Threats to Roma Housing Rights in Albania
13 November 2006
According to information provided to the ERRC on 28 July 2006 by the Albanian Romani Union Amaro Drom, local authorities forcibly evicted 109 Romani individuals from the homes they had occupied, on 5 Maji Street in the central Albanian town of Elbasan, since 1991. Amaro Drom informed the ERRC that the community was in the process of legalising their homes at the time of the forced eviction, which ended in the destruction of their homes.
On 15 July, the local building authority reportedly sent a notice to the residents that their buildings would be destroyed, beginning on 21 July. On the named date, local authorities arrived at 5 Maji Street and proceeded to destroy the homes of the 109 Romani individuals, including pregnant women and infants. Personal property, including furniture and other belongings, were destroyed during the action, Amaro Drom reported, because the affected individuals were not permitted to remove their belongings before bulldozers destroyed the buildings. Since 21 July, the 21 Romani families have been homeless as local authorities did not provide any form of alternative accommodation for the unemployed group.
Amaro Drom reported that, according information provided by representatives of the Elbasan Municipality, the municipality intends to build municipal social housing for poor families on the site, which is intended to benefit the same evicted families. However, any evictions from initial homes should not have been conducted until such housing was made available and should not have resulted in homelessness. Local activists are also concerned that there has been no prior consultation nor information provided to the affected Romani community, which leads them to believe there is no serious commitment from the local authorities to solve the housing problems of the Roma. On 7 August 2006, the ERRC sent a letter to Mr Z. Ardian Turku, mayor of Elbasan, expressing concern about the forced eviction and resulting homelessness of 109 Romani individuals. The ERRC urged Mayor Turku to ensure that the urgent housing needs of these evicted families are addressed immediately.
On 25 September, Mayor Turku responded to the ERRC, stating that only four shacks belonging to Romani families were destroyed. The houses had been in an area slated for the construction of social housing. He alleged that the relevant urban plan had been in force since 1991 and that several Romani families had been told that the area is municipal property and part of municipal real estate development plans. Mayor Turku confirmed that the construction police were ordered to destroy illegal properties without mentioning any legal procedural safeguard with regard to evictions in questions. Nor did Mayor Turku state whether the families were served with notices from the court or Construction Police. Mayor Turku also informed the ERRC that the Romani families whose houses were destroyed were informed that they should immediately enrol in the municipal lists for social housing and were promised that their situation will be dealt with priority. However, Mayor Turku did not indicate how long the waiting time for social housing in Elbasan is. Indeed, this confirms that the Romani families were evicted without the simultaneous provision of alternative accommodation, which resulted in their homelessness. A need assessment on the housing situation in Elbasan was reportedly prepared and forwarded to the State Housing Authority. Mayor Turku stated that, together with Romani community, the municipality would soon commence work to improve the road infrastructure in the area where the Romani community lives.
(Amaro Drom, ERRC )