In Borsod county in Hungary, Romas (who live in poverty and segregation) on bicycles are fined daily for motoring offences. They are regularly penalized for offences that they haven’t committed, alongside fines for petty offences, such as lack of lamps in broad daylight. The imposed fines are disproportionately high, and extremely difficult to repay. Due to the lack of information, the capacity for legal redress is very low in these peripheral communities. The word of a Roma man against a policeman’s is generally not taken seriously in these courts; penalized people are not able to defend themselves against such infringements on their rights. Does it make sense for the police force to spend tax-payers’ money and allocate its own resources for an undue and unnecessary penalization activity? Is it beneficial for our society to unduly penalize and criminalize the already underprivileged?
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Most people hardly hear or know anything about the living conditions and everyday concerns of the Roma population living in extreme poverty, often in segregated settlements.
During their visits in North-Eastern Hungary, our colleagues interview locals about the issues they are currently most concerned with. The aim of our new series entitled “Make Your Voice Seen” is to deliver the messages of these people to a broader public.
The aim of the Make your voice heard! project of the HCLU is to facilitate advocacy skills of Roma communities. Therefore the HCLU trains Romani activists in freedom of information and in participatory rights. This obtained knowledge would help them gain insight into local decision-making processes. By having access to data of public interest and exercising participatory rights, their situation can be improved so they can reach the social level of the less underprivileged majority.
The man who spoke to the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) representative had a bike with all the necessary accessories, yet the police still fined him. It seems that the general mandate of KRESZ (rules of the road) leaves room for policemen to, by all means, punish those who they choose to punish.