Eviction Fever in Slovakia
16 December 2004
A wave of forced evictions is hitting Roma in Slovakia, primarily in the eastern part of the country. According to information provided to the ERRC by the Bratislava-based organisation Milan Šimečka Foundation (MŠF), while thus far only several Romani families have been forcibly evicted, many more have been threatened with eviction, and subsequently, homelessness.
In the Stará Tehelňa Romani neighbourhood in the eastern Slovak city of Prešov, on July 8, 2004, eighteen Romani occupants were evicted from their flat after having been served notice to leave their flat in September 2002. As of October 6, the families were reportedly living in the basement of the building and some of their children had been taken away. According to the MŠF, out of one hundred and seventy-six municipally owned flats in Stará Tehelňa, rent was regularly paid for only twenty-six, causing an accumulated rental debt of 3 million Slovak crowns (approximately 74,570 Euro). The complex for “rent non-payers and socially unadaptable persons” opened only at the end of 2001 housing, almost exclusively, Roma, according to research conducted in the fall of 2003 by the ERRC and the MŠF.
According to ERRC research, since 2001, numerous Romani families have been evicted from their municipally owned flats in the southeastern Slovak town of Tornaľa. This year, four families have been evicted and between five and ten additional Romani families face eviction following a municipal council meeting the week of September 12. The municipality reportedly plans to provide the families with three months alternative accommodation. The Romani families concerned were long-time residents of the flats with rental debts of 50,000 Slovak crowns (approximately 1,250 Euro) or higher. The MŠF informed the ERRC that this sum is the equivalent of approximately ten months worth of rental fees. The municipality has housed some of the evicted families in portacabins on the periphery of the town without electricity or water supply. Additionally, on the basis of interviews with several of the evicted Roma, the ERRC believes that at least some of the evictions were conducted in contravention of international standards to which Slovakia has committed itself. The MŠF reported that several of the evicted Romani families received eviction notices dated later than the actual date of eviction. Numerous Roma with whom the ERRC spoke stated that many non-Roma living in municipally owned flats in the town also had high rental debts but were not subject to eviction and resettlement in portacabins without basic services at the periphery of town. Reportedly, the mayor of Tornaľa has also asked some Romani families relocate to the surrounding counties; an idea which has been widely protested by the Romani families and mayors in the surrounding areas. The MŠF also informed the ERRC that some of the flats are owned by a rental agency in Rimavská Sobota: None of the Romani residents of such flats have yet been evicted, but if they are, Tornaľa municipal authorities will reportedly not provide alternative accommodation. The ERRC, together with local counsel, is providing legal representation for the affected families.
The MŠF also informed the ERRC that the tenancy contracts of thirty-two families inhabiting municipally owned flats were terminated in the eastern Slovak town of Čierna nad Tisou: fifteen families have reportedly been served with eviction notices and the municipality has commenced court proceedings to obtain eviction orders for an additional fifteen families. There are reportedly one hundred and twelve long-term rent non-payers in Čierna nad Tisou’s municipally owned flats. As of August 20, the municipality had cut the supply of gas for heating and cooking to the buildings in which the flats are located. According to the Slovak daily newspaper Korzár of October 6, 2004, the number of terminated rental contracts had risen to fifty-one, forty-two families had been served eviction notices and the municipality had initiated forty-two court proceedings to obtain eviction orders.
Similarly, the MŠF reported that Romani non rent-payers of municipally owned flats in the eastern Slovak towns of Bardejov and Kráľovský Chlmec were facing eviction. In Bardejov, local authorities refused to renew the rental contract of a Romani family, which was forced to move into another house, while another family reportedly also faces refusal by the municipality to renew its rental contract.
In another case, according to the Slovak newspaper Korzar of June 25, 2004, at 6:00 AM on June 24, in the presence of police, bulldozers destroyed five makeshift shacks, which housed thirty-eight Roma, in the village of Furca near the eastern Slovak city of Košice. According to the article, an eviction order, dated June 15, had been delivered to the residents only one day prior to the eviction on June 23. A bus was reportedly at the scene to take the families to their registered place of permanent residence. The families had lived in Furca for some time; for instance, Mr Ondrej Žiga was reported to have lived in the area for four and a half years.
Otherwise, the eastern Slovak cities of Levoča and Spišská Nová Ves have announced plans to sell housing complexes which house non rent-payers – primarily Roma – to private buyers, according to the MŠF. The privatisation of flat ownership threatens to result in mass evictions.
The MŠF pointed out that the Roma who have already been evicted, as well as those currently threatened with eviction, are long-term non rent-payers. Since changes to the social welfare law in February 2004, the number of persons failing to pay their rent has dramatically increased; for instance, the MŠF stated that in the eastern Slovak town of Trebišov, every Romani resident of a newly built housing complex stopped paying their rent beginning in February 2004.
(ERRC, Korzar, MŠF)