Jobbik and the Roma

The Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik has long been associated with alarming policies directed at the country’s Roma community.

Recently Jobbik Chairman, Gábor Vona,  has been fiercely criticised once again for his comments about  the fast reproductive rate of Hungary’s Roma.

The Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly László Kövér made no objection to this remark. When the Socialist chairman Attila Mesterházy later advised Kövér to take action against similar behaviour in the future, he was told by the Speaker to not commentate on how the session was being led or else he would not be allowed to speak.”

Whilst in parliament, the Jobbik leader was wearing the banned uniform of the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary-style organisation he formed in 2007 but which was disbanded by the Metropolitan Court of Budapest in 2009 for activities that were deemed in contravention of the human rights of minorities.

In January Vona suggested that Roma children should be educated in special boarding schools in order to turn them away from a life of crime.

Although of course there is nothing wrong with responding firmly to any instances of crime or antisocial behaviour, it is deeply worrying when a whole community is being stigmatised.  Some will argue that such measures are only aimed at ‘cultural’ rather than ‘ethnic’ Roma.  However the evidence suggests that discrimination is not always so – discriminating:

Many Roma are reluctant to declare themselves Roma for fear that this will be grounds for discrimination. According to the 2001 census only 190,046 or 1.8% of Hungarians identified themselves as Roma, whereas informed estimates of the number of Roma living in Hungary range from 550,000 to 800,000

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