MINELRES: Human Rights Organisations Welcome Call on Governments to End Housing Crisis of Roma in Europe

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Oct 31 20:46:35 2007


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


Human Rights Organisations Welcome Call on Governments to End Housing
Crisis of Roma in Europe 

Serial Abuses in Need of Rigorous Response

Budapest, Geneva, October 29, 2007: The Centre on Housing Rights and
Evictions (COHRE), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Greek
Helsinki Monitor (GHM), the Italian human rights organisation
Osservazione, and the Slovak NGO Milan Simecka Foundation (MSF) welcome
today the joint statement by the Council of Europe Commissioner for
Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate
Housing urging governments to take positive steps to protect the housing
rights of Roma in Europe. The Council of Europe/United Nations joint
statement deplores the rise of forced evictions of Roma throughout
Europe, exposing hundreds of thousands of people to social exclusion and
marginalization. The statement also decries the impunity of public
officials and others for violations of domestic and international human
rights law. The full text of the joint statement is available at:
http://www.coe.int/t/commissioner/Activities/news2007/071023romahousingrights_en
asp. 

COHRE, the ERRC, GHM, MSF and Osservazione take the opportunity of the
joint statement to call attention to some current issues which have
given rise to statements of concern by international bodies and
non-governmental organizations. These include: 

During the summer months of 2007, the municipality of Rome, Italy, first
threatened and then forcibly evicted over 1000 Roma from the city. The
municipality of Bolzano, also in Italy, has for several years tolerated
the fact of approximately 100 Roma who live on a toxic waste site in the
city. In May 2006, the Italian government made a number of promises to
the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers concerning remedying the
extreme exclusion of Roma in Italy. These have not yet been acted upon;  

Officials in France and Ireland have recently undertaken to expel
Romanian Roma from the country in very high-profile eviction actions.
There are concerns that although Romanian citizens now are entitled to
certain social goods as a result of Romania’s accession to the European
Union on 1 January 2007, in practice, where Roma from Romania are
concerned, officials of other European Union Member States have sought
to avoid realisation of these rights; 

In recent years, the French government has adopted draconian measures
with respect to Travellers in France, giving rise to serial forced
evictions, as well as to the threat of criminal penalty for Travellers
unable to access limited halting sites; 

A recent report by the NGO Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation (EHO) on
the situation of Roma forcibly returned to Serbia by, in particular,
Western European governments, especially Germany, notes that some of the
persons concerned literally have no place to stay and had to sleep in
the open air upon their arrival in Serbia. The dwellings in which
returnees reside are frequently overcrowded and families with many
members live in very small rooms, because the Roma concerned may have
sold or otherwise given up housing before leaving Serbia in the first
place. These aggravated housing conditions are compounded by widespread
slum conditions throughout Serbia, and instances of forced evictions in
recent years, particularly in Belgrade; 

In recent months, according to the organization Association of Roma
Women for Our Children, 43 Roma were reportedly evicted forcibly in
Timisoara, Romania.  Timisoara authorities have also not yet managed to
regulate the predominantly Romani neighborhood of Kuntz, such that the
persons living there are not yet provided with clear documentation
recognizing the legitimacy of their tenure, despite the fact that they
have lived in the neighborhood since before the second world war. There
has not been any satisfactory resolution of the situation of the
approximately 110 Roma evicted in the town of Tulcea, forcefully evicted
in October 2006, and made to move to inadequate housing outside the city
limits or into mobile housing units located on a garbage dump. Forced
evictions have also been recently reported in the capital Bucharest; 

Greece is currently failing to implement 2004 and 2006 findings by the
European Committee of Social Rights that Greece’s treatment of Roma in
the field of housing violates 3 aspects of the European Social Charter.
In June and September 2007, according to Greek Helsinki Monitor, 135
Roma families were forcibly evicted, some twice in a few days, in
Athens, Patras and Halkida, evidently without the relevant procedural
safeguards being respected. Hundreds of Roma families are threatened
with similar evictions in Greater Athens, Patras, Crete and Rhodes. A
number of Roma in Athens and Patras are also apparently being prosecuted
for infringements of law arising from their homelessness as well as face
expensive lawsuits from private individuals whose land they trespass due
to the persistent failure of the Greek state to provide them with
housing or, at the very least, with a relocation site where they would
be safe from eviction;

Bulgaria has also recently been found in violation of two aspects of the
Revised European Social Charter by the European Committee of Social
Rights as a result of continued failure of the government to address
issues of core importance for access to adequate housing such as
security of tenure, forced evictions, and widespread slum conditions
among Roma in Bulgaria. The conditions giving rise to the decision have
not yet been remedied by the Bulgarian government; 

The Slovak government has not yet implemented the 2005 finding by the UN
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in L.R. et al v.
Slovakia committed an act of racial discrimination by canceling its plan
to build social housing for Roma under explicitly anti-Romani pressure
from non-Roma citizens. Slum conditions among Roma in some areas of
particularly Central and Eastern Slovakia are some of the worst housing
conditions we have seen anywhere. In recent weeks, new instances of
forced evictions reported from the town of Nove Zamky continued the
series of actions for the expulsion of Roma from centre of towns in
Slovakia in the past several years. In addition, on 26 October 2007,
private security guards violently expelled from their housing five
Romani families in the town of Kremnica, with police reportedly looking
on. Among the evicted were persons with valid rental contracts, as well
as physically disabled persons. The families concerned were rendered
homeless as a result of the eviction. 

The Czech government has failed to reverse the acts of the Vsetin
municipality from October 2006 in expelling forcibly around 100 Roma to
very isolated parts of the country. Falling against a backdrop of
deepening racial segregation in the housing sector, the failure of the
government to act to reverse this very high-profile act by the public
authority has sent a tacit note of encouragement to those aiming to
exclude Roma from Czech society. The Czech government has failed to
counter the widely-publicized actions of the municipality of Bohumin in
the forced eviction of several hundred predominantly Romani persons from
a hostel for the poor in that town, and the serial harassment of those
families which contested the eviction; 

According to reports, one year after the very high profile forced
eviction of an extended Romani family in the village of Ambrus, Slovene
authorities have still not provided adequate alternate accommodation to
the persons expelled from their dwellings in 2006; 

Positive efforts by the government of Hungary to adopt and implement
policies to address the growth of slums in recent years target a very
limited number of predominantly small, rural slums. These actions have
not been sufficient to counter the effects of very deep erosion of legal
protections against forced eviction on the one hand and massive
divestment of social housing on the other. Indeed, according to
available data, the last time slum removal policies in Hungary made
significant progress was 1993; 

The vast majority of Roma and others regarded as “Gypsies” ethnically
cleansed from Kosovo or displaced within the province have not been able
to return to their pre-conflict place of origin. Eight years of
international governance of the province have not yet resulted in a
reversal of ethnic cleansing, and whole Romani neighborhoods in Kosovo
appear to have been expropriated. Concerns are growing that the
processes to improve Kosovo’s cadastral registry, as well as other
changes to the property regime in Kosovo, may formalise the ethnic
cleansing of tens of thousands of Roma, Ashkalis and Egyptians from the
province; 

In the period 2005-2007, authorities in Turkey have carried out serial
forced evictions of Roma/Gypsy communities in a number of cities
throughout the country forcing hundreds of individuals into
homelessness. In some instances police used force to drive Roma away
from settlements. A reconstruction plan for the historic Romani
settlement Sulukule in Istanbul involves the complete demolition of the
current neighbourhood, home to more than 3000 Roma, and its replacement
with housing which is unaffordable for most of the original inhabitants.
Demolition of Roma houses in Sulukule began in 2007 and threatens to
effectively drive property owners out of the neighbourhood, whilst
tenants are faced with even more precarious situation, having no legal
protection; 

In the summer of 2006, Russian authorities bulldozed 37 houses belonging
to Roma families and set fire to the ruins in the village of Dorozhniy,
in Russia’s Kaliningrad region. Around 200 Romani individuals, including
100 children, were forced into homelessness. The forced evictions took
place after the Romani families’ ownership of their homes was declared
illegal in court proceedings which violated fundamental standards of due
process. Forced evictions in Dorozhniy had started earlier that year,
exposing several families with children to homelessness in severe winter
conditions. Particularly disturbing are reports that in Dorozhniy as
well as in other places in Russia candidates for public office at local
level campaigned on promises to expel Roma from municipalities; 

In the United Kingdom, on 22 February 2007, authorities rejected the
appeal against refusal of planning permission earlier submitted to
Basildon District Council, in effect giving the green light for Basildon
District Council to evict some l50 Gypsy and Traveller families from the
area.  To date, approximately a dozen homes have been destroyed in the
nearby community of Hovefields. In the Dale Farm community, 86 homes
currently face demolition. Elsewhere in the UK, during 2007, the High
Court twice rejected appeals by Travellers in the Clays Lane community
in London, slated for eviction as a result of development in the run-up
to the Olympic Games. As of September 19, the Travellers concerned were
awaiting forced eviction. 
The organizations named above join the Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate
Housing calling on national governments to bring legal protections
against forced evictions into conformity with international law; to
strengthen domestic legal provisions to ensure security of tenure for
vulnerable individuals and groups; to bring to justice public officials
and others responsible for arbitrary actions for the expulsion of Roma
from housing or land; to ensure access to remedy for the affected Romani
individuals; as well as rigorously to enforce anti-discrimination laws.  
The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) is an independent,
non-governmental, non-profit human rights organization campaigning for
the protection of housing rights and the prevention of forced evictions
around the world. COHRE's overall objective is to promote and protect
the housing rights of everyone everywhere. Further information about
COHRE is available at http://cohre.org. 

The Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), founded in 1993, monitors, publishes,
lobbies, and litigates on human and minority rights and
anti-discrimination issues in Greece and, from time to time, in the
Balkans. It also monitors Greek and, when opportunity arises, Balkan
media for stereotypes and hate speech. It issues press releases and
prepares (usually jointly with other NGOs) detailed annual reports;
parallel reports to UN Treaty Bodies; and specialized reports on
ill-treatment and on ethno-national, ethno-linguistic, religious and
immigrant communities, in Greece and in other Balkan countries. It
operates a web site (http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr) and two web lists
covering human rights issues and comprehensive and comparable
presentations of minorities in the Balkan region. 

The Milan Simecka Foundation (MSF) is a Slovak based non-governmental
organisation promoting human rights and democracy. Its three main areas
of work are: Multicultural Education, Holocaust Education and Roma
issues. Further information about the MSF can be found at:
www.nadaciamilanasimecku.sk 

OsservAzione – The Centre for Action Research against Roma and Sinti
Discrimination -- is a non-governmental organisation engaging in a range
of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights
abuse of Roma and Sinti in Italy. For more information about
OsservAzione, visit http://www.osservazione.org. 

----------------------------------------------------------

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the human rights situation 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 

To support the ERRC, please visit this link:
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2735 

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
Tel: +36.1.413.2200
Fax:
+36.1.413.2201

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