Eviction looming for both Roma and non-Roma poor in Székesfehérvár

Press Release of the Roma Parliament

Residents of Székesfehérvár—largely Hungarian citizens of Roma ethnicity—have turned to our organization for assistance in confronting their housing crisis. In three meetings in July, a total of 30 families asked the Roma Parliament to represent them and defend their legal rights and interests. According to the families, there are at least 60 to 80 households, or about 500 individuals, currently at risk of eviction and becoming homeless. Among those who asked for our assistance about a third are not Roma. Our assessment is that among those are being evicted about half are Roma and half non-Roma Hungarians. Most have had no warning and are currently debt-free. They earn the minimum wage or below, mostly from public works.

One local resident, Elvira Lakatos, put it this way: “We take bread away from our children’s mouths so there would be a roof over our heads.”

The Székesfehérvár city hall is not extending leases that are up for renewal or is presenting reasons to annul the leases on such grounds as that families hosted relatives for 3-5 days and did not report the visit, families do not use the property for their own purposes, the family has been living in the apartment long enough to have saved money to take care of the rent on an apartment on their own. No official justification for the evictions has been provided.

The locals are guessing that the apartments are needed for 30 NATO soldiers, the Videoton business, skilled laborers from abroad, or perhaps Hungarians impacted by the foreign-currency denominated mortgage crisis.

The apartments in question were largely built with EU funding for the purpose of housing the Roma community and disabled individuals. We met one individual confined to a wheelchair who will have to leave his home within three months.

Thus far we have met with ten families who have either become homeless or are staying with relatives as a result of the new evictions. One retired, ill Roma individual left so as not to lose custody of grandchildren. The Lakatos and Szajkó families had their children taken away (three each), and the children are now staying with foster parents while their parents live in the forest. One individual now residing in the forest—Noémi—goes from the forest to her job as a cleaner at a supermarket.

The Roma Parliament on July 27 considered the concerns of the Roma and non-Roma families, and presented the individuals now living in the Palotavárosi forest, separated from their children.

In the name of the 30 families who turned to us for representation, we are demanding:

  • An immediate halt to evictions and a pledge to impacted families that the city will not follow in the footsteps of Miskolc’s anti-Roma policies.
  • In the case of those currently living in the forest, we request assistance, housing support, and custody of their children.
  • A review of the municipality’s policies and decision-making, especially when it comes to families with children, ill individuals, pensioners, and grandparents.
  • A municipal decision annulling eviction decisions made over the past months.
  • Assessments of the socioeconomic condition and income levels of families impacted, to be used when examining future changes in residence to avoid threats to the well-being of families.

We call upon the leadership of the city as well as on political parties not to repeat the professional and political mistakes of the 1997-2000 Székesfehérvár ghetto affair. We ask that local officials and politicians use current evidence, not outdated, ten-year-old photos. We also ask that they respect the basic rights of their citizens and voters and show the city’s residents—Roma and non-Roma—that they have representation.

These are the goals of the Roma Parliament.


The statement of the city of Székesfehérvár

The response of the city of Székesfehérvár to Aladár Horváth’s press conference is a lengthy and somewhat confusing statement that it is not easy to follow. The announcement begins with a denial that the evacuation decision has anything to do with ethnic discrimination, which is odd in light of Horváth’s own admission that only half of the families to be evicted are Roma. The city’s account also includes such, in my opinion, superfluous pieces of information as that unemployment in Székesfehérvár is low and that the earlier elimination of “infamous ghettos met with the approval of the overwhelming majority of the people of Fehérvár.”

Following these introductory remarks come some details regarding the four “evicted” families mentioned in Horváth’s press release who found shelter in the forest. It is hard to decipher what the real situation is, but it seems that six non-Roma and two Roma individuals do live in the forest and that they are being taken care of by “the street activists of the Crisis Center on a daily basis.” It is not clear from the city’s release whether these eight people have anything to do with the eviction of individuals from low-income housing that Horváth is talking about.

City officials deny Horváth’s claim that the families are not behind on their rent. At least “one Roma couple owes a sizable amount of money on their rent” and they are guilty as well of a “total disregard of the rules of cohabitation.” The city claims that this couple has been offered “several possibilities for their housing needs” but they declined all offers. The fact that the official statement mentions only one family leads me to believe that the others are indeed current on their rent.

The town officials explain that the real reason for the evictions is the city fathers’ desire to have a turnover in the inhabitants of these low-rent apartments owned by the town. The idea is that families in need should stay no longer than three to eight years, during which time they should be able to get on their feet and move to apartments available on the open marketplace. Some of the families have been living in these buildings for the last 17 years.

It seems from the above explanation that among those about to be evicted were some, perhaps most, who paid their rent regularly. It’s just that the authorities thought that they had overstayed their welcome. Whether these people were aware of this policy, whether it was in fact a policy, is not at all clear.

Finally, the city’s statement contains several before and after pictures showing old low-income housing occupied by Roma families and what was recently built to replace it. The contrast is striking (with the discarded junk I assume intended to reflect poorly on the occupants) but unfortunately irrelevant.



The problem is that the new housing units seem intended for an entirely different segment of society. Those who are facing eviction currently live in apartment buildings, not in the slum-like “before” housing. Wherever they end up if they are evicted, it won’t be in the attractive low-income housing that was opened with great fanfare recently. The city fathers obviously believe they’ve been subsidized long enough and that it’s time for them to pay the going rate for housing. There were dozens of pictures taken at the time the new housing was opened, and I couldn’t spot one Roma among the occupants. They look to me to be mostly elderly white folks with a sprinkling of middle-aged or young people.


The city of Székesfehérvár declared on July 27 after Aladár Horváth’s press conference that it had followed all the rules and regulations and that, as far as the city’s low-income housing is concerned, there is perfect understanding in the city council. For example, the recent statement of Roland Márton, the head of the MSZP-DK-Együtt caucus, reflects consensus on the issue. I may add that the Székesfehérvár city council consists of 15 Fidesz, 1 Jobbik, 1 independent, and 3 MSZP-DK-Együtt members. I couldn’t find a copy of Roland Márton’s statement.

July 31, 2016
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August 1, 2016 3:28 am

Never forget Lázár’s motto:

If you have nothing then you are nothing!

It seems to me that having aghetto and ghetto people is good for a right wing government – they can always point to those “losers” and say:
We gave them a chance – but they didn’t take it and we’re oh so sorry about this …

Hypocisy at the highest level of course.

August 1, 2016 7:29 am
Both my youngest daughter, who is a reserve US Army officer and a doctoral student in agricultural-economics, and I have seen our fair share of third world urban and rural ghettos so the Roma ghettos seemed not extreme in comparison on our visits together to Hungary. But my oldest daughter who also has visited Hungary with me compared them to the poverty on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the southwest USA, my wife being one quarter Native American and has only visited Hungary once and claimed to have no interest in visiting rural Hungary at all because read about poverty in the villages. None the less my wife managed to find rural poverty on a day trip from Lake Balaton on road 67 into Somogy County. Maybe she was lulled into thinking the quaint towns near the Lake might be the norm. She was gone for about ten hours from the early morning while I was sitting around socializing with relatives. She showed me where she went on our our map and would say those are really not roads but horse cart paths and there is where she found the Roma. Possibly my wife was in search of rural bliss… Read more »
August 1, 2016 8:07 am

Re: poverty and hyprocrisy in Magyarorszag

After reading Professor’s essay it made me think back on my on the Magyars of my childhood community in NYC. Hard-working and pious I saw how they related to those who also had a tough time grinding it out. Of course they were intimately experienced with that coming from their falus. They I can say were a people of charity. I could see this in my personal life where I found some who were having a tough time eating at our table for dinner.

As I could see those Magyars practiced what they preached as they followed their religion. I’m afraid the group running things we see today is short on the quality of compassion. And the hypocrisy screams from all those who profess to be ‘Christian’. That things along these lines are awry in Magyarorszag is an understatement.

August 1, 2016 9:49 am

Istvan, you just have to follow any road that leads away from the Balaton – each village more remote is worse!

And that means in reality maybe just 10 miles/15 km – it also was a strange experinece for me 15 years ago when I first got out of the “Balaton happiness” …

In those days you couldn’t even stop your car in those villages if it had a foreign licence plate – children would come up to you immediately and beg, some times really aggressively!

So I used to lock the doore when I was driving through – just in case I had to stop suddenly …
That happened to a friend of mine: A young man jumped on the street in front of him and some others opened the car’s doors and took away all the stuff on the back seats, camera etc. He was so shocked that he didn’t react immediately – and the children were gone …

Usually you hear stories like this only from Africa or Southern Italy …


These people were so poor and desperate that I understand there deeds in a way!

August 1, 2016 1:41 pm
Sometimes it just takes perspective to understand how things go. Back in the Kadar years travelling through the rural areas I got the impression the people lived life in the ‘merriest barrack’ as best as they could. And if there were grumblings the mumbles were certainly muffled. On the other hand an American in their midst did bring up many questions on life there, income, the ‘rich’ and also razor blades and jeans. Do you have any? Please get me blades! Jeans! A democracy with all facets certainly showed some economic and quality of life differences in context with another setup that worked with Red stars. To look at the ‘other’ from far away had to have brought up much to think about. Magyarorszag looks as if it has moved on from providing razor blades but now pays a price where they still cannot satisfy the kinds of demands of those wanting a better life. Those may be right who want to feel safe and go back to that halcyon and peaceful Kadarian time of no begging and stealing and where everything was in its place and everything was taken care of. But it looks a zero sum game going… Read more »
Eva Balogh
August 1, 2016 9:43 am

Trump on Ukraine

“He’s not going into Ukraine, okay,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week” of Russian President Vladi¬mir Putin. “He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down.”
Trump then appeared to contradict himself when George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” responded that “he’s already there, isn’t he?”
“Okay, well, he’s there in a certain way,” Mr. Trump replied.

Quite something

August 1, 2016 10:41 am

A blast from the past after seeing a post of you know who’s hair style here……..;-)….


August 1, 2016 2:04 pm
Yes Eva the Trump is a mad man and possibly worse. Senator John McCain has had enough and has finally spoken out against some of what Trump is saying. Senator McCain issued the following statement today relating to Mr. Trump’s comments targeting the parents of Captain Humayun Khan for speaking at the Democratic National Convention: “The Republican Party I know and love is the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan.” “I wear a bracelet bearing the name of a fallen hero, Matthew Stanley, which his mother, Lynn, gave me in 2007, at a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. His memory and the memory of our great leaders deserve better from me.” “In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.” “Make no mistake: I do not valorize our military out of some unfamiliar instinct.… Read more »
August 1, 2016 2:20 pm

All great words from McCain, marred – if not negated – by the fact that McCain has not withdrawn his endorsement of Trump.

August 1, 2016 4:53 pm

Because the Senator is above all a patriot and is a very senior Senator he could still break from Trump. It is no easy thing for those of us who are Republicans to vote for Sec Clinton, its like voting for Darth Vader as the lesser evil.

Jeb Bush’s top adviser Sally Bradshaw announced just hours ago she leaving the Republican party, declaring herself an independent. The GOP staffer announced the news in an email to CNN, saying if the race is close in her home state of Florida she might vote for Hillary Clinton.

Trump is a very sick man and a cancer on the Republican Party. Many will be jumping off of the sinking ship just like I have.

August 2, 2016 12:48 pm

Don’t leave the party, Lincoln’s party; take it back.

August 2, 2016 6:25 pm

You know if Mr. Trump does indeed craft a new faction out of the ‘pitchfork and fire’ gang with their resentments and dissatisfaction it will be an outlet that will develop and show a very different and arguably ugly kind of American political party. It would remain to be seen how democratic values would carry on in that environment.

August 1, 2016 4:45 pm

Eva congratulations on your interview in Nepszava, for those who read Hungarian http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1101568-orbant-mar-reg-leirta-az-usa

August 1, 2016 5:31 pm

Now the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States has come out against Trump’s comments targeting the parents of Captain Humayun Khan for speaking at the Democratic National Convention. Here is their statement:

— Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has a history of lashing out after being attacked, but to ridicule a Gold Star Mother is out-of-bounds, said the new national commander of the near 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary. “Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,” said Brian Duffy, of Louisville, Ky., who was elected July 27 to lead the nation’s oldest and largest major war veterans organization. “There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed,” he said. “Giving one’s life to nation is the greatest sacrifice, followed closely by all Gold Star families, who have a right to make their voices heard.”

August 2, 2016 1:36 pm

I have heard a mantra recently by pundits no doubt others have heard it too. It goes like when you’re in a hole stop digging.
Thanks for the Nepszava piece. Good to see Professor getting that ‘share of voice’ with expert commentary.

Couldn’t help noticing the replies. One Magyar on Orban if in the feher hazba for a visit: ‘Watch it he steals’.