Insecure Hungarians scapegoat Roma, says academic – conference

Budapest, November 5 (MTI) – Hungarian society has turned the “Roma community” into a metaphor for all things evil: poverty, unemployment, and lack of schooling, Julia Szalai, a sociologist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, told a conference in Budapest on Friday.

People tend to blame the Roma for all kinds of social conflicts, Szalai said, addressing a three-day Hungarian Sociology Society conference entitled “Conflict and Social Innovation”.

    The lower middle classes constantly experience “fear and instability in terms of their status”, which turns into “a fundamental interest in making the Roma their scapegoats,” she said.

    Last month experts of the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on Hungary to tackle widespread discrimination and violence against the Roma minority.

    A member of the committee, Michael O’Flaherty, said the Roma were “a very substantial minority in Hungary” and subject to “very widespread social prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage.”

    Recently the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Jozsef Palinkas told a conference that Hungary’s Roma had become the “easily manipulated victims” of political rivalry and their situation had deteriorated.

    He noted that it had become impossible for the Roma to pursue their traditional way of life and find fresh opportunities. New chances, he said, could only be created through local-level social and economic reforms.

    Members of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, campaigning in the run-up to the October local elections, spoke of “Roma criminals” and called for incarceration camps to be set up on the edges of towns.

     Human Rights First (HRF), a US-based international human rights NGO, last month outlined a set of recommendations to Hungary’s government.

    Noting violent attacks targeting the Roma in 2008 and 2010, which included severe beatings in broad daylight, murders, arson, shooting and throwing Molotov cocktails, HRF called on the centre-right Fidesz government to step up action to improve the lives of the Roma.

    ”The new government, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, should make combating hate crime – and racist violence against Roma in particular – a policy priority,” HRF said.