Evictions of Kosovo Roma in Serbia and Montenegro
10 July 2002
Kosovo Roma internally displaced in Belgrade are under constant threat of forced evictions, according to the reports of the Belgrade-based human rights organisation Humanitarian Law Center (HLC). In an April 12, 2002 press statement, HLC reported the situation of six Romani families, altogether 27 persons, including 17 children younger than 15, who settled in improvised houses made of cardboard, pieces of wood and plastic sheets in a field near the Autokomanda area of Belgrade. Since the community moved from Kosovo to Serbia, they have lived in three different locations in Belgrade; each time, the local authorities and the police forcibly evicted them and demolished their shelters. According to the testimony of Ragip Azirović, a 17-year-old Romani youth from this group, given to HLC on an unspecified date, officials of the municipality of Voždovac and police officers had visited the settlement and had told the Roma that they must move before April 12, 2002. Ragip Azirović told HLC that his 2-year-old son Ivan, 1-year-old son Stiven and two-month old daughter Senada slept on cardboard in the shack in which the family lives. Ms Indira Ademin, a Romani woman from the settlement, asked the officialswhat the Roma should do, to which the officials reportedly replied that this was "none of their business" and that the settlement would be demolished unless the Roma moved away before April 12, 2002. On May 24, 2002, HLC told the ERRC that the families succumbed to the pressure and moved to another inadequate location shortly after the deadline.
Previously, on March 21, 2002, HLC reported on a similar case in Belgrade, in which municipal officials in Novi Beograd threatened to move forcibly a group of nine internally displaced Romani families from Kosovo from a plot of land in the illegal Romani settlement Tošin bunar. The families reportedly number 67 people, including 27 children under the age of 6. According to HLC, city officials sold the plot the families lived on, which is part of the Tošin bunar settlement,to a private company, and this company requested that the municipality move the Roma from the land. According to the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Minority Rights Center (MRC), an ERRC partner in monitoring the situation of Roma in Serbia and Montenegro, municipal officials issued an April 1, 2002 deadline to the Roma to evacuate the area. In an April 18, 2002 interview, Mr Jusuf Bajrami, a member of the special delegation of Roma from Tošin bunar that represents Roma in negotiations with authorities, informed MRC that in September 2001, the private company had offered the Romani families 200-300 German marks per family (approximately 100–150 euros) at a meeting with the Novi Beograd Municipality to leave their houses and move away. According to Mr Bajrami, most of the Roma did not agree and shortly afterwards, unknown men appeared in the settlement and allegedly threatened Mr Bajrami that he would "disappear" if he refused to move within 24 hours. As HLC reported on May 24, 2002, when their appeals to the local authorities to provide temporary shelter for the Roma met no response, the Roma in question voluntarily moved to the part of the illegal settlement out of the boundaries of the land sold to the private company. For many of these Roma, this was reportedly a second or even third forced removal.
(ERRC, Humanitarian Law Center, Minority Rights Center)