The Hungarian far right looks set to roll out a campaign of Roma intimidation after meeting little resistance to its vigilante “law and order” mission in Gyongyospata, a Hungarian village of 2,800 people 80km north-east of Budapest.
For A Better Future, a paramilitary organisation deriving its name from a Nazi youth movement slogan, entered the village at the start of the month. It conducted foot and car patrols, followed Roma around and stopped them from entering shops.
On March 10, the intimidation reached its peak when 1,000 black-uniformed neo-Nazis marched through the village, some reportedly armed with dogs, whips and chains.
Many Roma were afraid to leave their homes or take their children to school. The local mayor, Laszlo Tabi, who is not officially allied to a political party, allegedly offered his seal of approval, while the police sat on their hands.
“I cried when I saw them marching,” says Janos Farkas, the spokesman for the village’s 450-strong Roma community which centres around a dirt road in a shallow valley at the edge of the village. Many of the dilapidated homes do not have mains water and few of their occupants jobs.
“I can’t see how this could happen in a democratic country? The police are now present, but why did they let it go on for three weeks?” asks Farkas.
Nothing has been done to stop the vigilantes from restarting their activities here or to prevent them springing up elsewhere.
“Roma have lived here for 500 years and have always stuck to the law. Only one or two youngsters have done anything wrong,” says Farkas.
There is no evidence that even petty crime has risen in Gyongyospata, but the financial crisis has driven up the significance of people’s everyday possessions and the far right is only too happy for the chance to profit from the heightened sensitivity.
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