Roma in Serbia and Montenegro Live in Substandard Conditions
10 May 2003
ERRC field investigation conducted in Serbia and Montenegro showed that Roma throughout the country live in substandard conditions, which, at times, leads to health problems. On November 11, 2002, the ERRC, in partnership with the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Minority Rights Center (MRC), visited the Mali Krivak Romani settlement in Smederevo, east of Belgrade. Ms Ljubiša Rajičić, vice-president of the Democratic Romany Association in Smederevo, informed the ERRC/MRC that there were around seven hundred homes in the Mali Krivak Romani settlement. Three external water taps reportedly service all of the houses, and during the summer the quantity of water in the settlement is reduced. Romani inhabitants of the settlement reportedly also have problems with electricity and there is no sewage system in the settlement. According to Ms Rajičić, one section of the settlement, in which there are approximately forty houses, floods with water when it rains and the water collects, creating a source of disease. In a meeting with the local government, Roma from the settlement were reportedly told not to expect any improvements in the community for the next five to ten years, even though 70 percent of the inhabitants reportedly pay taxes.
The ERRC conducted a field mission to the Dudara Romani settlement in Zrenjanin, northern Serbia, on October 11, 2002. Mr Afz Ametov, a 44-year-old Romani man, told the ERRC that the settlement is made up of fifty-two illegally built homes. There is reportedly no sanitation infrastructure in the settlement. In 1993, the residents reportedly applied to legalise the houses but were refused because of the planned enlargement of a nearby graveyard. In September 1994, the Zrenjanin City Planning Authority decided to destroy all empty homes in the settlement, however, according to Mr Ametov, in December of the same year, city officials destroyed nineteen homes, some of which were occupied. Mr Ametov told the ERRC that, in October 2002, the residents again applied to legalise their homes, as the plans for the expansion of the graveyard had been changed. On January 27, 2002, Mr Ametov informed the ERRC that earlier in the month, a representative of the municipality told him that the procedure for considering their application to legalise the settlement had not yet begun. As of March 13, 2003, the settlement still had not been legalised.
Finally, on October 6, 2002, the ERRC visited the Veliki Rit Romani settlement in Novi Sad in northern Serbia. According to Mr Rasim Osman, a 35-year-old Romani man living in the settlement, around two thousand, five hundred people reside in the approximately five hundred and thirty houses that comprise Veliki Rit - only one hundred of which were built with legal permits. In some cases, when foreign humanitarian organisations have offered financial assistance for providing infrastructure to Romani settlements, local authorities have reportedly refused to co-operate, explaining that the settlements at issue have been built illegally. At least half of the structures in the settlement are small shacks made of tin, cardboard, scrap and/or mud. Many of the houses do not have electricity. There is no sewage system in the settlement, and solid waste removal takes place only rarely. Mr Šemsija Salimi, a 34-year-old Romani man living in the settlement, informed the ERRC of the prevalence of rats in the settlement.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Yugoslavia succeeded to on March 12, 2001, states at Article 11(1) that, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions." The near total lack of infrastructure in the Romani settlements visited by the ERRC and the reported unwillingness of local authorities to do anything to improve the conditions in the settlements contravenes the provisions of the Convention.