Hungary's criminalised homeless struggle to survive

Harsh weather conditions and harassment from officials alienate Hungary's homeless and worsen their daily struggle.

Sorin Furcoi , Patrick Strickland | | Poverty & Development, Human Rights, Europe, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary - Sanyia Sabyan has lived on the streets of the Hungarian capital for six years, unable to return to his former job as a construction worker and not lucky enough to find a new job.

With his dog Artur, he sleeps on the streets each night, often facing police harassment and braving temperatures that fall far below freezing. "I haven't eaten today," the 47-year old told Al Jazeera, explaining that he makes sure Artur has food before ensuring that he feeds himself. "The police are always harassing me," he said.

In September 2013, the right-wing-dominated Hungarian parliament enabled local governments to criminalise sleeping in public spaces and "dumpster diving". Those who violated the law were to be sentenced to community work or fined.

The Supreme Court struck down parts of the law in 2015 because city governments could not demonstrate the "protected value" of those spaces.

Human Rights Watch has criticised the ruling for not banning "the local government from adopting a future decree and identifying the 'protected value' of public areas from where authorities aim to ban homeless people".

Sitting next to the entrance of the metro in Budapest's Blaha area, Csabi said he had been homeless on and off for the past four years.

"My girlfriend is eight months' pregnant," he told Al Jazeera. "She was recently diagnosed as HIV-positive. I tested negative. The doctor told her she can live for a long time if she takes medicine every day."  

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