Forced evictions: "We are asking for right and justice to be done"

We’ve just returned from Warsaw, from a meeting of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), focusing on human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination across Europe, the former Soviet Union and North America.

We’d gone to address the OSCE on the rights of Romani women, and to support a group of Romani women attending to give a valuable insight into the discrimination they face across the continent.

Elena Greta was one of those with us to address governments, to fight for her rights, the rights of her family and her community.  Alongside 356 others, she was forcibly evicted in December 2010 in the north-western town of Cluj-Napoca, in Romania.

“I used to live on Coastei Street, in the centre of Cluj-Napoca. On 17 December, just before Christmas the people from the municipality came and told us we have to leave our homes. They gave us only two days to pack our stuff and go. We didn’t know where we were going. It was very cold, -20 C°. They brought us to Pata Rât next to the garbage dump,” Elena said when she addressed the 56 governments in the big plenary. 

“We are 11 people in a 16m² room. I share the bathroom with another 40 people… There is no transport to the city, only a bus that takes our children to school.”

Elena Greta addressing the OSCE in Warsaw.

This was the first time Elena was participating in such a meeting: “I was glad to be here and speak about what happened to us on 17 December 2010, when we were forcibly evicted. But a lot of emotions came to me. I felt the same as the day we were evicted and I wanted to cry.”

Elena told the conference – and particularly her home nation’s representatives: “I am here to ask for all of us, the 76 families evicted in 2010, housing that is adequate and not segregated. We don’t want to live in ghettos anymore.

“We want right and justice to be done for the violations that we have suffered as a result of our eviction.”

Elena also met face to face with representatives of the Romanian government for the first time. She said they listened to her and took her seriously but also told her they had not realized the living conditions in Pata Rât were so bad.

During the meeting Elena met with Romani women activists from across Europe and jointly participated in Amnesty International’s action urging Italian Prime Minister to stop forced evictions and segregation of Roma in Italy: “It’s very important that Romani women can communicate with each other and share experiences because we have similar experiences.

“It was also very interesting to take action for Roma in Italy; because they are going through horrible experiences. Police are going in destroying everything. We can share the sorrow between Romani women in both countries. We would like to work more with these people.”

This is a guest post from Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Regional Campaign Coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, and Kathryn Ramsay, Gender Adviser. Find out more about our work on forced evictions

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