International Roma Day, and Every Other Day Sees Roma Fighting Back Against Forced Evictions. And They’ll Win

08 April 2016

On behalf of the ERRC I would like to express our solidarity with all Roma and all those who struggle for Roma rights on International Roma Day! As we celebrate Romani culture and identity and the history of our struggle against discrimination, spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of Roma facing eviction from their homes who see no cause for celebration on this or any other day.

Right across Europe Roma are living in shacks, tents, containers, and other dwellings that are ‘unfit for human habitation’. Make no mistake: this is discrimination, be it discrimination by states that directly place Roma in segregated settlements, or the failure of states to live up to their obligations to correct centuries of oppression and exclusion. To add to their misery the constant threat of forced eviction hangs over the heads of many Roma every day. A census report just published by the ERRC with the Ligue des droits de l’Homme reveals that more than 3,600 Roma have been evicted from their homes across France in the first quarter of 2016. In France there is no winter moratorium on forced evictions for Roma, and in almost half of the cases, those evicted were forced out onto the streets to face the elements without any offer of emergency shelter. 

In Italy thousands of Romani families subsist in segregated camps run by local authorities. These camps are often located in remote areas, far from basic services, sometimes beside waste dumps, near airport runways and busy motorways, or actually on toxic and contaminated sites. Roma in Italy face multiple evictions: the irregular settlements are demolished, if there is room Roma are placed in segregated and overcrowded emergency camps or shelters for a period, then expelled and forced to squat on irregular sites where they face another eviction. There should be no place in 21st-century Europe where people should have to endure such vicious and degrading cycles of oppression.

Even less attention is paid to the forced evictions of Roma happening in countries outside the EU, such as Serbia (where Roma were evicted from their homes just this week with almost no notice and placed in yet another container settlement), Macedonia, Albania, Turkey, and Ukraine.  But the fact that these countries may have larger Roma populations or may be poorer does not exempt them from our justified outrage at the way they treat Roma.

At the ERRC we have been active in the fight against forced evictions and have scored victories in the courts. Just recently at our request, the European Court of Human Rights has intervened twice in the space of one week with an emergency measure to halt imminent evictions in Romania and Italy. We succeeded last year in supporting a Roma community in Ukraine to legalise their informal housing and stop the threat of eviction. We are supporting Roma litigants – the future heroes of their people – to take cases to court in Serbia and elsewhere.  The Council of Europe has been vociferous in its condemnation and has called for an immediate halt to forced evictions.

Forced evictions make a mockery of Roma inclusion strategies; evictions force children out of school, destroy any chance for adults of getting and keeping a job; push many Roma into even worse living conditions, and many others out onto the streets.  Forced evictions are brutal and inhumane, take a terrible emotional toll on young and old alike, inflict awful physical hardship and are devastating for family life.

The increased recognition of International Roma Day by European institutions is very welcome on April 8, and it is uplifting to see the Roma flag raised in Brussels and Strasbourg. To give the day deeper meaning for the remaining 364 days of the year, we call on all competent European institutions, international bodies, national and local governments and civil society partners to join us in the struggle to end forced evictions of Roma for once and for all. An end to these racist and inhumane practices really would be something for all to celebrate!

Ðorđe Jovanović
ERRC President


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