Growing concern over forcible evictions of Roma people in Romania

By staff writers
January 31, 2010

Human rights workers are concerned at the number of Romany families across Romania who are being evicted from their homes against their will as a result of hostility, prejudice and the failure of the authorities to recognise their plight.

Although some Roma people live in permanent structures with legal tenancy, many other long-standing Romany dwellings are considered by the government as "temporary" and unofficial, and their inhabitants do not have any proof of tenancy, which exacerbates their vulnerability to eviction.

On the occasions when alternative housing is offered by the authorities, it is often built in very precarious conditions and lacks basic facilities such as water, heating or electricity.

In recent years, Romany communities have been evicted and relocated next to garbage dumps, sewage treatment plants or industrial areas on the outskirts of cities.

This pattern of forced evictions, without adequate consultation, adequate notice or adequate alternative housing, perpetuates racial segregation and violates Romania’s international obligations, say human rights campaigners.

They also point out that eviction does not only result in the loss of Roma homes. the people effected also lose their possessions, their social contacts, and their access to work and state services. When they try to raise their voice against the discrimination affecting their own lives, they are often simply ignored.

There are almost 2.2 million Roma in Romania – making up about 10 per cent of the total population. Yet discrimination, both by public officials and society at large, remains widespread and entrenched, resulting in as many as 75 per cent of Roma living in poverty, as opposed to 24 per cent of Romanians in general and 20 per cent of ethnic Hungarians, the largest minority in Romania.

About 75 Roma people – including families with young children – have been living in metal cabins and shacks next to a sewage treatment plant at the end of Primaverii Street in Miercurea Ciuc, Central Romania since 2004. They were moved to the area, deemed unfit for human habitation, from a crumbling building in the centre of the town.

They were told the move was for their own safety and would be temporary. After more than five years and various court cases, the continued violation of their right to adequate housing – among a host of other rights – is beginning to feel very permanent.

Erzsébet, who lives next to the sewage treatment plant with her husband and nine children, told Amnesty International what life is like in a metal cabin: "It is tight, when the whole family goes to sleep we don’t fit in. We cannot take a bath; we cannot clean ourselves. It is too small. We don’t want the older girls to take a bath in front of their father."

The temporary metal cabins and shacks are close to the sewage treatment plant, falling within the 300-metre protection zone established by Romanian law to separate homes from potential toxic hazards.

The human rights NGO was also told: "The houses fill up with that smell. At night… the children cover their faces with the pillows. We don't want to eat when we feel the smell… I used to have another child who died when he was four months old… I don’t want to lose the rest of my children."

Amnesty International is encouraging its supporters to write courteous messages to the Mayor of Miercurea Ciuc, urging him to protect Roma families who were forcibly evicted from the city centre and relocated to inadequate housing near a sewage treatment plant.

For more information on the Amnesty appeal for action, go to:

Keywords:romania | roma
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