Roma families are being kicked out of their homes to make way for the development of Belgrade, according to a new report that we launched today from the Serbian capital, ahead of tomorrow’s International Roma Day.
Roma are discriminated against right across Europe and Serbia is sadly no different. Watching the video footage from Amnesty’s research trip to Serbia, I was amazed that in the heart of Europe so many people were living in what are effectively shanty towns, made of whatever materials are available. Interviewees told us that they have little choice but to live in these informal settlements, owing to the discrimination they face in terms of housing, employment and access to services. 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.”
But now these families are being deprived of even these rudimentary homes. When the bulldozers move in, scores of people are uprooted and shunted off to live in poverty in southern Serbia, or dumped in segregated Roma-only settlements on the outskirts of the city – modern-day ghettoes – where they live in metal containers. Others move to other informal settlements, sometimes without water, electricity or sanitation.
The reason for the forced evictions, which have been going on since 2009, is the development of Belgrade, funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European investment bank – both institutions of the EU. And the EU should not be funding projects which contribute to human rights abuses.
People have a right to adequate housing, and to be protected from forced evictions. We believe that the Serbian authorities have failed to safeguard Roma communities against forced eviction. And they have failed to protect Roma people’s rights to adequate housing without distinction on the basis of ethnicity.
Roma communities have been fighting back and challenging evictions. 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. But at least 50 of the 100 Roma settlements in Belgrade are likely to be affected.
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