Friday, April 22, 2011



Europe News

Hungarian Red Cross evacuates Roma villagers amid far-right fears

Apr 22, 2011, 7:30 GMT

Gyongyospata, Hungary -

The Hungarian Red Cross evacuated hundreds of Roma women and children from a remote village Friday morning as a far-right group moved in to begin a weekend of paramilitary training nearby.

'This is the first time the Hungarian Red Cross has organized the evacuation of Hungarian civilians threatened by paramilitary activities since the Second World War,' the organization said.

The move was a response to the latest provocation by far-right activists - this time a paramilitary group calling itself the 'Hungarian Defence Force' - in the remote Hungarian town of Gyongyospata.

On its website, the group called on sympathizers to enroll for a weekend of paramilitary training at a camp on the edge of the village.

Participants were asked to come in military-style uniform and, if they have them, bring airsoft weapons - lifelike replica guns that fire plastic bullets.

Farkas Janos, the deputy leader of the Hungarian Roma Citizens' Movement and a resident of Gyongyospata said the town's Roma feel 'terrorized' by far-right paramilitary groups.

'The children had to be sent away this weekend because they wouldn't be able to sleep at night,' Farkas told the German Press Agency dpa.

The village of 2,800 found itself at the centre of a media storm in March when another far-right group, the 'Civil Guard for a Better Future' moved in and patrolled the town for more than two weeks, intimidating the local Roma inhabitants.

The group went on to carry out similar actions in other rural villages, where it claims the ethnic Hungarian (or Magyar) majority is 'terrorized' by 'gypsy criminals.'

Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said on Thursday that the government, which has been criticized for failing to clamp down on such far-right agitation, was now legislating to give the police the power to prevent further actions by extremist vigilante groups.

The town council of Tiszavasvari, a town in eastern Hungary controlled by the ultranationalist party Jobbik, had launched its own 'gendarmerie' earlier in the week, a response to what it says is a failure on the part of the police to prevent 'gypsy crime.'

The Red Cross action was unannounced, and villagers watched in surprise as 276 Roma women and children were driven away in six buses for a weekend at summer camps organized by the Red Cross.



Hungary denies Roma families evacuated over attack fear

By Nick Thorpe

BBC News, Hungary

Hungary's government has accused its political opponents of staging an unnecessary "evacuation" of Roma families from a northern village.

The village, Gyongyospata, was recently the scene of ethnic tension between local Roma and right-wing vigilantes.

A vigilante group was due to hold a paramilitary training exercise in the village at the weekend.

But officials have told the BBC there is no connection between the two events.

A total of 277 Roma were taken from the village by bus by the Hungarian Red Cross on Friday morning.

The action was reported by both local and international media as an evacuation of terrified Roma women and children, linked to the fact that a new far-right group called Vedero, or "Defensive Strength", were planning a paramilitary training weekend in the village.

This followed incidents last month in the same village, when another far-right group mounted anti-Roma patrols, ostensibly to protect the local population.

But Red Cross spokesman Erik Selymes said there was no connection between what he called a "pre-planned holiday" organised for the Roma and the paramilitary training exercise.

Zoltan Kovacs, a state secretary in the Hungarian Justice Ministry, told the BBC that the so-called evacuation was "a clear-cut political provocation" and completely unwarranted.

The government this week passed new legislation which aims to prevent paramilitary or other uniformed groups from encroaching on the role of the police to keep law and order.

Yes, the Roma of Gyongyospata were just being escorted on one of their many "preplanned holidays".


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We have done several updates on this story.