Forced Eviction of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina
07 February 2004
According to ERRC field research, over 30 Romani families, comprising at least 150 people, were forcibly evicted from a municipally owned building referred to as "Samacki dom" in the town of Zavidovići in the Zenica-Doboj Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina at the beginning of August 2003. According to former Romani residents with whom the ERRC spoke on August 5, 2003, a female employee of the Zavidovici municipality, accompanied by two police officers and several workers of the Public Utilities Company, visited the Samacki dom building on an unspecified date in late July and told the Roma that they had to leave the building by July 31, 2003, without stating any reason for the pending eviction or offering alternative housing. After the municipal employee left, and apparently following her orders, the workers reportedly switched off electricity and water supply in the building and proceeded to demolish the flats, breaking glass panes, taking out window frames, etc. This activity reportedly continued throughout the day. Local Roma informed the ERRC that they were not presented with written eviction orders. As of August 5, 2003, the date of the ERRC visit, five Romani families still lived in the Samacki dom building, including a significant number of children ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years. According to local Roma, on August 8, 2003, the municipal employee visited the remaining families again, accompanied by several police officers, and the final eviction took place.
None of the Roma living in the building had legal permission to live in the Samacki dom building. Many were internally displaced persons, but not officially recognised as such, and many did not have personal documents. Mr Saban Frljanović, who lived in the building with his wife and their six children, expressed concern to the ERRC that the Roma were ordered out of the Samacki dom building at the end of summer, with the coming of colder weather. Ms Ajka Bajrić, one of the evicted Roma, informed the ERRC that municipal authorities did not provide any of the more than 30 evicted families with alternative accommodation. Some persons, such as Ms Munevera Tahirović, a 22-year-old woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy, her husband Mr Muharem Bajrić and their three children, and Mr Frljanović's family, moved into small, abandoned and dilapidated shacks without water supply. Other Roma evicted from the Samacki dom building moved to the Novo naselje settlement of Zavidovići, where they lived as of August 25, 2003 in small and substandard pre-fabricated housing. Reportedly, many families share flats, as they cannot afford paying full rents. The most desperate of the Roma reportedly lived under tents. Others moved to other informal settlements, such as the Rupin Dol Romani settlement of Zavidovići, which has its own share of problems. Although it has existed for over a hundred years, and numerous Roma from the settlement have legal ownership of their land, the Romani houses in this area are considered illegal because local authorities have zoned it as a forest, ignoring the existence of generations of Roma living in the settlement, according to local Roma.
On September 1, 2003, the ERRC sent a letter to Mr Sabahudin Viso, Minister for Labour, Social Policy and Refugees in Zenica-Doboj Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressing concern that Bosnian authorities have failed to provide alternative accommodation to the Roma, urging Bosnian authorities to undertake measures to provide adequate housing to the already evicted Romani families and ensure security of tenure to all Roma on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As of January 15, 2004, the ERRC had not received a response to its letter.