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Hungary: The criminalization of homelessness raises wave of international reactions

What is the current state of play in the country?

Budapest, 21 June 2018 | Social
Photo: MTI
Photo: MTI

After Hungary already introduced criminalisation of homelessness in 2013, the Hungarian Government is going even further by amending the Constitution to forbid living in a public space.

On 20 June 2018, Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to the UN addressed a letter to the Hungarian Government demanding explanations how the constitutional amendment shall be compliant with the country’s domestic and international human rights obligations.

The letter emphasizes that outlawing rough sleeping is a violation of human rights and that the " Government’s approach to homelessness lacks an understanding of its obligations under international human rights law. The amendment serves to penalize an extremely vulnerable group for the Governments’ own failures to meet its international human rights obligations with respect to the right to adequate housing."

"The consequences of the criminalization of homelessness far outweigh the societal benefits they allegedly produce."

Therefore, in her letter, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to the UN asks clarifications on the compliance of the proposed amendment with international human rights obligations regarding the right to housing and to non-discrimination against people living in poverty; and on the implementation of its commitment under the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development to provide by 2030, access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing.

In a press release, Feantsa- the European Federation fighting homelessness also strongly condemns the proposed amendment to the Hungarian Constitution and argues that criminalising homelessness is not the answer. Criminal sanctions are ineffective and simply aim to move the visible problem of homelessness out of public view, rather than offering any real solution to the problem. 


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