Romanian Authorities Forcibly Evict Roma in Romania

18 May 2007

According to ERRC documentation, twenty-five Romani families, comprising approximately 110 individuals, were forcibly evicted just before noon on 11 October 2006 from a building situated in the eastern Romanian city of Tulcea at 5 Alunisului Street, a building they had occupied for the previous seven years. The eviction took place after the Tulcea Tribunal handed down a judgment in August allowing the request of the building's present owner to have the occupants evicted.

Eighteen of the families (approximately eighty people) evicted from Alunisului Street had no alternative but to accept lease contracts offered by the Municipality for rooms in two derelict buildings situated four kilometres away from the town, in an enclave inside the Tulcea industrial port. These highly inadequate structures were the sole arrangements made for alternate shelter. The two buildings are in an advanced state of disrepair, with no access to electricity, hot water, sanitation and only limited access to drinking water, from a tap located outside. A number of heavy industries are located in this area. Notably, right next to the buildings occupied by the evicted Roma, ships carrying bauxite ore are unloaded and the ore is transported to a nearby storage facility with heavy open trucks. As a result everything in the area is covered with red dust that makes breathing difficult. By 31 October, three people had already been taken by ambulance to the hospital, complaining of skin problems, lung pain, and other ailments. In addition to the imminent danger to health for any people forced to live there, the new location offered by local authorities is far from all communal facilities such as schools, hospitals, churches and shops. Since their relocation, the affected children have stopped going to school because of the distance and because their parents feared for their safety.

The remainder of the people evicted from Alunisului Street, for whom there was not enough room in the buildings in the industrial port or who refused to move there, were left sleeping rough in the streets outside the building on Alunisului Street. Seven families, comprising approximately thirty people, including infants and old people, have had to sleep outside in temperatures as low as 0°C during night time. As a result of efforts by local activists and a representative of the ERRC, the temporary solution of a tent was provided by the Red Cross for these people.

Local authorities have refused to respond to the pleas for help launched by the affected Roma and their representatives. The solution they offered with regard to those people rendered homeless by the eviction was to move them to mobile housing located outside Tulcea, also in a heavily industrialised area. However, as the authorities themselves have acknowledged, these structures offer little more than very limited shelter since they cannot be connected to any utilities. Given the onslaught of winter, these cabins are uninhabitable.

The 11 October eviction was the high point of a cycle of neglect and deprivation lasting more than seven years. Most of the families evicted used to live in informal housing on Plugarilor Street in Tulcea. When their houses burnt down due to a faulty electrical installation in August 1999, they were left to sleep outside among the charred ruins for months on end. Under pressure to find a solution, the municipality identified an empty building on Alunisului Street, abandoned at the time by its owner, and reportedly explicitly encouraged the homeless Roma to occupy it until a more permanent arrangement could be found. At the same time, the affected people made numerous requests for social housing, most of which remain unresolved to this day. These people never had security of tenure for the rooms in the building on Alunisului Street, although they paid utility bills regularly. Over the years, the living conditions in the building deteriorated markedly, under pressure from overcrowding and the lack of maintenance. The local authorities were aware of the unsustainable situation in Alunisului Street, but generally refused to undertake any actions aimed at regularising the Roma's situation in the building. The former owner of the building even offered to donate the building to the authorities, but this offer was turned down for unknown reasons. Eventually, the owner sold the building for a derisory sum to another company based in Tulcea. The new owner initiated eviction proceedings, and obtained a favourable judgment. On 20 August 2005, the Romani families from Alunisului were forcefully evicted from their flats, and had to spend almost four months in the open air. Some of them returned to the remains of their houses in Plugarilor, others squatted in parks, gardens, and other public spaces. A small number of families built mud houses on a plot of private land outside Tulcea, where they live in extreme conditions to the present day, and could face eviction at any time, due to the lack of title deeds for their houses or the land on which they are built.

Following the decision of a higher court to reverse the lower court's judgment for procedural flaws, most of the Roma returned to the building at 5 Alunisului Street in October 2005. However, their lives were again disrupted by a new set of legal proceedings that resulted in the second forced eviction referred to above. On 31 October 2006, the ERRC and the Romanian Helsinki Committee sent a letter of concern to Romania's Prime Minister, copied to the Mayor of Tulcea, urging that the affected families be provided with an adequate housing solution immediately.

In December 2006, the municipality moved those Romani families who remained homeless after the October eviction into mobile houses which were placed on a garbage dump.

As of 1 March 2007, the situation of the families living outside the town limits in the Industrial Port, remained unchanged.



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