The European Commission must stop funding Hungarian segregation and abuse

Hungary confines a staggering 24,000 children and adults with disabilities in institutions. Our Seasonal Appeal highlights the numbers of people who are forced to live in institutions for much of their lives, where they are at risk of neglect and abuse.

MDAC has issued a complaint to Emily O'Reilly, EU Ombudsman, about the use of European money to segregate people with disabilities in Hungary. Picture: European Communities.

Today, the Mental Disability Advocacy Center has resorted to submitting a complaint to the European Ombudsman alleging maladministration of the European Commission. The Commission has given almost 9.5 million euro of European taxpayers’ money as structural funds to Hungary. In turn, the Hungarian government is adding the same figure of its own funds and with the total amount will build new residential institutions which will continue the segregation of people with disabilities from the community.

Six rural institutions are targeted for “deinstitutionalisation” under the Hungarian government’s flawed plans. A total of 638 people currently live in these six institutions.

The tragedy is that of these 638 people, only 97 people will move out into regular apartments in the community. 541 people will be condemned to further segregation: 396 in 8-12 bedded newly-built or renovated institutions, and 145 in institutions of up to 30 beds. All of these institutions – new and old, big and small – are incubators of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Commenting on the complaint to the European Ombudsman, Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director said:

“As the EU’s Year of the Citizen draws to a close, it is particularly ironic that the European Commission has been using EU structural funds to embed segregation. If Hungary would spend EU money to build torture chambers, the European Commission would pull out the funding immediately. So why doesn’t it when the lives of people with disabilities are at stake?”

The European Union ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010. Article 19 of the Convention sets out the right to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and with services which prevent segregation and isolation.  

Any EU money spent on the disability field must comply with the UN Convention.  This is not only the view of MDAC, but of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the European Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These bodies can offer Hungary and the EU their advice only. It is only the European Ombudsman who has the power now to find the Commission in violation of their obligations under international law, and ensure that investment funds human rights-compliant services.

Take action!

  1. Write to the European Ombudsman in support. The Ombudsman’s name is Emily O’Reilly and you can contact her by clicking here or on Twitter @EUOmbudsman.
  2. Write to the European Commission pointing out how the EC should condition its funding to Hungary on services which comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Commissioner’s name is Johannes Hahn and you can contact him by clicking here, or on Twitter @JHahnEU.
  3. Write to your local Member of the European Parliament asking him/her to raise this issue in the Parliament. You can find out who your MEP is by clicking here.

Please support our Seasonal Appeal to help us challenge the institutionalisation of people across Europe throughout 2014.

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