Roma Experience Difficulties Accessing Housing in Bosnia and Herzegovina

28 May 2004

On December 1 and 2, 2003, a group of Roma from Prijedor were prevented from commencing construction of housing on munici-pally provided property in the Kozarusa settlement near the town of Kozarac by Bosniac and Serb residents of the area, according to the testimony of Mr Redzep Hatić, president of the Roma Association of Prijedor, to the ERRC/Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Republika Srpska (HCHRRS). Mr Hatić reported that the Bosniac and Serb locals dug a ditch around the site, which formerly housed a school, to prevent trucks from delivering materials, allegedly because they wanted to reopen the school. However, Mr Hatić was of the opinion that the reason the Bosniac and Serb locals took actions to prevent the commencement of construction was that they did not want Roma to settle in their town. As of March 10, 2004, the Prijedor municipal authorities had decided on a new location for the housing project and construction has started. The Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons in the Republika Srpska was to provide funding for the hazardous housing project, according to ERRC/HCHRRS research.

According to Mr Hatić, the Roma for whom the new housing was intended were long-term residents of Prijedor before the war at which time they were expelled from the area and all but three of their homes were destroyed. Prijedor municipal authorities should provide sites for the construction of thirty homes for the Romani returnees. However, Mr Hatić stated, the location of their former homes is now slated for commercial development and apartment projects despite the fact that the Roma reportedly owned the land. In November 2003, when they were informed of the municipality's intention to move them to the Kozarusa settlement, the Roma agreed, feeling they had no alternative.

In other news related to housing and tensions between Romani returnees to Bosnia and Herzegovina and non-Roma, in October 2003, Mr Paso Muratović, a Romani man who lived in Sweden for 15 years, found his home in the Veseli Brijeg Romani settlement near Banja Luka destroyed by fire when he returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the Banja Luka-based daily newspaper Nezavisne Novine of December 6, 2003. Mr Muratović alleged that the former tenant of his house, Mr M.S., threatened to set fire to this and another house owned by Mr Muratović after being told to move out, as Mr Muratović was returning to the country to live in his home. According to the daily, Mr Muratović reported the fire to the police, who were investigating the cause of the fire. As of May 5, 2004, the investigation was ongoing. (ERRC, HCHRRS, Nezavisne Novine)

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