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The Roma and the quota referendum

September 22nd, 2016

A Roma rights activist accuses the government of trying to blackmail Roma to vote at the quota referendum, whilst using anti-Romani stereotypes to mobilize non-Roma. A regional Gypsy leader, on the other hand argues that the arrival of masses of migrants would represent a threat to Roma communities.

Last week at a quota campaign event, Jászberény mayor Tamás Szabó called on local Roma to vote against the EU-wide migrant redistribution quota at the October 2 referendum. Szabó said that if Hungary needs to take care of migrants, the money spent on them will mean there is less for unemployment benefits. On Monday, János Lázár, the Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office echoed the mayor’s comments. Minister Lázár claimed that ‘hundreds of thousands’ of migrants may come to Hungary if the referendum fails. He suggested that Hungary would not be able to integrate these people, adding that “we have been living together with the Roma for 600 years, but we have failed to solve their problems”.

The government’s rhetoric amounts to incitement to hatred,” Nikolett Suha writes in Kettős Mérce. The Roma rights activist finds it nauseating that the government tries to blackmail poor Roma voters to vote against the migrant quota by threatening them with curbing unemployment aid, while at the same time it tries to mobilize non-Roma voters with the argument that immigration would result in large unintegrated communities. The government is instigating anti-immigrant fear among the Roma to make sure they vote, and mobilizes non-Roma by using anti-Romani stereotypes, Suha contends. She believes that this strategy may boost the turnout at the referendum, but the increased fear and hatred created by the government’s rhetoric may have a long lasting impact on society as a whole.

On Minap, a Miskolc based news portal, a regional Gypsy leader deems it obvious that the resettlement of masses of migrants would be extremely detrimental to Hungary’s Roma. Attila Lakatos, the regional Voivode, a leader elected by elders, goes so far as to say that the group most threatened by a potential wave of resettlement is the Roma community.  He serves as chairman of a new organisation called Association of European Roma which campaigns among the Roma to convince them to turn out and vote against compulsory resettlement quotas at the referendum on 2 October.

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