After death of five small children, international organisation calls Slovak authorities to take immediate action

26 January 2016

In the first week of 2016 two small Romani children died in Košice, Slovakia. Both the 6- and 4-month-old boys died in a segregated neighbourhood. Three more minors died last weekend in a Roma settlement in Lomnička village in Central Slovakia. Considering that these deaths were utterly preventable, the European Roma Rights Centre calls on Slovak authorities to take immediate action.

Roma in Slovakia are often forced to live in unsafe, hazardous and unhealthy housing conditions. On the 1st and 3rd of January this year one child was burned to death and another froze to death in Mašličkovo, a Roma settlement on the outskirts of the Eastern-Slovakian city of Košice. The series of tragedies continued this weekend when three minors died after a wooden shack caught fire in a Roma settlement in Lomnička, Slovak media has reported.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has affirmed that domestic authorities must “do all that could reasonably be expected of them to avoid a real and immediate risk to life of which they had or ought to have had knowledge.” The ECtHR has also stated that in circumstances where children are at risk because of the economic and social conditions of the families, the appropriate response is for States to provide support to allow the families to stay together and the children to be safe. The facts surrounding the death of these Romani children in Slovakia strongly suggest to us that authorities in Slovakia have violated their obligations.

“The authorities knew or ought to have known that lives were at risk and that they had a legal obligation to take action. These small children are the fatal casualties of more than two decades of discriminatory neglect in housing policies for marginalised Roma communities.” – says Đorđe Jovanović, ERRC Network and Research Director.

The European Roma Rights Centre has published a letter of concern in which we call on the municipal, regional, and national authorities to work together as a matter of urgency to develop a sustainable solution. We demand that authorities take immediate action to ensure that Slovakia’s most vulnerable citizens have adequate shelter and safe living conditions to prevent further fatalities this winter.

Furthermore, we call upon the authorities to allocate resources and adhere to a fixed time frame to ensure that residents of Luník IX, the surrounding settlements and all Roma living in segregated housing conditions have access to adequate and safe housing. We urge the authorities to use European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) resources to implement integrated housing solutions for Roma.

The letter of concern has been sent to Mayor Richard Raši, Mayor of the City of Košice, Dr Peter Pollák, Government Proxy for the Roma Community, JUDr. Jana Dubovcová, Ombudsperson, JUDr. Zdenko Trebuľa, Head of the Košice Self-governing Region, Marcel Šaňa, Mayor of Luník IX and Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Please find attached the letter of concern in English and Slovak.

For further information and interviews contact:

Szelim Simándi


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