ERRC Action to Challenge Systemic Substandard Housing of Roma in Bulgaria

25 April 2005

The ERRC Collective Complaint alleges that these commitments are not upheld with respect to Roma at present in Bulgaria, because the Bulgarian government has adopted and/or tolerated a range of policies and practices that strike at the fundamental basis of family existence, namely the need for security, privacy and shelter, and freedom from racial and other discrimination.

The ERRC Collective Complaint is based on long-term ERRC research into the housing situation of Roma in Bulgaria, undertaken independently as well as with partner organisations. The conclusions of this research indicate that:

  • Very large numbers of Roma -- in particular those Romani individuals residing in informal slum settlements -- are precluded from legally registering their housing; Roma as an ethnic group have been systemically compelled to reside or left in situations in which, as a group, they face no reasonable alternate options other than residing in housing lacking a legal basis, and therefore in a state of permanent high insecurity and under generalised threat of forced eviction;
  • This housing is in the main of significantly poorer quality than housing in other areas and inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians or other ethnic groups; Romani settlements frequently lack access to communal services and infrastructure;
  • In practice authorities have on numerous occasions forcibly evicted Roma from housing without providing them with adequate alternate accommodation or sufficient compensation or adequate redress for destroyed housing, thus rendering many Romani families homeless or vulnerable to other human rights abuses;
  • A number of major Romani settlements are today under permanent threat of wholesale or partial destruction as a result of urban plans, and inhabitants have in the main been excluded from decisions about their housing fates and left uninformed for significant periods of time as to plans for their future housing arrangements;
  • Despite adopting policy commitments to improve Romani housing, Bulgarian law- and policy-makers have not acted sufficiently to see these commitments realised;
  • Despite the clear emergence and development of a right to adequate housing under international law, Bulgarian lawmakers have yet to adopt domestic law guarantees recognising a right to adequate housing, and have therefore failed to secure adequately the right to adequate housing under Bulgaria's domestic legal order. Indeed, in recent years Bulgarian lawmakers have actually eroded previously existing protections.

The Collective Complaint alleges that, taken together with their very large scale character, these issues give rise to systemic violations of the rights ensured in Article 16, read together and/or independently of the Revised Charter's Article E non-discrimination guarantees, as well as other provisions of international law. The Collective Complaint also alleges that Bulgarian policies and practices in the field of housing for Romani families constitute racial segregation, as banned under international law.

In documenting the human rights situation of Roma in Bulgaria, the ERRC works closely with partner organisations Romani Baht and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

For further information on the ERRC Collective Complaint, please contact ERRC Research and Policy Coordinator Savelina Danova-Russinova:


Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities