Hungary denies Roma families evacuated over attack fear

Roma women and children leave Gyongyospata, Hungary (22 April 2011)
Image caption The Red Cross said the families were being taken on a "pre-planned holiday"

Hungary's government has accused its political opponents of staging an unnecessary "evacuation" of Roma families from a northern village.

The village, Gyongyospata, was recently the scene of ethnic tension between local Roma and right-wing vigilantes.

A vigilante group was due to hold a paramilitary training exercise in the village at the weekend.

But officials have told the BBC there is no connection between the two events.

A total of 277 Roma were taken from the village by bus by the Hungarian Red Cross on Friday morning.

The action was reported by both local and international media as an evacuation of terrified Roma women and children, linked to the fact that a new far-right group called Vedero, or "Defensive Strength", were planning a paramilitary training weekend in the village.

This followed incidents last month in the same village, when another far-right group mounted anti-Roma patrols, ostensibly to protect the local population.

But Red Cross spokesman Erik Selymes said there was no connection between what he called a "pre-planned holiday" organised for the Roma and the paramilitary training exercise.

Zoltan Kovacs, a state secretary in the Hungarian Justice Ministry, told the BBC that the so-called evacuation was "a clear-cut political provocation" and completely unwarranted.

The government this week passed new legislation which aims to prevent paramilitary or other uniformed groups from encroaching on the role of the police to keep law and order.

More on this story