Social & Economic rights

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Statement Related to the Forced Eviction from the Informal Roma Settlement Belvil

 “There has been no information whatsoever on what will happen to us, to the families from the south, to children, the sick and immobile (a Belvil resident)”.

The human rights organisations inform the public that tomorrow, 26 April 2012 at 6 a.m., the City of Belgrade will begin a forced eviction of the Roma families living in the informal settlement Belvil. This forced eviction is the seventeenth in a series, in the period slightly longer than two years, which is conducted in contravention of international human rights standards binding on the Republic of Serbia.

Let us be reminded that this forced eviction was accompanied by the following problems and a failure to comply with the aforementioned standards:

Absence of an action plan for carrying out eviction and non-transparent acting of the City of Belgrade
The City of Belgrade did not create an action plan for relocating the Belvil settlement and the settlement residents were not provided with clear information about the locations to which they were relocated, the living conditions in alternative accommodation or exercising other rights. In addition, the City Administration prohibited non-governmental organisations from attending a public meeting with the settlement residents and unlawfully delayed the provision of information on the eviction procedure.

Absence of adequate consultation with the settlement residents
Although several informational meetings with the settlement residents were organised, they cannot be considered an adequate consultation. The families living in the settlement did not have an opportunity to propose alternatives or to talk to the representative of the City of Belgrade in order to obtain precise information on the location to which they were relocated, the offered alternative accommodation or other rights they were entitled to.

Prison standards are more adequate than the standards of accommodation that the City offered to the residents of Belvil
According to the regulations of the Republic of Serbia, even prison accommodation is more appropriate than the one offered to the Belvil residents. According to the Law on Execution of Criminal Sanctions every prisoner should have 4 square meters of space, while the six-member families from Belvil are placed in the metal containers measuring 15 square meters.

Inadequate locations of alternative accommodation
Most of the locations to which the Belvil residents are relocated are rather far away from the places where they work, exercise their rights to social protection and health care or where their children go to school. In addition, these settlements are spatially segregated and located in the areas that are far-off from the rest of the community in which they live, and they are intended exclusively for Roma housing.

Absence of the right to adequate legal remedy
The settlement residents did not have an adequate legal remedy in the eviction procedure. More specifically, the appeals against decisions on demolishing housing structures do not suspend the execution of these decisions and do not provide any assurance that the family will receive any protection, at least from the second-instance body, prior to the demolition of their buildings.

Failure of the City authorities to understand the inclusion of Roma
The only model of inclusion that the City of Belgrade offers to the Roma population is accommodation in segregated container settlements. The City Administration does not take any steps towards improving the living conditions in informal settlements, nor does it implement any measures to enable the residents of these settlements to exercise their basic human rights. The Roma from the container settlements are also threatened with eviction from this accommodation if their children do not attend school regularly, or if they fail to “adopt the rules of good conduct towards the representatives of the institutions of the City of Belgrade”.

Failure of the Republic of Serbia’s authorities to undertake preparatory activities for carrying out the relocation of Belvil settlement
The authorities of the Republic of Serbia have not been involved in the activities conducted by the City of Belgrade concerning the eviction from the Belvil settlement. Given that the City of Belgrade has carried out sixteen forced evictions from informal settlements and thus violated international human rights standards, the Government of the Republic of Serbia was obliged to prevent such conduct. It was also obliged to promptly develop an adequate legal framework to regulate the manner of conducting the evictions of informal settlements.

The Republic of Serbia has no plans or regulations to address the problem of informal settlements, and all evictions are carried out randomly, without the respect for human rights of the residents of informal settlements and the criteria for providing adequate housing to the informal settlement residents that are the poorest and most vulnerable social group in Serbia.

We strongly condemn the serious violations of human rights of the residents of informal settlements by the City of Belgrade and urge the authorities to immediately cease such actions which are carried out with disregard for human dignity and in contradiction to the documents and recommendations of international organisations - primarily the United Nations and the European Union.

The organisations that signed the statement:

Regional Centre for Minorities
Minority Rights Centre
Centre for Advanced Legal Studies
Women in Black
Youth Initiative for Human Rights
Humanitarian Law Centre
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights - YUCOM 

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