban targets Roma with national survey 

Hungary’s Orban targets Roma with national survey 

Hungary’s strongman prime minister, Viktor Orban, has announced a “national consultation” of households during March to collect public opinion in a move that has angered rights groups. 

Activists say the move by the populist leader will provide justification to further reduce judicial independence and target the Roma community.

The European Union has previously launched legal action over changes that it says are a threat to the rule of law.

Similar action has been taken in populist-run Poland. 

Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, ominously said the survey was “about restoring moral order”. 

“The government has a clear answer and opinion about these issues but needs social support for it,” Gulyas said.

Citizens are due to be asked nine questions on prison overcrowding, educational segregation and if the courts should stop awarding compensation to Roma in discrimination cases.

The state-controlled media said Orban was planning for the survey because “the rights of violent criminals have become more important than the rights of law-abiding citizens”. 

Orban condemned court awards in January to prisoners over substandard prison conditions, saying it was “deeply unfair” to receive cash “without working for it”. 

Last month he also denounced a court decision that the government should pay compensation to Roma families where the children had suffered from discrimination and segregation.

The 56-year-old said the government would not make either payout but later conceded that prisoners would be compensated.

The populist suggested that the embattled minority instead be offered training rather than money in school-segregation cases.

The authorities are appealing in the case of Roma families in the village of Gyongyospata, who have been offered training courses instead of cash.

Roma representatives said Orban’s comments further incited prejudice against them. He demonstrates a lack of respect for the rule of law and judicial independence, activists claim.

Orban has targeted immigrants, the homeless, liberal organisations and the Central European University that is funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. The university last year moved most of its operations from Budapest to the nearby Austrian capital, Vienna, to avoid Hungarian sanctions. 

A nationwide household survey was held in 2015 and included questions about immigration and terrorism.

The UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, said the questions were formulated to promote xenophobia. 

Lydia Gall of Human Rights Watch tweeted that the survey “smacks of anti-Roma sentiment and contempt for rule of law”.

“This is Orban’s way of further dismantling the rule of law by pointing to the results of racist and anti-rule of law questionnaires, justifying changes to laws. We have seen it before. Another waste of public money,” she said.

“According to Orban, Roma kids getting damages for being unlawfully segregated flies in the face of the ordinary Hungarian’s sense of justice … Repeating age-old prejudice against Roma.”


Picture credit: Flickr 




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