At least 70 Roma families living in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, face being left homeless, because the city authorities want to demolish homes in the area.
The Belgrade authorities plan to destroy an ‘informal’ Roma settlement in the Vidikovac area of the capital – a spot many of the families living there now fled to after being hounded out of other areas.
If the plans go ahead, the families, who have not been offered any alternative accommodation or compensation, will be forcibly evicted.
The human rights group, Amnesty International has called on the authorities to halt the plan, arguing that they failed to consult the community, instead handing them two eviction notices in April and June. The last eviction notice threatened the families with eviction from the start of July. Under international law says authorities can only evict people as a last resort.
“The city authorities have no respect for the Roma people’s dignity and human rights, we have been suffering discrimination in this society for far too long,” a Roma activist told Amnesty.
“The youngest of the Vidikovac residents are the most vulnerable to forced evictions. We are talking about kids with no chance to live normally. They can’t learn like other children, their health is at risk.
“The authorities act as if it is our fault that we live in the settlements, as if it is our choice. What other choice have we got? If you are Roma you haven't got many choices.”
Thirty-five of the 70 families facing eviction settled in Vidikovac in April, when the city authorities demolished their homes on the other side of the street. They weren’t offered anywhere else to live, any help with finding somewhere, or any compensation. Twenty other families settled in the same spot after they were evicted from their homes nearby without notice. All they could take with them was the few things they could carry.
Sian Jones, the rights group’s Serbia expert, said: "The authorities have yet to find a long-term solution for Roma who, after seeing their homes repeatedly destroyed, live in constant fear of being evicted at any time without warning.”
“This vicious circle of forced evictions can only be broken through the development of a sustainable resettlement plan, which ensures the right to adequate housing for all affected communities.”
Many of the Roma families living in Vidikovac left Southern Serbia in the 1990s to look for work and, after failing to find any joined informal Roma settlements across Belgrade.
The Belgrade authorities say that city's settlements need to be bulldozed because they lack proper sanitation. But they haven’t said where the families living in them will go.