Report Highlights Factors Behind Forced Eviction of Roma
19 June 2007
A report jointly released by the Milan Simecka Foundation, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and ERRC in January 2007 revealed that Roma in Slovakia are being forcibly evicted from their homes and forced to live in segregated areas. According to the report, the reasons are varied. Authorities, for example, no longer require a court order for an eviction and their obligation to provide alternative housing has been greatly diminished in Slovakia. Other factors include reforms to the social assistance program in 2004 that make it more difficult for Roma in particular to regularly pay their rent and utility costs; resistance of local authorities to use programmes to help Roma get out of debt; and the practice of excessive billing of Romani tenants for services such as water and energy.
The report was launched at a roundtable discussion with representatives from civil society and the Ministry of Construction and Regional Development, the Ministry for Labour, Family and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Association of Local Municipalities and the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights, amongst others. The participants discussed the principal factors that emerged from the report's review of concrete cases, including:
- Amendments to the Civil Code of 2001, which weakened the legal position of tenants in municipal housing. A court order is no longer required for an eviction and the obligations on local authorities to provide alternative housing have been significantly reduced.
- The radical reforms to the social assistance system in 2004, which included a fundamental revision of housing allowances and the rights of the unemployed, weakening the ability of indigent tenants, particularly Roma, to regularly pay their rent and utility costs.
- Historical long-term negligence of the problem of nonpaying of rents and utilities and the resistance of local authorities to using mechanisms to assist Roma in paying back debts, e.g., through the institution of the special receiver.
- The unfair practice of excessive billing of Roma tenants for utilities, such as water and energy.
- Municipalities moving Roma from housing in central locations, often on false pretences such as building safety, and placing them in newly built but segregated and very low quality buildings on the outskirts of towns or allocating them poor housing bought in small towns. This practice applies even to regularly rent paying Roma who have clear rights under Slovak law to alternative housing of an equal standard.
Speakers from international organisations expressed concern that these factors violate human rights, such as rights to housing, social security, respect for the home and equality, contained in international treaties to which Slovakia is a party.