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Serbia: Romani Families Face Uncertain Future One Year After Forced Eviction of Belvil Informal Settlement

26 April 2013

Budapest, Belgrade, 26 April 2013: A number of Romani families are still living in unsanitary and degrading conditions a full year after being forcibly evicted from their Belgrade settlement. Praxis and the European Roma Rights Centre are highlighting the situation of many of the Roma evicted from Belvil, who do not have adequate housing and do not have any support in the process of integration. The NGOs are also calling on Serbian authorities to halt forced evictions and to find positive and sustainable solutions for all those evicted to date.

One year ago, approximately 1000 Roma were forcibly evicted from the Belgrade settlement near Belvil. Roma with an address registered in Belgrade, approximately half of those evicted, were resettled in metal containers in the city. The other half (133 Romani families) were forced to return to their previous places of permanent residence. Most families returned to small, impoverished municipalities in the south of Serbia.

In Niš, local authorities provided three families with accommodation in an abandoned warehouse, where they faced three months without water, and eight months without electricity. The families continue to live in very difficult and unhygienic conditions incompatible with international standards on adequate alternative accommodation, as highlighted by the Commissioner for Equality Protection last year. In addition, all of the affected families in Niš lack security of tenure; none of them have received any formal document regulating their stay in the facilities provided by local authorities. This makes them vulnerable to potential new evictions.

Roma resettled in Belgrade have generally fared better than those who were sent to the south, however some have faced attacks. On 1 May 2012, around 15 to 20 masked individuals attacked the settlement in Jabučki Rit, where some Belvil residents were moved to. The masked men shouted racist slogans including "Serbia for Serbs, Roma out of Serbia" and drew a swastika on one of the metal containers where the Roma were living.

Forced evictions continue to take place in Belgrade, contrary to international human rights standards. Since April 2012, at least 27 families (101 Romani men, women and children) have been evicted from informal settlements in Belgrade, including the eviction of residents of the container settlements based on criteria that the Commissioner for Equality Protection found to be discriminatory.

The ERRC and Praxis welcome the efforts of the City of Belgrade and the European Commission to find sustainable and adequate housing solutions for the evicted Roma who were placed in container settlements in Belgrade. Authorities must also act to provide adequate accommodation for Roma who were sent to the south of Serbia.

The government and local authorities should halt forced evictions, adopt the legal framework on evictions in line with international human rights law and, with the assistance of the international community, secure sufficient resources to guarantee fulfillment of the right to adequate housing especially for vulnerable groups, including Roma.

The press release is also available in Serbian.

For more information:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre

Danilo Ćurčić
Legal Analyst 

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