Local efforts to expel Roma in Croatia
11 July 2000
According to the Zagreb daily Večernji list of May 7, 2000, the local authorities of Petrijanec, Vinica and Cestica municipalities in Varaždin county in northern Croatia are planning to move around 420 Roma from their settlement near the village of Strmec Podravski, located on the border of these three municipalities. According to the newspaper, at the end of 1999, state authorities from Zagreb had approved financial means for creating infrastructure for the settlement, but the plan was abandoned due to strong opposition from municipal authorities. At the same time, according to Večernji list, authorities in Petrijanec and Cestica decided to ban Roma from building any houses in the area. In Vinica, a similar decision was not formally adopted, but members of the municipality sent a strong message to Roma from Strmec that they were not welcome there either. Since then, some local politicians have reportedly suggested that Roma be transferred to the region of Knin, in southeastern Croatia, devastated in the recent war and abandoned by its former Serb inhabitants. In March 2000, according to the Jutarnji list of May 14, 2000, the municipal councillors of Petrijanec and Cestica asked for a session on "closing" the Romani settlement. The local Roma refused to move. The Večernji list of May 16 reported that the Centre for Social Work in Varaždin wanted to give the settlement two pre-fabricated rooms where Romani children could receive pre-school preparation classes and medical assistance, but the local authorities of Petrijanec refused to accept this donation, saying that the "settlement is not legal".
The situation in the Romani settlement is reported to be very difficult: all of the houses in the settlement were built without permission and there have been no efforts by the municipalities to legalise the settlement. Out of a population of around 420, 250 are children; of these, only 23 reportedly attend the local school, which offers only grades one and two. However, according to the Večernji list of May 14, for a decade they have been separated from non-Romani children, and the janitor regularly disinfects the classrooms which are used for Romani children. None of the Strmec Roma are employed. There is no running water in the village, so the Roma use well-water, which is reportedly unsafe.
A similar fate threatens the Roma of Moslavačka street in Popovača, in the Slavonia region of Croatia. Local authorities are trying to move these people to the Stružec settlement in the same town, according to the Večernji list of June 9, 2000. The municipal authorities justify their action by claiming that most of the local Roma have built their houses on municipal land, and promises that in the new location they will have electricity and fresh water. The Večernji list of June 12 reports that the Popovača Roma do not want to move. The daily quoted Mr Dushako Delmatho, a Romani activist from Popovača, as stating that the authorities are pressing for the removal of the Roma, because they themselves are interested in locations near the current Romani settlement.
(Večernji list, Jutarnji list)