Thursday, January 28, 2010


Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today is a good day to remember that the discrimination and the attacks upon the Roma people continue unabated in Europe. This week Amnesty International took note of the forced evictions of Roma families in Romania.

Rajan Zed, well-known Hindu statesman; and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, a member of the Roma Rights Network; in a statement yesterday, said that it was shocking to see how inhumanely Romania and Europe were treating their Roma brothers-sisters who have lived in Romania since about ninth century AD. They added the evictions and relocations are clearly reprehensible, hazardous and immoral, and a blatant failure of Romania and Europe to meet international obligations.

The following is from Amnesty International UK.

New Amnesty Report Reveals Roma family in Romania forced to live in metal cabins behind sewage works

We are gypsies and that is why they don’t listen to us” - Monika, May 2009 More than 100 Roma people – including families with children – are living in metal cabins next to a sewage works in Romania after they were forcibly evicted from their homes, according to a new Amnesty report launching today. The report, Treated like waste: Roma homes destroyed and health at risk in Romania, tells how the Roma people were forcibly evicted by municipal authorities from a building in the centre of Miercurea Ciuc – the capital city of Harghita County in central Romania. Most were resettled by the authorities in metal cabins on the outskirts of the town, behind a sewage treatment plant. Some decided to move to a nearby waste dump, rather than live next to the sewage plant. Erszebet, who lives next to the sewage treatment plant with her husband and nine children, told Amnesty International what life is like in a metal cabin: “It is tight, when the whole family goes to sleep we don’t fit in. We cannot take a bath; we cannot clean ourselves. It is too small. We don’t want the older girls to take a bath in front of their father.” The temporary metal cabins and shacks are close to the sewage treatment plant, falling within the 300-metre protection zone established by Romanian law to separate homes from potential toxic hazards. The failure to protect the right to health is another violation of Romania’s national and international obligations. Ilana told Amnesty International: “The houses fill up with that smell. At night… the children cover their faces with the pillows. We don’t want to eat when we feel the smell… I used to have another child who died when he was four months old… I don’t want to lose the rest of my children.” The Romanian authorities must stop the forced eviction of Roma families and immediately relocate those living for years in hazardous conditions next to waste dumps, sewage treatment plants or industrial areas on the outskirts of cities, said Amnesty International. The organisation is calling on the government of Romania to reform its housing legislation to incorporate international human rights standards with particular attention to housing. Halya Gowan, Amnesty International’s Europe Programme Director, said: “Across the country Roma families are being evicted from their homes against their will. When this happens, they don’t just lose their homes. They lose their possessions, their social contacts, their access to work and state services. “This pattern of forced evictions, without adequate consultation, adequate notice or adequate alternative housing, perpetuates racial segregation and violates Romania’s international obligations. “The ordeal of the Roma families has continued for six years. Now is the time for the local authorities to provide them with adequate housing close to services and facilities in a safe and healthy location. “Something needs to happen now. An example must be set – forced evictions must be stopped and the right to housing must be guaranteed. And this can and should be done by the authorities of Miercurea Ciuc."

Background There are almost 2.2 million Roma in Romania – making up about 10 per cent of the total population. As a result of widespread discrimination, both by public officials and society at large, as 75 per cent of Roma live in poverty, as opposed to 24 per cent of Romanians and 20 per cent of ethnic Hungarians, the largest minority in Romania. The levels of physical health and living conditions of the Roma are among the worst in the country. Although some Roma people live in permanent structures with legal tenancy, many other long-standing Romani dwellings are considered by the government as "temporary" and unofficial, and their inhabitants do not have any proof of tenancy, which increases their vulnerability to eviction. Forced evictions violate Romania’s international and regional legal standards such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights that require all people to have a minimum degree of security of tenure, guaranteeing them legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats.

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