REPUBLIC OF SERBIA, INCLUDING KOSOVO: Forcibly evicted Roma still awaiting resettlement despite EU millions

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10 Apr 2015
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Forced Eviction

Three years after the forced eviction of more than one hundred Roma families from the Belvil settlement in Belgrade, a toxic combination of bureaucratic incompetence, inertia and discrimination has resulted in the failure of a multi-million euro European Commission (EC) funded project to resettle them. The majority of these families are still living in squalid racially segregated metal containers and around 50 may never be resettled, a new briefing from Amnesty International has found.

Launched on International Roma Day, the briefing, Roma still waiting for adequate housing, finds that, despite commitments from the City of Belgrade and €3.6 million funding from the EC, not one of the planned new housing blocks has been finished. Meanwhile evicted Roma have spent years living in container settlements far from schools, social services and access to employment.

“Millions of euros were allocated for settlements and yet, three years on, the vast majority of Roma families thrown out of their houses, are still awaiting a place to call home,” said Garui van Gulik, Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia for Amnesty International.

In April 2012, the EC allocated €3.6 million to rehouse Roma families forcibly evicted from the informal settlement of Belvil in Belgrade. Under the programme intended as a remedy for their unlawful eviction, the City of Belgrade was required to identify suitable sites and engage in genuine consultation with the affected families in order to complete their resettlement by February 2015. But the city abjectly failed to meet these requirements.

One apartment block built in Orlovsko Naselje to house 12 Roma families is expected to be completed by late July 2015. But as of April 2015, of the 167 families eligible for resettlement (including dozens from previous evictions), only 10 families have been provided with assistance to rebuild their own previously inadequate housing. A further 39 families have been rehoused under a village housing project, itself a flawed resettlement programme.

The rest of the families continue to live in segregated metal containers at four sites around Belgrade. Even as a temporary measure, these containers do not meet criteria for adequate housing. The fact that two of the container sites are more than 20 km from the centre of Belgrade has meant that many Roma, most of whom had made their living in the city, have been forced to depend on state soup kitchens and welfare benefits.

Under EC rules the €3.6 million was due to be spent by February 2015. The City of Belgrade failed to meet this deadline which has now been extended by a year. But despite this extension, the city authorities told the Roma that there was no money left to rehouse 50 families. Unless the EC secures additional funding to follow through on the commitments made to the families, they will be forced to remain in the containers and join the waiting list for the city’s inadequate stock of social housing.

“To be forced from your home is a traumatic experience in itself but to be placed in inadequate segregated containers and other inadequate houses for years on end has had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihood's of an already persecuted minority,” said Gauri van Gulik.

8 April 2015

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