ERRC Letter to Montenegrin Prime Minister
10 January 2002
On January 10, 2002, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) sent a letter to Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic to express concern at the situation of displaced Roma from Kosovo in Montenegro. The ERRC noted that according to reports, a number of displaced Kosovo Roma presently live in extreme poverty, with inadequate housing, health and food provisions. In the letter, the ERRC urges Prime Minister Vujanovic to take measures without delay to provide adequate shelter as well as any other form of assistance necessary to ensure that the fundamental social and economic rights of the internally displaced Kosovo Roma are secured. Further information on Roma in Montenegro is available on the Internet at: http://errc.org. The text of the ERRC letter follows:
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is concerned about the situation of displaced Kosovo Roma in the Republic of Montenegro, Yugoslavia.
The ERRC has received information that around ninety persons from twenty Romani families, mostly displaced from the province of Kosovo and currently settled in the Lovanja settlement, struggle daily just to survive. Lovanja is located in the Tivat Field (Tivatsko polje), in the territory of Kotor municipality, on the Montenegrin coast of the Adriatic Sea. According to the Tivat-based non-governmental organisation MARGO - Association for Help and Support to Marginal Society Groups, the Roma of Lovanja live on the edge of a local garbage dump in highly substandard housing conditions in improvised huts. The settlement does not have a regular supply of potable water or electricity supply, and is under threat of flooding in heavy rainfall. The closest medical facility is reportedly in the town of Kotor, around 8 km away from the settlement, and there are no public transport connections. Reportedly, the local authorities had decided to relocate the settlement to a more humane environment in 1999, but no changes have been implemented to date.
Roma in the settlement live in extreme poverty. About one half of the settlement's inhabitants are under the age of 18, and none of the children attend school. One third of the adults in Lovanja reportedly suffer from chronic diseases, or have a physical disability, and are thus unable to work. The only way of making a living for the Lovanja Roma is the collection of scrap materials and occasional manual labour paid by the hour.
According to the Secretariat for Displaced Persons of Montenegro, Lovanja is categorised as an "unofficial centre for displaced persons". Unofficial camps, which largely outnumber official camps, are self-made temporary shelters. According to MARGO, no Roma have been assigned accommodation in the official camps for displaced persons in Montenegro. Additionally, the current material situation of Kosovo Roma in Montenegro is worsening, due to the fact that many of the international non-governmental organisations providing humanitarian assistance in Montenegro have closed down their programmes, or are in the final stages of operation. Restricted humanitarian aid delivered to the needy is therefore diminishing, and the Roma of Lovanja are therefore presently malnourished with the prospect of real starvation a serious threat.
The ERRC notes that Yugoslavia is a signatory to a number of international human rights treaties, notably the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, thus engaging responsibility in guaranteeing inter alia the right to an adequate standard of living (including adequate food, clothing and housing) (Article 11), medical care (Article 12), and education (Article 13). Additionally, Yugoslavia has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) whose Article 5(e) commits parties to guaranteeing, without distinction as to race, economic and social rights, including the right to housing, medical care and education.
The ERRC additionally notes that Principle 18 of the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, prepared by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, states that:
1. All internally displaced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living.
2. At the minimum, regardless of the circumstances, and without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to:
- Essential food and potable water;
- Basic shelter and housing;
- Appropriate clothing; and
- Essential medical services and sanitation.
Honourable Prime Minister Vujanovic, the ERRC urges your office to take measures without delay to provide adequate shelter as well as any other form of assistance necessary to ensure that the fundamental social and economic rights of the internally displaced Kosovo Roma in the Lovanja settlement are secured. We respectfully request to be informed of any actions taken by your office in connection with these issues.
Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:
Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic
Vlada Crne Gore
Fax: **381 81 242 329
Telephone: **381 81 242 530