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New homeless law criticised

October 7th, 2013

Following the passing by Parliament of a new regulation allowing local councils to ban sleeping rough in certain streets and areas, a liberal commentator accuses the government of criminalizing homelessness. A centrist columnist finds the new rules unenforceable.

A new law voted into force on Monday bans sleeping rough in the vicinity of historical heritage locations, defining such acts as a misdemeanour, but not as a criminal offence. The law also stipulates that local councils may ban the homeless from specific public areas. After three warnings, offenders may be fined or sentenced to community work. Repeat offenders, and those who build shacks illegally, may be sent to prison. In a press release, the government stated that it spends 8,2 billion Forints annually on the homeless, and claimed that there are enough beds in existing shelters to lodge all the people now living on the streets. The aim of the new regulation is to protect major monuments and make sure that public spaces are clean and safe. According to the government statement, a recent amendment to the Criminal Code even makes insulting the homeless a criminal offence.

Magyar Narancs questions the government claim that there are enough places in shelters to accommodate all the homeless, and accuses the government of lying through its teeth. The left-liberal weekly suspects that from now on the authorities will be very harsh with the homeless – “and treat them like real criminals”. The police will jump at the chance of hounding homeless people, since by sending them to prison they can improve their efficiency record, Magyar Narancs believes.

The new law will not solve any of the problems related to the homeless, Index.hu writes. The article quotes Péter Győri, head of the Shelter Foundation, who believes that the new regulations will force the homeless to move from the main streets and squares to other public areas.

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