Hungary: Government information on evictions in Miskolc, including support provided to those evicted; information on recourse available to challenge an eviction or seek redress (2016-March 2017) [HUN105743.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

The following information from the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities (HMHC) was provided in correspondence with the Research Directorate, by an official from the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa who states that

[t]he Ministry of Human Capacities has been following the developments is Miskolc closely. State Secretary Mr. Károly Czibere, along with deputy state secretary Mrs. Katalin Langerné Victor met with Mayor Mr. Ákos Kriza in Miskolc on 5 March, 2015. The aim of the meeting was to arrive at solutions acceptable to all parties. The aim was to agree on the framework of the cooperation with the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service [HMCS], and to agree on seeking solutions tailored to the needs of each family following a case-by-case approach. The State Secretariat of the Ministry responsible for social affairs and social inclusion have discussed the issue with the [HMCS] and the local Roma self-government on several occasions. (Hungary 1 Mar. 2017)

According to the same source, they do not have any "official [Government] statistics on the number of the persons" impacted, however, "statistics until November 2016, reported by the [HMCS] are as follows: 625 persons (331 adults and 294 minors) lived on the area of the Tizenegyedik (11th) and Ötödik (5th) street at the time of their survey in February 2015" (Hungary 1 Mar. 2017). The source further states that

[d]ue to the winter moratorium there are no evictions currently undergoing in the numbered streets area. We are not aware of any evictions that took place in the past two years, as the eviction procedures were suspended on the recommendations of the Maltese Charity Service and the Family Assistance Service. (Hungary 1 Mar. 2017)

Further information on when the evictions were suspended, or plans to continue, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Support

The information provided to the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa by the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities states that

[d]uring the summer of 2014, the [HMCS] launched its integration program titled “Presence” (“Jelenlét”) in the major segregated areas of the city. As the name suggests, “Presence” is a program based on the day-to-day presence of the social workers of the charity service on site, enabling them to draw up the social diagnose and offer assistance tailored to individual needs. The results of “Presence” programs of other municipalities were presented to the mayor of Miskolc, convincing him to ask the charity service to launch the program in Miskolc. The Miskolc programs were launched in close cooperation with the local self-government (i.e. city council) in Lyukóvölgy (Lyukó Valley), in the Avas residential district, and in the numbered streets area. The budget was provided by the city, with an additional 35 million [Hungarian Forint] (HUF) [C$160,598] contribution to the charity service from the Ministry, 20,267,600.00 HUF [C$92,972] of which was used to finance services in the numbered streets area and in Lyukóvölgy.

For those tenants who had lease contracts concluded for an indefinite period, alternative housing options, i.e. an apartment ready to move into, will be offered by the city. Those who had no title to the property they used will not receive such offer and they will not be eligible for municipal housing either. The self-government (city council) will buy the properties from owners.

As recommended by the ombudsman, the Ministry of Human Capacities requested the mayor of Miskolc to set up a working group with a view to preparing the necessary steps. One expert was the delegate of the Ministry’s State Secretariat for Social Affairs and Social Inclusion. The mayor heeded the request, and the working group held its first meeting on February 4, 2016.

On April 21, 2015 meeting the Miskolc city council has adopted the Action Plan, which was integrated to the local equal opportunities program.

As foreseen in the action plan, a Social Housing Cooperative was founded in Miskolc, under the management of the [HMCS]. The HMCS and other NGOs decide who can move into these properties. The action plan foresees that 30 city-owned apartments are transferred to the use of the Social Housing Cooperative with the aim of solving the housing problems caused by the redevelopment of the numbered street district. What differentiates this program from regular social housing programs is that its aim is to provide housing for families evicted from the numbered streets (and not to find tenants for city-owned properties). Four contracts have been signed as of now for four properties situated in the numbered streets district. Before the new tenants moved in, a community forum was held with the involvement of the local Roma self-government to agree who the first tenants would be. “Without comfort” level apartments are upgraded to ”half-comfort” level (note: in the Hungarian classification this means at least 12 square meters living and cooking area, a separate toilet or bathroom, individual heating, water supply and electricity), which is still affordable to tenants. The lease contract automatically terminates after three months of non-payment of the lease, and can only be restored if there is a realistic prospect of payment. Families cannot amass huge debts under these terms. The community expects that the new neighbors pay the lease, keep their surroundings tidy, and work.

Lease amounts are harmonized between the Social Housing Cooperative and the company (MIK Zrt.) managing regular municipal housing. The only difference between the two providers is the aim of social assistance to the evicted persons in the cooperative’s case. (Hungary 1 Mar. 2017)

In their International Report 2016/17: The State of the World's Human Rights, Amnesty International (AI) indicates that

[i]n January [2016], a court in the capital Budapest instructed the municipality of Miskolc to develop an action plan for the mostly Roma residents who were evicted or facing eviction from the Numbered Streets neighbourhood of the city. However, the housing action plan envisaged only 30 housing units for the approximately 100 families affected, and did not allocate additional funding for housing or compensation. (AI 2017, 182)

According to the information provided to the Embassy official,

[i]t is a welcome achievement that the HMCS acts as a mediator in case of any ongoing eviction in Miskolc.

Miskolc also maintains its own social housing network. The second “Sure Start Children’s House” also started its operation, and the “Local Operative Programme” was also extended to cover the numbered streets area by the HMCS.

A complex, integrated program was also carried out in Miskolc with the aim of offering complex services to help the social inclusion of disadvantaged, impoverished persons living in a segregated environment. The city of Miskolc received 143,600,000.00 HUF [$C658,590] to assist its segregated area facing the most challenges, Lyukóvölgy-Gulyakút. Community building, trainings to facilitate labor market integration and health improvement were all parts of this complex exercise. (Hungary 1 Mar. 2017)

Information on the results of these programs, including number of persons who received assistance or compensation, and the type or amount of assistance or compensation, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Recourse

The information provided to the Hungarian Embassy by the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities explains that

[t]here is no direct discrimination or aggression against the Roma, the people who lived or live in the numbered streets area are not homogenously Roma.

All parties concerned have the right to appeal against the administrative decisions of the municipality, moreover, national civil rights advocacy groups and minority self-governments – representing either a person or a cause – have the right to petition to the Equal Treatment Authority (“Egyenlo Bánásmód Hatóság”) when they suspect a breach of law.

In the current case, the local minority associations cooperate with the [HMCS] to find solutions to concrete cases and problems. In case of tenants with fixed-term contracts, active assistance is necessary to avoid a situation where they become squatters. In case of persons who are already squatters or without a title, the situation is much more difficult, as the legislation does not provide remedies for them, consequently the HMCS is also unable to assist in solving their housing problems. Therefore the only possibility is crisis intervention, provided by the HMCS in its capacity of a charitable organization (i.e. not in the framework of the Miskolc action plan). (Hungary 1 Mar. 2017)

The source further stated that "regular legal remedies have been open to all evictees" and provided "examples to demonstrate the effectiveness of legal remedies":

On its May 8, 2014 session the Miskolc city council (municipal assembly) amended the bylaws on “eliminating outdated segregated areas” which were in force since 2006, with the aim of making them more effective and enabling the municipality to reach its development goals. The Municipal Assembly of the City with County Rights of Miskolc, with due consideration to public health, public schooling and public safety concerns, decided that the segregated numbered streets area should be eliminated.

The amendment raised the compensation from 1.5 million to 2 million [C$6,860 - 9,148], which is payable to tenants who voluntarily leave their leased municipal property. On the other hand, the municipal council, considering that properties with an adequate level of comfort are unavailable at this price within the city boundaries, and the development of new slums in other parts of the city must be avoided, introduced a new rule. This foresaw that the compensation for leaving a low-comfort level municipal property was only available if the tenant purchased a property outside of the city’s boundaries and registered a prohibition on alienation and encumbrance subject to the consent of the Miskolc city council, for a 5-year term.

As a result of the process the city council was able to withdraw some municipal properties found in the segregated area from the municipal housing pool.

On May 13, 2015 the Curia (Kúria, the supreme court of Hungary) struck down the provisions of the bylaws that made the compensation subject to buying a property outside city boundaries and registering a prohibition on alienation and encumbrance. The Curia considered that the provisions are illegal and go against the requirement of equal treatment. The city council acknowledged the decision of the Curia and deleted these provisions from the bylaw.

Civil society organizations can petition to the ombudsman (ombudsperson) and to the Equal Treatment Authority if they experience a breach of law. They did file petitions.

On July 23, 2015, as a result of its own investigation, the Equal Treatment Authority imposed a 500,000.00 HUF [C$2,287] fine on the Miskolc city self-government for adverse discrimination against the residents of the numbered streets in the vicinity of the Diósgyur Football Stadium in its redevelopment program.

At the same time the authority ordered that the city council shall provide adequate housing to those concerned, and develop an action plan with concrete steps to “provide dignified housing to evictees and to those persons who already became homeless as a result of previous evictions.”

The city council appealed the order of the Equal Treatment Authority and requested its suspension. In its decision of January 25, 2016 the court did not grant the appeal. The city council adopted the action plan as a part of the local equal opportunities program.

Several human rights advocacy NGOs filed a common petition to the ombudsman, complaining against the practice of the city council, where several authorities appeared at once for inspections at families, aided by the police, up to 20 officials at once, which were intimidating to the families. They claimed that these “razzias” were aimed primarily at areas populated by Roma people.

According to its report No. AJB-1474/2014 the ombudsman’s investigation found that these inspections by the authorities supervised by the city council were carried out without an adequate legal basis, and caused the breach of fundamental rights. The residents were not aware of the legal basis of the inspections, and as several authorities were present, they did not know where to file complaints to.

The report of the ombudsman states that these inspections and the evictions constitute a serious breach of social solidarity. The razzia-like appearance of municipal policing officials are intimidating, thereby constituting a breach of the principle of equal treatment.

Upon the request of the ombudsman, with the involvement of the Ministry of Human Capacities, the city of Miskolc founded the working group that drew up the action plan.

The above make it clear that the legal remedies are in place, are used by the persons concerned, and the courts and authorities carry out their duties in accordance with the law. (Hungary 1 Mar. 2017)

For further information on the housing situation in Miskolc, see section 3.1 of Response to Information Request HUN105586 of August 2016, and Response to Information Request HUN105180 of May 2015.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 2017. Amnesty International Report 2016/17: The State of the World's Human Rights. [Accessed 28 Feb. 2017]

Hungary. 1 March 2017. Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa. Correspondance with the Research Directorate.

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: BBC; The Budapest Beacon; Daily News Hungary; ecoi.net; European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance; European Roma Rights Centre; Factiva; Housing Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch; Hungary – Equal Treatment Authority; Hungarian Free Press; Hungary Today; Magyar Máltai Szeretetszolgálat; United Nations – Refworld.