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Hungary parliament passes law effectively criminalizing homelessness

The Hungarian Parliament [official website] on Monday passed a law that allows municipalities to prohibit sleeping in public places, effectively criminalizing homelessness. The law permits [AFP report] local authorities to declare areas prohibited for homeless people and evict those living in huts or shacks near the city. Punishment for violation can include community service, fines or imprisonment. The government claims that hostels have adequate space for the homeless population, although protesters and critics deny that there is enough space. The law could be enforced as early as next week. Last April Hungary faced criticism for passing [JURIST report] a different law that also criminalized homelessness.

Hungary has been heavily criticized [JURIST op-ed] for constitutional changes. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] expressed concern over changes to the Hungarian constitution, highlighting a lack of resolve over issues surrounding weakened human rights protections in the country. In June UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged [JURIST report] the Hungarian government to revoke the constitutional amendments after the release of a report by the Venice Commission criticizing [JURIST reports] the government's lack of transparency and disregard for human rights. Other constitutional changes that have been subject to criticism include restrictions on the homeless [JURIST report], increased control of the media and a strict, narrow definition of family. The new laws were controversial even when they were passed [JURIST report], and have been subject to ongoing scrutiny.

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