The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Hungary homeless bans enforced, rights groups complain


BUDAPEST: A tough new law that bans homeless people from sleeping on Hungary’s streets came into force Monday, prompting criticism from rights groups who say it is inhumane.

The law, which follows a constituti­onal amendment approved in June that brands rough sleeping a crime, empowers police to order homeless people to move into shelters. If they disobey three times within a 90-day period, the police can detain them and destroy their personal belongings.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government has said the new law aims to provide proper living conditions for the homeless and has set aside money to help them.

An estimated 11,000 places exist in state-run shelters but experts say at least 20,000 people are homeless nationwide.

Gabor Ivanyi, who leads the group Oltalom (Shelter) which operates homeless shelters with 600 beds in Budapest, said the government had failed to conduct a proper dialogue with charity organizati­ons before it passed the legislatio­n.

“This law serves the aim of scaring the homeless to prompt them to flee [the streets],” Ivanyi said. “They are scared and don’t know what to do now. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”

Homeless people had all but disappeare­d Monday morning from underpasse­s in Budapest where there would normally be plenty.

The government says it has allocated 9 billion forints ($32.17 million) to homeless care in its 2018 budget plus an extra 300 million forints to expand shelter capacities.

“We believe we need to give additional help and not additional rights to homeless people,” Bence Retvari, state secretary, told reporters Saturday in a video posted on HirTv website. Retvari said further help would be available from Monday, without elaboratin­g. –

Experts say at least 20,000 people are homeless nationwide

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