Community Opposition Prevents Temporary Housing for Roma in Belgrade
01 February 2006
According to the Belgrade-based radio station B92 report of July 14, 2005, the city of Belgrade government decided not to build temporary residences for Roma living under Gazela Bridge. The decision followed significant public opposition faced by the city of Belgrade government in its attempt to solve the housing problems of Roma living in slums under the Gazela Bridge. The city proposed to build a housing complex in the Dr. Ivan Ribar community in Novi Belgrade. Residents of the community feared that the temporary housing for Roma would turn their neighbourhood into a ghetto and requested instead that the Roma be distributed throughout the city's neighbourhoods. According to one community member, "At night they light tires and plastic on fire, play loud music, take water out of the fire hydrants, hook themselves up to the electricity we pay for." Citizens of the Dr. Ivan Ribar community held protests against the move and demanded a meeting with the city's Deputy Mayor.
City officials reportedly claimed that the temporary housing structures would have satisfactory living conditions, as well as schools and police surveillance. Municipal official Zoran Plaskovic stated, "We do not think that they will in a month, or six months, or even two years adapt to urban living habits, but this is a necessary process. If you do not give people a chance to begin to live under urban conditions, they will never be able to get used to such conditions."
Roma in the Gazela Bridge community reported that no one had approached them about moving, but those individuals interviewed asserted that they would accept any upgrade in living conditions.