Aydarov and others v Bulgaria (third-party intervention, pending)

Facts

The applicants are two families living in a settlement established in the 1960s and inhabited only by Roma. Non-Roma living nearby made racially-charged complaints about the settlement to the authorities who, in turn, threatened to enforce order to demolish the applicants’ homes and the rest of the settlement.  

The ERRC’s Third-Party Intervention

The ERRC made two points. The first was that there is a crisis of forced evictions of Roma in Europe, linked to residential exclusion and segregation of Roma, and symptomatic of widespread anti-Gypsyism. The ERRC set out the evidence concerning the dramatic extent of Romani poverty in Europe, including data showing that the vast majority of Roma in Eastern Europe live in deep poverty. The ERRC’s purpose in presenting this information was to stress that the fact that many Roma live in informal housing, leaving them vulnerable to forced evictions, is not a “natural” or merely unfortunate phenomenon, but one of the clearest manifestations of anti-Gypsyism in Europe today. According to the ERRC, this situation was the product of accumulated generations of exclusion promoted or, at best, ignored and left to fester by officials.  The threat of forced eviction was the most visible of a series of tools that authorities used to intimidate and control Romani populations, alongside the threat of taking Romani children into care, the segregation of Romani children into separate, inferior schools or classes, police brutality and intimidation, and restrictions on access to social assistance. The ERRC urged the Court to view and describe the current practice of forced evictions of Roma as a manifestation of anti-Gypsyism. The ERRC’s second point was that the Court should adopt a specific approach when assessing claims of race discrimination in the context of forced evictions. The ERRC proposed three principles, which emerged from the Court’s case law and anti-discrimination law in Europe more generally: when a particular eviction only affects Roma, the burden is on the State to show that the eviction does not amount to racial harassment; when a particular eviction only affects Roma, the notion of indirect discrimination is automatically applicable and the burden of proof shifts to the Respondent Government; and discriminatory statements by anyone connected to the eviction (particularly public officials and nearby residents) are evidence of harassment and direct discrimination.

The Court’s statement of facts in the case can be found here.

The ERRC’s third-party intervention can be found here.

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