Serbia must stop evicting Roma

The situation of a Roma family forcibly evicted from their Belgrade home and made homeless this week again highlights the need for the Serbian government to stop forced evictions and introduce legislation prohibiting them, Amnesty International said today.

“Roma families in Belgrade are being forced out of their homes at an increasingly rapid pace.” said Nicola Duckworth Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.“This is the fourth eviction in Belgrade since October, and two more are announced for the next week.”The Ramadani family, including two children under the age of three and an 80- year-old woman, were forcibly evicted from their flat on 23 November. Their personal possessions were left in the street. The family had fled Kosovo after the 1999 war. The municipality of New Belgrade, which ordered the eviction, did not provide them with alternative accommodation or any other kind of assistance.At least 110 more Roma living in an informal settlement in New Belgrade are also threatened with forced eviction before the end of December. Their homes are to be bulldozed to make way for a new housing project to be built by a government-owned company. That project was approved three months ago by the government.“The 110 Roma who are about to be evicted from Dr Ivana Ribara Street in New Belgrade have been offered alternative accommodation either in container settlements, abandoned houses or collective refugee centres, that falls far short of international standards.” The authorities in Serbia held meetings this week with representatives of the Roma threatened with eviction.  However, Amnesty International is concerned that these meetings did not constitute genuine consultations and were not conducted in line with UN guidelines. The organization has called on the authorities to hold meaningful consultations with those threatened with forced eviction and provide all of them with adequate alternative housing.More than half of those under threat are children. Twenty of the families are Roma who fled to Belgrade from Kosovo after the 1999 war. Many of their children were born in Serbia.  If the eviction goes ahead as planned, they may be encouraged to return to Kosovo where Roma face cumulative discrimination amounting to persecution, moved to abandoned houses in villages in the north of Serbia or sent to a collective centre for refugees where accommodation is inadequate.“If these evictions go ahead on schedule, these families could be forced into inadequate accommodation in freezing temperatures” said Nicola Duckworth. “They need to know that they will be provided with adequate housing in an area close to their children’s schools and where they will still be able to earn a living.  The Serbian authorities are obliged under international standards to guarantee these rights.”