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Fears for plight of Hungary's homeless over law banning sleeping rough

Fears for plight of Hungary's homeless over law banning sleeping rough
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There is alarm among homeless people in Hungary over a new law passed this week that critics say criminalises sleeping rough in some areas.

From next week offenders can be fined and even sent to prison.

The law gives local authorities the power to define zones where sleeping outdoors will be forbidden, and to destroy makeshift shelters.

Zoltan, a homeless man in Budapest said: “They (the government) just want to divert society’s attention from robberies and corruption, and instead go after the homeless.”

A similar law was struck down last year by a Hungarian court for being unconstitutional.

So in March this year the right-wing government used its two-thirds majority to change the constitution.

It argues there are plenty of shelters available and that the revived law is a humanitarian measure which is in homeless people’s own interests.

“We would like no homeless person to freeze to death on the streets of Hungary, therefore we created more than 700 places in (shelters in) Budapest, too,” said Karoly Kontrat, Interior Ministry State Secretary.

Hundreds protested against the law outside parliament on Monday.

The government strongly denies claims that there are not enough places in the capital’s shelters, leaving thousands outside.

One civic group accused the government of lying.