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Roma denied access to water and sanitation in Slovenia - new report

Roma communities in Slovenia are being denied proper access to adequate housing, water and sanitation due to discrimination, according to a new report today (16 March) from Amnesty International.

Some Roma families in the country have less water available to them than the minimum deemed necessary for people suffering a humanitarian emergency, says the report, “ Parallel lives: Roma denied rights to housing and water in Slovenia ”.

Many are living in poorly built, overcrowded shacks in isolated and segregated rural settlements, far away from health-care services, schools, employment and shops. Amnesty is calling on the Slovenian authorities to protect the human rights of its Roma communities.

Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“Continuing discrimination against the Romani people condemns many of them to live in housing without basic public services. Their whole existence - from their health to the education of their Children's rights and their chances of finding work - is affected.

“Some municipalities refuse to provide public services to Roma because their settlements are ‘irregular’ - despite the fact that families have been living there for decades - while the government has ignored the problem.

“The Slovenian government must act to end the discrimination Roma suffer and ensure their human rights are upheld and their basic needs are met.”

Slovenia is a highly developed country and enjoys a GDP per capita above the average in the European Union. Almost all of the population have access to safe drinking water, yet many Roma communities struggle to collect even small amounts of water to drink, cook, and bathe themselves and their families.

The average water use per person per day is 150 litres rising up to 300 litres per day in urban centres. But Amnesty International found Roma families who were only able to collect between ten and 20 litres for each member to use for drinking, bathing and cooking, and which had been collected from distant sources and sometimes even polluted streams. Between 20 and 30 per cent of Roma settlements in the south-east of the country have no access to water, according to a survey conducted last year.

Roma people often find living in settlements is their only option due to discrimination they face when trying to buy or rent housing.

But, despite the state and municipalities being responsible for adequately housing Roma communities, many families find it difficult, if not impossible, to get social housing or permission to improve their current housing.

They also live in fear of forced evictions and are rarely consulted or informed about what choices are available to them.

Amnesty International is calling on the Slovenian authorities to:

-Improve the inadequate housing conditions in Roma settlements, allow for regularisation where possible and make alternative housing options available.

-Ensure security of tenure to all residents of informal settlements and offer alternative housing options, in consultation with the affected Roma communities, which do not lead to further segregation.

-Immediately ensure a minimum essential level of safe water in all Roma settlements. 

Danilo Hudorovic and his family live in a two-room house in the informal Roma settlement of Gorica vas with around 70 inhabitants. The settlement has no water supply, no electricity, no toilets, sewerage or drainage. He told Amnesty International:

“My four-year-old son has to take antibiotics very often because he gets sick a lot. Those antibiotics have to be kept in the refrigerator. We don’t have electricity. I have to drive three times a day, even in the middle of the night to get his medicine from my mother-in-law. Our baby is only a few months old. She is sick all the time. I don’t know how we will survive the winter. I tried to apply for non-profit rental housing but received an answer that the Ribnica municipality doesn’t have any empty apartments and no open public call for applications.”

A Roma woman from abjak in Novo mesto told Amnesty International:

“In the winter I have to wake up very early in the morning to set up a fire outside the shack to heat the water for Children's rights to wash themselves a bit before going to school. In the winter it is also dark very early and there is no light. A candle once almost set the house on fire.”

Rua Brajdic, a 12-year-old girl living in the informal Roma settlement of abjak in Novo mesto, without water, electricity or sanitation facilities told Amnesty International:

“I don’t go to school because I’m dirty and I smell. Other Children's rights make fun of me and call me names.”

  • Download a copy of the report (pdf)

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