Failure to Pay Social Aid to Roma
10 May 2003
ERRC field research conducted on November 12, 2002, revealed that Roma from the town of Shumen and the surrounding villages in eastern Bulgaria had not received the social benefits they were entitled to in months. Regional media have reported that approximately 90 percent of Roma living in Shumen were unemployed. Many Roma reported to the ERRC that, due to the fact that they had not received their social aid payments for months, they were unable to pay their electricity bills and, as a result, their electricity had been cut. Ms Anka Harizanova, a Romani woman from Varbica, near Shumen, testified to the ERRC that Roma from the town had not received their social benefits for five months. A few days before Christmas, Roma living in Shumen told the ERRC that they had finally received a portion of the social aid owed to them after four months. Further, Roma from the area reported to the ERRC that they had not yet received the wood and coal to which they were entitled. Twenty-three-year-old Ms Fanya Miroslavova and 45-year-old Ms Aneta Hristova testified that when they went to collect their wood in Shumen, they were told that they had to wait until Bulgarians took their wood, and only then would it be "the turn of the Gypsies." According to the Bulgarian national daily newspaper Monitor of November 8, 2002, the programme of the Social Ministry to give vouchers for three tonnes of wood per person to social aid recipients that began in September 2002 had already failed because the Ministry of Agriculture could not afford to give such large amount of wood away. The daily also reported that companies were refusing to accept the vouchers as they would only be paid in March 2003 for the wood and coal. As of January 7, 2003, most of the Roma in the region reportedly had received the wood or coal to which they were entitled, while those who had not yet received it were told that they would have to wait until March 2003, when more wood would become available. As of March 18, 2003, ERRC research revealed that the Roma were still trying to gain access to their wood and coal.