Romani houses burned in Macedonia

11 July 2000

On June 1, 2000, one Romani house was completely destroyed and four more were damaged in a fire in the Dolno Maalo neighbourhood of Tetovo, in western Macedonia, according to the local Roma association Kham. ERRC field research, conducted on June 6, established that the fire had started at the house of Mr Elmaz Emurlai around 9:30 AM and quickly spread to four neighbouring houses. The fire brigade soon arrived and extinguished the fire. However, the houses of Mr Emurlai and two other neighbours were completely destroyed, and the two other houses suffered considerable damage. According to witnesses, the police arrived after the fire had been extinguished and conducted an investigation. Mr Emin Etemi, owner of one of the damaged houses, told the ERRC that the police found a small gas can behind Mr Emurlai's house and expressed suspicion of arson.

Kham reported that Roma have been living in this area for 200 years; the municipality does not allow building construction or renovation. Legalisation of the settlement was to have been implemented by the year 2000. According to Kham, this location is attractive for businesses, due to its proximity to the markets and the city center. Local Roma told the ERRC that several firms wanted to buy property in that area, but could not reach an agreement with the Romani owners. Mr Ahmet Jakupi, one of the neighbours, told the ERRC that Mr Emurlai's house had caught fire a year and a half ago, and no explanation had ever been found. According to Kham, the June incident was the third time in the last two years that fire has occurred in this neighbourhood. There are 93 Roma families living in 46 houses in this settlement. Police have reportedly closed an early investigation.

(ERRC, Kham)

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