Montenegro: ERRC calls for action following blaze which killed four Roma

29 February 2024

By Bernard Rorke

The ERRC has submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman in Montenegro following a deadly blaze that engulfed makeshift shanties, near Volujica in the southern Montenegrin town of Bar. The fire which broke out in the early hours of 15 February claimed four lives. According to prosecutor Mirjana Tankosic Vucinic, "We found four burnt shacks and four charred bodies at the site. Three victims are minors, one is an adult." Vucinic said preliminary findings indicated the fire was caused by a wood-burning stove. 

The ERRC complaint calls on the Ombudsman to press all responsible institutions, including the Municipality of Bar and the Centre for Social Work to take all necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies, to provide all necessary support the bereaved, and social housing to accommodate the estimated 30-35 Romani people left homeless by the blaze. 

Many impoverished Roma across the western Balkans are effectively condemned to live in makeshift shacks, patched together with plastic sheeting, wood and cardboard. The ever-present fire-risk is heightened even more during winter months, when heating with wood-burning stoves and the like without proper ventilation is commonplace. Fires break out frequently, and little has been done by the authorities over the years, to reduce this particular risk to life and limb.  

Such deaths and injuries are preventable, and these latest fatalities are a tragic reminder of the human cost of the environmental racism faced by Roma across Europe. Entire communities of Roma subsist in spatially segregated, improvised shanties, often in close proximity to landfills or toxic sites. Routinely denied equal access to clean water and sanitation, often cut off from affordable heating and electricity supplies, health and safety in such living conditions is beyond precarious. The consequences of official neglect are at best injurious, and at worst, and all too often, fatal. 


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