Serbia: Roma housed in metal containers and segregated after forced evictions - New report

Roma families in Serbia have been left housed in metal containers in segregated settlements, or returned to poverty and inadequate housing in southern Serbia, following an increasing series of forced evictions from Belgrade since April 2009, according to a new report from Amnesty International released today (7 April).

The report, “ Home is more than a roof over your head: Roma denied adequate housing in Serbia ”, urges Serbian authorities to halt forced evictions of Roma in Belgrade and provide them with adequate housing.

Amnesty is asking people to join a new petition at www.amnesty.org.uk/roma calling on the Serbian authorities to stop forced evictions, on the eve of International Roma Day.

Many of the forced evictions are part of a 2009 City of Belgrade Assembly plan envisaging large scale infrastructure projects funded by loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.

Denied the right to adequate housing, around a third of Belgrade’s Roma population have no option but to live in informal settlements, where they have no regular water supply, no sanitation or other basic services. Unable to register as citizens of Belgrade, they are often denied access to employment, social security, health care and education

Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Serbia researcher, said:

“Instead of halting forced evictions the Serbian authorities in Belgrade are carrying out more and more, driving Roma communities from their homes and forcing them to live in inadequate housing.

“They must stop this practice if they are to abide by their international obligations. This includes guaranteeing Roma the right to housing provided with sanitation, within reach of public facilities and employment and secure from future forced evictions.”

At the end of March 2010, 20-25 families were evicted from an informal settlement in the Èukarica area of Belgrade. The following month, about 38 Romani families were evicted from an informal settlement in the same area, and then subsequently sent back to southern Serbia; Roma living at another site in Èukarica remain at risk of forced eviction. In October and December 2010, another 62 people were evicted from different parts of New Belgrade. The planned “resettlement” in early 2011 of the residents of a settlement at Belvil in Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) was temporarily suspended following pressure from various organisations.

The plans are set to affect the residents of at least 50 of the 100 Roma settlements within the City of Belgrade.   

Roma disproportionately – almost exclusively – make up the population of informal settlements across Serbia. One Roma woman told Amnesty International researchers:

“The authorities act as if it was our fault that we live in the settlements, that it is our choice. What other choice have we got? If you are Roma you haven't got many choices.”   

Within these communities, there are many vulnerable groups, including Roma who fled the 1999 war in Kosovo. Other Roma who have sought work or international protection in west European countries, and are now being forcibly returned to Serbia, also end up living in these informal settlements.

Sian Jones said:

“The authorities in Serbia must ensure that Roma communities are consulted on any proposals, or possible options for resettlement, and given the opportunity to propose alternatives, should they wish to do so.

“The authorities should also identify social housing and other housing options in locations not segregated by ethnicity to ensure that Roma families have the choice of housing outside Roma only-settlements.”

In its report Amnesty International urges the Serbian authorities to:
- Stop all forced evictions, and guarantee that infrastructure projects do not result in any further forced evictions;
- Ensure that the eviction of the Belvil settlement and any further evictions in Belgrade are carried out according to international standards;
- Ensure evicted Roma have access to effective legal remedies including compensation and adequate alternative accommodation;
- Establish a legal framework to prohibit forced evictions and ensure that any further resettlements by the City of Belgrade do not constitute forced evictions.

Roma are documented as living in Serbia from at least the 14th Century. According to government estimates, their number is between 250,000 and 500,000. The majority of Roma suffer widespread and systematic discrimination in Serbia.

  • Read the full report: Home is more than a roof over your head’ /strong> (pdf)
  • Take Action: Sign our petition calling on the Serbian authorities to stop forced evictions /li>

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