Just a week after discovering that feeding pigeons in Kecskemet is the new bus-stop smoking in Budapest – i.e. something you’d never think would be made illegal in Hungary – we learn that another seemingly harmless activity widely practiced by law-abiding Hungarian citizens is already a crime.
Somehow we missed it, but back on January 1, the municipal government of Budapest’s District VIII enacted an ordinance that makes scavenging out of waste containers – a.k.a. “dumpster diving” – a violation punishable by fines of up to Ft 50,000 (€185). Given that the nyócker is perhaps Budapest’s most impoverished neighborhood, the rule caused immediate hardship for some locals, leading to a demonstration in March against the regulation, after which police launched criminal procedures against one protester for urging others to deliberately violate the regulation, and eight others for following the demonstrator’s advice.
If this seems like an unnecessarily harsh crackdown on people who have already been crushed by life, you’re not alone. Earlier this week civil rights ombudsman Máté Szabó called on the district to overturn the ban, saying that it constitutes a disproportionate violation of the rights of vulnerable people. The local government said it would give an opinion on the ombudsman’s report “later.” Our opinion is that anyone who is poor and hungry enough they feel the need to eat out of the trash should feel free to likewise wait until later to consider the district’s ruling.