Move to force Roma into camps

A FAR-RIGHT Hungarian party has called for gypsies considered a threat to public order to be forcibly settled in camps outside towns and subject to curfew.

• Gypsy children play outside their home in a village east of Budapest. Right-wing party Jobbik, headed by Gabor Vona - above right, with prime minister Viktor Orban - wants such families forcibly 'sealed off' in 'public order protection camps' Picture: Getty Images

In a proposal that has already drawn dark comparisons to the ghettoes and camps of the Second World War, Jobbik, which came third in the general elections in April, has proposed that town authorities should have the right to move gypsies, or Roma, to special zones that would "seal off criminal elements" and "banish Roma criminals".

Inmates could also be stripped of their Hungarian citizenship.

"We would force these families out of their dwellings, yes," said Csanad Szegedi, a Jobbik MEP and the party's vice-chairman. "Then, yes, we would transport these families to public order protection camps.

"At these camps, there would be a chance to return to civilised society. Those who abandon crime, make sure their children attend school, and participate in public works programmes, they can reintegrate," he continued, adding that he hoped the first camp would be established near the town of Miskolc.

Detainees would be allowed to return to their homes only if they demonstrated to a special town committee that they had changed their ways. Those who failed to do so, explained Mr Szegedi, could spend the rest of their lives in the camps.

Defending the call for internment, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said Hungary needed new policies for the country's 700,000-strong Roma population if "we are to avoid civil war". Mr Vona also suggested sending Roma children to special schools where "segregation would be a more productive educational tool".

Jobbik's proposals come on the back of widespread complaints in Hungary that Roma people indulge in petty crime and show no willingness to integrate. The party has argued that only radical policies, such as the camps and school segregation, will help lift the Roma out of poverty. Gypsies are some of Hungary's poorest people, with unemployment rates that can exceed 70 per cent.

But the Roma complain of discrimination and racism, and argue that the global recession, which has ravaged the Hungarian economy, has made them an easy scapegoat.

And the ruling party Fidesz called the camps proposal "outrageous", adding in a statement that solution was "not to set up ghettos, but to have strict laws and a strong police force".

Istvan Nyako, a spokesman for the Hungarian Socialist Party, the main opposition party, said the call for camps was "reminiscent of the national socialist agenda for concentration camps 65 years ago".

But Jobbik dismissed the comparison. "These are not ghettos, they are camps to protect public order," said Mr Szegedi.

Human rights groups warn of a deteriorating situation for Roma, Europe's largest ethnic minority.