The Hungarian Parliament is expected to pass the law on 14 November and the legislation will mean that rough sleepers face 60 days in prison.
At a rally on 8 October Mr Ferencz spoke out against the new law and the attempt to criminalise ‘dumpster diving’ [i.e. raking bins for food]. He called for peaceful protest against the new law. As a result local prosecutors have moved to charge him with incitement.
SWAN has launched a petition in support of Mr Ferencz which will be presented as part of his defence. Speaking on behalf of SWAN National Coordinator Michael Lavalette said:
“Norbert is a fine example of an activist social worker, one who shows, in his actions, what social work for social justice looks like. He clearly operated within the IFSW definition of social work and the Hungarian Codes of Ethics – it is an outrage that he is being dragged before the courts for doing his job.”
SWAN’s International Officer Iain Ferguson added:
“An injury to one is an injury to all, so this is not simply a Hungarian issue. This is something that all social workers should be concerned about. It is vital that we all voice our concern over how Norbert is being treated.”
In Budapest SWAN Steering Committee member Rea Maglajlic said:
“The Hungarian parliament is due to discuss and vote on a draft law that would punish ‘residing habitually in public space’ by up to 60 days of imprisonment or up to 150.000 HUF fine, an amount that is almost three times the net minimum wage in Hungary.
This proposal is both unconstitutional and inhumane, since it punishes homeless people for not having appropriate housing. Criminalisation of poverty stands against the principles of our profession and Norbert Ferencz was solely enacting the Code of Practice for our profession. Neither the most oppressed in any given society, including Hungary, nor people who stand up for the rights of the oppressed like Mr. Ferencz, should be criminalised. On behalf of all members of SWAN, we demand for the charges against Mr. Ferencz to be dropped, as well as all plans to criminalise homelessness in all Budapest Districts and across Hungary. Instead, support should be extended to address structural causes that lead to homelessness and ensure affordable, safe and healthy housing for all Hungarian citizens, some of whom are unfortunately homeless.”
Mr Ferencz is clear that he was working within the guidelines of the Hungarian Social Work Code of Ethics which requires social workers to speak out against injustice. Mr Ferencz’s defence will also make reference to the International Federation of Social Work’s definition of social work as a profession committed to social justice.
Mr Ferencz is due in court on 4 November 2011.
For news rooms:
1. The petition is available on line at http://swan.epetitions.net/
2. More details of Mr Ferencz’s case are available from the SWAN website https://www.socialworkfuture.org/index.php/articles-and-analysis/news/170-defend-norbert
3. For further information contact Michael Lavalette 07739729214