Being Poor and Excluded in a Rich Society: Hungarian Homeless People in Basel
06 - Präsentation
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After the extension of the European Union, the European Economic Community and the so called Schengen Area, hundred thousands of Central and Eastern European (CEE) citizens decided to leave their home country for living and working in one of the economically developed countries of Western Europe. Even though Switzerland is not member state of the EU, it is the fourth most popular target country among CEE citizens. In the wake of highly qualified young workers, a lot of poor and/or homeless people left their home because of extreme poverty, social exclusion, stigmatisation and marginalisation. The new order-based social policies against poor and homeless people in Poland, Hungary and Romania just exacerbated the situation and compelled further excluded social groups to leave their home countries. Although Swiss social workers undisputedly experience an augmented burden in the institutions of homeless care, they do not know too much about the living conditions of destitute mobile EU citizens. Therefore, this paper aims to explore the migration-related motivations, experiences, coping strategies and future plans of destitute CEE citizens living in Basel. The main question of the research is that why destitute EU citizens left their home country, their families and gave up their jobs for an unpredictable and risky new life in Switzerland. The research primarily focuses on the surviving strategies of CEE homeless people, with particular regard to their relationship to the Swiss homeless care. The analysis is based on semi-structured qualitative interviews carried out with the affected people and social workers as well as on participatory observations conducted in the institutions of homeless care in Basel city. Doing so, the research introduces the living conditions of an Eastern European homeless community by following their activities in the city’s night shelters, day-care institutions and soup-kitchens. The applied qualitative research revealed that the Central and Eastern European homeless population in Basel is rather heterogeneous incorporating street musicians, beggars, temporary workers, prostitutes and criminals alike. None of the interviewed persons came directly to Basel, they arrived to the city after a longer or shorter European wandering of which starting point was almost always Vienna. They prefer Basel to the other European cities because the police is more tolerant, authorities are supportive and people are generally friendly with the newcomers. However, destitute EU citizens are eligible only for a few social services in Switzerland, most of them can use solely low-threshold services like soup kitchens and temporary night shelters, and a lot of them sleep in public places on a daily basis. As they are allowed to stay in the city only for three months without residence permit, most of the destitute EU citizens are sans-papiers and are not eligible for social allowances in Basel.