Housing problems of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina

12 April 2000

Four years after the warring parties ratified the Dayton Peace Agreement that provided for the return of refugees into the country, Roma who have returned to Bosnia from western Europe still do not have access to their pre-war homes in the vast majority of cases.

In Bijeljina, Republika Srpska entity, only eleven Romani families have managed to move the occupants of their houses out. Most persons who have been persuaded to leave occupied houses have demanded and received 3000-6000 German marks (around 1530-3060 euro). In some instances, up to six Romani families share one reclaimed house, according to the Sarajevo-based weekly Dani of November 20, 1999. The magazine also wrote that in some cases, institutional bodies of the government of Republika Srpska are presently located in usurped Romani houses. Examples cited include the Institute for School Publishing and the Institute for Education of Republika Srpska, Secret Police, several institutions of the Republika Srpska Army, and the Ministry for Refugees and Displaced Persons. Several thousand Roma from Bijeljina are presently in Berlin, under threat of removal from Germany to Bosnia.

The repatriation of Roma from western Europe to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other entity of the country, continues. Mr Bajro Beganović, secretary of the Tuzla-based  Union of Roma of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told Dani that buses with Roma arrive very often from Berlin to Sarajevo and Tuzla, and that approximately 120 Romani families returned from Berlin to Zavidovići in central Bosnia during 1999. Sarajevo daily Dnevni avaz wrote on January 14, 2000, that in Zavidovići only three out of 120 Roma returnee families have permanent and satisfactory housing, while most others are temporarily placed in unauthorised and substandard locations. In the neighbouring municipality of Kakanj, the Roma settlement named Varda houses 108 families, out of which not a single one has water supply or sanitary infrastructure, and around one hundred school-aged children do not attend school. This is primarily because their living conditions hinder them from adequate preparation, according to Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje on November 2, 1999.

(Dani, Dnevni avaz, Oslobodjenje)

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