Roma living in fear in Romanian settlement

By Barbora Cernusakova, EU Team Researcher, and Fotis Filippou, EU Team Campaigner

Constanta is a beautiful city on Romania’s Black Sea coast, yet not everybody is able to appreciate its beauty – least of all many of its Roma inhabitants.

We visited 35 Romani families living in an informal settlement at the outskirts of the city. After being evicted from their homes and camping in front of the city hall for a few months in plastic tents, they were moved to this plot of land by the local authorities, reportedly as a temporary measure and with the promise of receiving a house.  This was in 2000.

Eleven years later, they are still here, living in shacks they constructed with any material they could gather.  They have no access to electricity, water or sanitation.

Children have to study by candlelight. Their parents go door to door asking neighbours for some water to drink, cook and wash themselves with.

Fear is constant in their lives. In the winter they fear the cold, and the rain flooding their homes. In the summer they fear the rats and snakes that surround them. Many told us they are ill as a result of these conditions.

They are so destitute that immigration to Western Europe seems to them the only solution. “Why do you think all these Roma go to France, Italy, Germany, Spain?” asked Lucretia, one of the Romani women we met there.

Later in the day we visited Roma people living in the historical centre of Constanta, which is about to undergo a massive gentrification. They were told they will be evicted. They are afraid they will be rendered homeless or they will have to move to containers that reportedly will be provided by the local authorities.

Elena, one of the women living there, told us: “By the end of Friday I know that I will at least be safe for Saturday and Sunday.” At the beginning of the working week her fear returns, as every knock on the door could bring an eviction notice.

One Romani woman, Nicoleta, said: “Our skin may be darker, but this shouldn’t mean they should be throwing us away like trash”.

This International Roma Day, Lucretia will still wake up with no money for the medicine she needs. Elena will be hoping the eviction notice will not arrive today.