ERRC Welcomes UN Special Rapporteur’s Housing Statement, asks for Positive Solutions for Roma Migrants in London
11 September 2013
Budapest, London, 11 September 2013: The European Roma Rights Centre welcomes today’s statement from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing on her visit to the UK. The Special Rapporteur rightly highlighted the housing problems that Gypsy and Traveller communities face, saying that she received “multiple testimonies on the shortage of sufficient, adequate and safe sites for [these] communities across the United Kingdom, many of whom feel this is part of the stigma and discrimination they regularly face from Governments and society as a whole.”
The ERRC would also like to draw attention to possible rights violations faced by migrant Roma from Bulgaria and Romania who have travelled to London. ERRC legal staff carried out a fact finding mission into the events around the removal of Romanian Roma from Marble Arch on July 19, 2013 as well as the situation of those currently living there. During our trip, staff met with the people at Marble Arch and several NGOs dealing with Roma, migration and homelessness issues. There were several areas of concern.
Citizens from Romania and Bulgaria (including Roma) are denied access to housing services such as shelters. Housing services, even where privately run, are partly funded through welfare payments. Citizens from these states cannot access welfare payments under the terms of the accession agreements to the European Union. This situation exposes them to hardships which may amount to inhuman or degrading treatment, in breach of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Most of the Roma interviewed at Marble Arch complained about almost daily immigration controls and in particular the requirement to repeatedly prove the date of their entry to the UK, which they perceived as harassment. Many also complained that local businesses were refusing to serve them as paying customers.
The ERRC is strongly concerned that aggressive immigration enforcement creates a false appearance of criminality, hardening local attitudes and fostering racial prejudice. Furthermore, by instilling feelings of uncertainty, it may hinder lawful integration efforts, such as the pursuit of self-employment, and it dissuades local NGOs from providing support services such as language classes or professional training.
The ERRC commends the Special Rapporteur for meeting with the Roma at Marble Arch, and will assist her efforts to ensure that the UK is complying with its obligations under international law to respect, protect and fulfil the right to adequate housing. It will be providing the Special Rapporteur with further information and more in-depth analysis in advance of her full report later this year.
For more information, contact:
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre