“You can’t give up; you have to fight for your rights!”

Nine Romani activists will join Amnesty on 18 June for the launch of its new report, Pushed to the margins: Five stories of Roma forced evictions in Romania, in Bucharest’s University Square. Each of them has experienced or been threatened with forced evictions by city authorities across the country.

Their personal stories, which they will share at the launch, demonstrate the deep emotional and social impacts that forced evictions have on the lives of hundreds of Roma. Loss of home, and livelihood, disconnection from social circles, stigma, and difficulties in accessing education or health care are only some of the consequences.

Claudia, whose testimony follows, is one of the activists fighting for justice. Her experiences mirror those of hundreds of Romani men, women and children being denied an equal place in society:

“My name is Claudia Linda Greta, I am 29 years old. I am from Cluj-Napoca in Romania. I am Roma and I have been forcibly evicted from my home. I got married when I was eighteen and, at nineteen, I had my first son. I have three children.

“On the morning they came to tear our houses down [in Coastei Street], there were loads of police, gendarmes, journalists and people from the municipality. I remember that it was cold, freezing cold. Nobody was asleep and all the lights were on in our homes. The police started knocking on all the doors, and people came out of their homes. Everybody gathered on the street. A lady from the municipality, I can’t remember her name, yelled at us that those not wanting to leave the houses will be put on the street. She kept on saying the same thing: You will be put on the street!

“Most of my things were broken or ruined on the way [to the alternative accommodation we were offered in Pata Rat]. When I first saw the new house, it was like hell on earth. It almost could not get any worse. And this is where we live now, nine people in a 16m2 room. Every morning when I get up, I look through the window and what do I see? The garbage dump! A thick and smelly smoke permeates the surroundings. This is the air we breathe.

“I went to a demonstration to protest against forced evictions and that we have been moved from our houses. I am Roma but I am also a Romanian citizen and I have rights. […] You have to be strong to live like this. You can’t give up. You have to fight for your rights! If you give up hope, then you also loose the last hope for your children!”

Claudia has been fighting for justice for her community and campaigning with Amnesty to end forced evictions in Romania since she and 350 other people were forcibly evicted on 17 December 2010.

Recently, she took part in an Amnesty action in Brussels, for our “Human rights here, Roma rights now” campaign to push the EU to take action to end discrimination against Roma.

During the action, Amnesty and activists from across Europe re-enacted a forced eviction in front of the European Parliament. Claudia, spoke to an audience which included the media, EU officials and passers-by:

“What you saw today is not just theatre. It is something that happens on a daily basis to the Roma across Europe. We suffer abuses; we are discriminated against in all areas of life, at school, at work, on the streets, on the buses. EU institutions should take a stand and hold to account states that violate the rights of Roma.”

Later, during a hearing at the European Parliament, Claudia gave a powerful speech, urging EU officials to take decisive action to end the scandal of discrimination and racism against Roma in Europe. She ended, saying: “We are at the end of out strength, there needs to be justice for everyone!”

Claudia also gave a message to activists supporting the campaign:

“This has been a unique experience which I will never forget. Everything that happened [in Brussels] was extraordinary, and we never thought we would get so far. We saw that many people supported us and spoke from their hearts. We hope things will change. We think and hope that members of the European Parliament understood that the situation is critical. People now know and we hope they will take steps and push the governments, including the government of Romania, to take measures to stop the discrimination of Roma in Europe. We really appreciated what you all did for us, you help us to find all means to get justice, and this is immensely important for us all.”

If you haven’t signed the petition calling on the European Commission to end discrimination against Roma, you have a few more days to take action at www.amnesty.org/RomaRightsNow