International call out against new proposal to criminalise homelessness in Hungary

Social Work Action Network is proud to have supported the fight of radical social workers and other Hungarian activisits against the criminalisation of homeless people in this country in the past. In 2011,we organised a petition for the radical social worker Norbert Ferencz from “Új szemelét” (New Directions) when he faced a 3 year jail sentence for his activism against the criminalisation of homeless and poor people in Hungary.

The proposed changes to the Penal Code come despite many international challenges and even rebuttal of similar legislation by the Hungarian Constitutional Court in 2012. Social Work Action Network joins the A Varos Mindenkie call for solidarity by encouraging you to do the following to stop this inhmane piece of legislation and show solidarity with the homeless people in Hungary. There are two things you can do:
– send a brief letter to the Hungarian Minister of Interior, Sándor Pintér, who sumibtted the proposed legal changes, and ask him to withdraw it. His e-mail address is You should cc AVM in the message (
– If you have time and resources, organise a solidarity demonstration on or before 30th of September 2013, when the Hungarian Parliament will vote on the proposed legislation. Please send AVM pictures from the protest (, so that they can publicise it on their website and facebook page.

SWAN Steering Committee today (Saturday 21st September 2013) sent the following letter to Mr. Pinter:

Dr. Sándor Pintér
Ministry of Interior
József Attila u. 2-4.
1051 Budapest

19th of September 2013.
Dear Dr. Pinter,


It was brought to our attention that the Hungarian Parliament is once again debating legislation, this time the modification of the Penal Code, that would define street homelessness as an infraction punishable by fine, community service or jail (for “repeat offenders).

The proposed changes would treat homeless Hungarian citizens as criminals, rather than debating how these issues should be addressed in terms of their social and economic causes.  According to the available evidence, there are some 500,000 uninhabited housing units around the country, 324,000 of which are in cities and many could be used in a housing programme for the estimated 30,000 homeless people in Hungary.

The proposed changes are also opting to ignore the Hungarian and international challenges and rebuttal to the proposed human rights abuses against the homeless people:

– In November 2012, the Constitutional Court of Hungary struck down a law that criminalized street homelessness, arguing that the state should address homelessness as a social and not a criminal issue.
– In April 2013, the UN Human Rights Council  noted that the prior amendments to the Basic Law “institutionalize the criminalization of homelessness and enshrines discrimination against the stigmatization of homeless persons in the constitution” (UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda ), calling for the government to retract the amendment.

We are appalled that the changes that would result in repeated criminalization of the poorest citizens in Hungary are once again on the Governments’ Agenda. In light of the available evidence, we urge you to withdraw the proposed changes and urge the State Secretariat for Social Inclusion to develop relevant housing programmes.
Yours sincerely,

Social Work Action Network (SWAN) Steering Committee Members:

Dr. Mark Baldwin, Director of Social Work Studies and Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of Bath
Prof. Peter Beresford, OBE, Director, Centre for Citizen Participation, Brunel University and Chair, Shaping our LIves
Kerry Cuskelly, Mental Health Social Worker/Founding Member of the Social Work Action Network Ireland
Prof. Iain Ferguson, Professor of Social Work and Social Policy, University of the West of Scotland
Dr. Vassilios Ioakimidis, Secretary of the European Association of Schools of Social Work
Prof. Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University, SWAN National Co-ordinator
Barrie Levine, Lecturer in Social Work, Glasgow Caledonian University
Dr. Reima Ana Maglajlic, SWAN International Secretary
Dan Morton, Social Worker and Co-ordinator, SWAN London
Rich Moth, Lecturer in Social Work, Liverpool Hope University
Dr. Terence Murphy, Regional Chair UCU
Dr. Maria Pentaraki, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Liverpool Hope University

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