MINELRES: ERRC: Forced Evictions in Slovakia - 2006

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Fri Feb 2 13:52:16 2007


Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>


Roma in Slovakia are currently experiencing a wave of forced
evictions according to a report released on Tuesday 23 January 2007 by
the Milan Simecka Foundation, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions
(COHRE) and European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).

The report, which shows how a combination of factors is driving Roma
from their homes into more segregated areas, was launched at a
special roundtable with representatives from Roma and civil society
organizations and the Ministries of Construction and Regional
Development, Labor, Family and Social Affairs, Justice, Foreign Affairs,
the Association of Local Municipalities, and the Slovak National Centre
for Human Rights amongst others.

The participants discussed the principal factors that emerged from
the report's review of concrete cases, including:

* Amendments to the Civil Code of 2001, which weakened the legal
position of tenants in municipal housing. A court order is no longer
required for an eviction and the obligations on local authorities to
provide alternative housing have been significantly reduced.
* The radical reforms to the social assistance system in 2004,
which included a fundamental revision of housing allowances and the
rights of the unemployed, weakening the ability of indigent tenants,
particularly Roma, to regularly pay their rent and utility costs.
* Historical long-term negligence of the problem of non-paying of rents
and utilities and the resistance of local authorities to using
mechanisms to assist Roma pay back debts, e.g., through the institution
of the special receiver.
* The unfair practice of excessive billing of Roma tenants by utilities,
for services such as water and energy.
* Municipalities moving Roma from housing in central locations, often
on false pretences such as building safety, and placing them in newly
built but segregated and very low quality buildings on the outskirts of
towns or allocating them poor housing bought in small towns. This
practice applies even to regularly rent paying Roma who have clear
rights under Slovak law to alternative housing of an equal standard.

Speakers from international organisations expressed concern that
these factors violated human rights contained in treaties acceded to by
Slovakia, such as rights to housing, social security, respect for the
home and equality. The roundtable particularly discussed the entrenched
international prohibition on forced eviction. This requires that
evictions only proceed in "exceptional circumstances". Specifically,
international and European law requires that there must be (1) very
strong justification for an eviction; (2) a search for all feasible
alternatives to eviction with the participation of all affected persons;
(3) due process; (4) adequate alternative accommodation if an eviction
proceeds; (5) and no discrimination in each of these steps. However,
many of the case studies of evictions, described in the report, lacked
these characteristics. These examples include:

Zilina

The Municipality of Zilina, whose Mayor is leader of the rightist
Slovak National Party, announced on 6 November 2006 its intention to
evict inhabitants, most of them Roma, from a building in the town into
'UNIMO cells' (temporary housing cubicles), which have been built in
another locality. Their present building is to be demolished to give way
to a parking lot for a planned hotel. Only tenants with an official
contract will be provided with substitute housing in the cells, yet
these do not correspond to the standard of their present flats as
required by law.

Kosice

On 16 October 2006, a Roma family was evicted from their municipal
flat despite being a legal tenant since from 1987 and regularly paying
their rent and utility costs. A representative of Kosice municipality
had announced to the family that the building was unsafe and they would
have to move out for a limited period. He proposed substitute housing in
Lunik IX (a segregated Roma ghetto). The family acquiesced to
temporarily relocation, but not to Lunik IX. Later, the representative
asked the family member, who is illiterate, to sign a document that was
supposedly related to water services. Instead, it was a lease contract
for Lunik IX. Despite protests over the deception, the family was
evicted. There were no measures to evict other non-Roma tenants of the
flat block, nor were they informed about alleged safety problems with
the building.

Sabinov

The Municipality of Sabinov built 24 low standard flats in the
segregated locality of Telek, which is 3 km from the town and lacks all
public services. The Mayor openly stated the intention was to segregate
Roma, "The new settlement will be far enough from their [non-Roma]
houses". By June 2005, 24 Roma families were evicted from municipal
flats in the main Liberty Square and moved to Telek. This included
families that regularly paid rent and utilities and had invested money
to improve their flats. Previously these families tried to buy the
municipal flats they lived in, but the municipality did not respond.
Some non-Roma tenants were also evicted but they were provided with
adequate substitute housing elsewhere. After the eviction of Roma
tenants, some of the flats were sold to high-ranking officials of the
municipality. Moreover, despite there being a very poor informal Roma
settlement in Sabinov, these residents were not moved to the new low
standard flats in Telek. Presently, the municipality continues to build
low standard flats in Telek in order to move more Roma, including
regular rent payers, from the centre of the town.

Recommendations

The roundtable discussed a number of the draft recommendations presented
in the report, which need to be taken to address the growing incidence
of forced eviction of Roma in Slovakia, including:

* Amending provisions on eviction in the Civil Code to bring them into
line with international standards, ensuring evictions cannot proceed
without a court order, and placing the right to housing in the
constitution.
* Adopting a law which renders illegal racial segregation and acts
leading to racial segregation.
* Adopting a comprehensive housing policy, respecting adequate
housing standards.
* Ensuring that social and public services are accessible for people at
risk of poverty, and actively extending the scheme of special receiver
to those persons who want such an arrangement.
* Taking action to ensure that housing allowances and social
security payments appropriately cover housing, utility and related
costs.
* Investigating and punishing all cases of evictions that do not conform
to legal and human rights, including the prohibition on
non-discrimination.

An English summary of the report can be downloaded
from www.cohre.org/slovakia or http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2719

_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest
law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
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P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201
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