Hungary Roma flee Gyongyospata fearing vigilante attack

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Címkék:  Gyongyospata
 22th of April 2011   Source: bbc.co.uk

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Nearly 300 Roma have been evacuated from a village in eastern Hungary over concerns about a far-right vigilante training camp being held nearby.


Roma, or Gypsy, leaders in Gyongyospata said the community was afraid of the group and had "reason to be".


The Vedero, or Defence Force, vigilante group has been patrolling the village since last month to prevent what they say is "Gypsy crime".


They denied their activities were racist or threatening to the Roma.


The dispute comes amid rising tensions between Roma and far-right groups in Hungary.


The group of 277 women and children were bussed out of Gyongyospata by the Red Cross, which said it was taking them to a holiday camp in Budapest.


Red Cross director Erik Selymes told Hungarian media it was not clear how long they would stay there.


Janos Farkas, chairman of the local Roma council, said Gyongyospata had been "practically a battlefield" for the past two months and that the vigilantes were trying to intimidate them.


"We are afraid and we have reason to be," he said.


"Their presence is extremely upsetting and will achieve nothing."


'Old Hungarian tradition'

Vedero is one of several vigilante groups which have been carrying out patrols of eastern Hungarian villages with large Roma populations.


It has links to the far-right Jobbik party, which has long made allegations of crime by Roma a key part of its campaigns and won nearly 17% of the vote in elections last year.


Dressed in camouflage uniforms, the vigilantes say they are protecting the non-Roma residents from crime.


Vedero's leaders said the camp to be held in Gyongyospata over the Easter weekend was intended to improve the health of Hungarian youth and instil "military discipline" in them.


"We are continuing the old Hungarian tradition of military-style training," Tamas Eszes told the Associated Press, saying they had met community leaders to reassure them.


Roma crime was an "existing problem which can't be denied", he said, but was not the focus of the camp.


Mr Eszes accused the community of "unnecessary scaremongering" and of labelling his group's members as extremists.


But the head of the Roma Civil Rights Movement, Aladar Horvath, said the Roma families just wanted to be safe for the Easter holiday.


"Holding war games by Defence Force during the Easter holiday goes beyond anyone's imagination," he said.


He accused the government of doing nothing to help the community and the police of failing to response to requests for help.


Hungary's Roma population numbers some 800,000 - many of them are unemployed and live in poverty.


Six Roma were killed in a series of attacks on settlements in 2008 and 2009 which rights group said was an indication of anti-Roma prejudice in Hungarian society.


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