Tag: roma rights
The most common question I am asked these days is how a 25-year-old Romani girl from a small town in Western Macedonia succeeded in developing a legal career in Budapest. Well, I believe that everything happens for a reason…
- “Forced evictions are not a Roma rights issue”
That was the prevailing belief at the ERRC about two years ago. Here are some of the reasons the ERRC refused to spend time or money on forced evictions:
- Evictions are about poverty, not about discrimination.
- It looks bad. To be more specific:
- We need stop making Roma look like victims, and instead focus on Roma who do things like fight to integrate their schools.
- Forced evictions pit Roma lawbreakers against landowners with property rights. (“What if someone decided to live in your garden”, someone who didn’t like our forced evictions work once told me. “I bet you’d call the police”.)
- We are making it look like Roma want to live in squalor.
The right to adequate housing is a fundamental right and a crucial prerequisite for a decent life and personal development. The record of Slovak authorities on providing adequate housing for its citizens is dismal and Roma are disproportionately affected by this failure.
As a lawyer I am used to situations when people are eager to litigate and fight for their rights. Before I started working for the ERRC, the normal situation for me was to meet clients seeking legal help (advice or representation). Even though I had worked with human rights cases before, I had never encountered a situation where the lawyer struggled to set up a case and convince clients to go ahead with the litigation. That simply isn’t what lawyering is about, I thought. It turns out I was wrong. Lawyering at the ERRC is different.
Something happened in the early summer of 2013, and by the time I started my job here a few weeks later, it had already become legendary. George Soros visited the ERRC. Impressing Mr Soros is important; his Open Society Foundations helped set us up and continue to support us. I imagine everyone was told months in advance he was coming. My messiest colleagues probably cleaned their desks. Some people surely spent a few extra minutes picking out their clothes that morning. What I know for sure was that someone laid out plenty of thick and thin, bright-red ERRC reports on the meeting-room table. These caught Mr Soros’s eye. He picked up a particularly thick one and looked at it. And then he said it: “Who reads these?”