Romani Houses Destroyed to Make Way for a Road in Macedonia
07 May 2002
Local authorities destroyed eleven Romani houses in the Trakajna neighbourhood of Strumica, a town in south-eastern Macedonia, in October 2001, in order to make space for a new road planned to be built in the area, according to the Ĺ tip-based Association for Human Rights Protection of Roma, an ERRC local partner in monitoring Roma rights in Macedonia. Before the demolition, the local self-government promised the Romani families whose houses were to be destroyed that they would be moved to new prefabricated houses, according to the field research conducted by the association on November 14, 2001. The promise was not kept, and the families were eventually left homeless on an unspecified date in October 2001. At the time of the Association's visit, homeless Romani families lived in improvised shelters made of cardboard and automobile shells, as winter approached. On several occasions, the community appealed to the local mayor, who reportedly only replied that nothing could be done for the families. A further visit by the association on November 24, 2001, including medical personnel, established that all of the homeless Romani children had colds and that some of the adults suffered from pneumonia, apparently as a consequence of their harsh living conditions. The association subsequently informed the Macedonian Ombudsman's office about these developments, and on March 7, 2002, they received a response informing them that an investigation had been launched. However, the letter from the Ombudman's office states that local authorities in Strumica deny responsibility, claiming that the houses were built without legal permission, and that the Roma were warned of the demolition in advance. The Ombudsman's office has also requested the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to find a solution for the Roma in question, through programmes for socially vulnerable persons. As of April 23, 2002, however, the homeless Roma still had no shelter.
(Association for Human Rights Protection of Roma, ERRC)