ERRC/COHRE Housing Rights Action Before European Committee of Social Rights

07 February 2004

In December 2003, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), two premier human rights organisations in Europe, teamed up to undertake joint action before the European Committee of Social Rights.

The housing situation of Roma has, in some countries, reached crisis proportions in recent years. A number of countries in Europe have weakened provisions protecting the rights of tenants, while simultaneously failing to adopt laws to combat discrimination in the field of housing. In many countries, progress on the integration of Roma in housing has in recent years been reversed, with renewed or exacerbated racial segregation in the field of housing reported. Some countries have never acted or have only acted extremely inadequately to recognize the right to housing for all, and to combat abuses of the right to adequate housing. Due to an outbreak of anti-Romani sentiment in Europe, such abuses are more and more common where Roma are concerned. Forced evictions of Roma, absent the provision of even rudimentary alternate accommodation, are reported with very disturbing frequency.

As a result of the foregoing, in 2001, the ERRC and COHRE joined forces to document the housing rights situation of Roma in Europe, and to begin acting to combat ongoing housing rights abuses. The submissions presented this week to the European Committee of Social Rights are the first major joint action in this area by the two organisations.

Signator parties to the European Social Charter and the Revised European Social Charter are currently under review for compliance with Article 16 of both Charters on the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection. Timed for that review, the ERRC and COHRE sent joint submissions on six countries - Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Turkey - focusing on the rights of Roma to adequate housing and other social protection issues. The submissions highlight issues related to:

  • Inadequate legal regimes for combating housing discrimination, and in some cases even explicitly discriminatory rules on housing or related issues;
  • Forced evictions of Roma;
  • Racial segregation in the field of housing;
  • Substandard or extremely substandard housing for Roma;
  • Blocked access to social housing;
  • Discrimination and other arbitrary treatment in related social protection fields.

The submissions feature a number of recommendations, aimed at ensuring that Roma are protected from housing rights violations, and receive just remedy if and when their housing rights are abused.

The submissions present a range of first-hand research documentation undertaken by the ERRC and partner organisations in recent years, including housing rights research supported by grants from the British Embassy in Budapest and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. The full texts of the submissions are available at: www.errc.org.

In the coming weeks and months, the ERRC and COHRE look to the Committee of Social Rights to make clear that in the key area of housing, states must act to ensure that none suffer abuses of their fundamental rights.

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