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Serbia urged to stop forced evictions of Roma

The authorities act as if it was our fault that we live in the settlements, that it is our choice. What other choice have we got? If you are Roma you haven’t got many choices.

A Romani woman speaking to Amnesty International in August 2010

The Serbian authorities must halt forced evictions of Roma in the capital Belgrade and provide them with adequate housing, Amnesty International said on the eve of International Roma Day.

A new report, Home is more than a roof over your head: Roma denied adequate housing in Serbia, documents an increasing series of forced evictions of Roma since April 2009 that has left some housed in metal containers in segregated settlements and others returned to living in poverty in southern Serbia, often to inadequate housing.

“Instead of halting forced evictions the Serbian authorities in Belgrade are carrying out more and more, driving Roma communities from their homes and forcing them to live in inadequate housing,” said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Serbia researcher.

“They must stop this practice if they are to abide by their international obligations. This includes guaranteeing Roma the right to housing provided with sanitation, within reach of public facilities and employment and secure from future forced evictions.”

Since April 2009 at least seven forced evictions of informal settlements have taken place.

At the end of March 2010, 20-25 families were evicted from an informal settlement in the Čukarica area of the capital.

The following month, about 38 Romani families were evicted from an informal settlement in the same area, and then subsequently sent back to southern Serbia.

Roma living at another site in Čukarica remain at risk of forced eviction. In October and December 2010, another 62 people were evicted from different parts of New Belgrade.

The planned “resettlement” in early 2011 of the residents of a settlement at Belvil in Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) was temporarily suspended following pressure from various organisations.

Many of the forced evictions are part of a 2009 City of Belgrade Assembly plan envisaging large scale infrastructure projects funded by loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.

The plans are set to affect the residents of at least 50 of the 100 Roma settlements within the City of Belgrade.

Denied the right to adequate housing, around a third of Belgrade’s Roma population have no option but to live in informal settlements, where they have no regular water supply, no sanitation and other basic services.

Unable to register as citizens of Belgrade, they are often denied access to employment, social security, health care and education.

Roma disproportionately – almost exclusively – make up the population of informal settlements across Serbia.

Within these communities, there are many vulnerable groups, including Roma who fled the 1999 war in Kosovo. Other Roma who have sought work or international protection in west European countries, and are now being forcibly returned to Serbia, also end up living in these informal settlements.

“Authorities in Serbia must ensure that Roma communities are consulted on any proposals, or possible options for resettlement, and given the opportunity to propose alternatives, should they wish to do so,” Sian Jones said.

“The authorities should also identify social housing and other housing options in locations not segregated by ethnicity to ensure that Roma families have the choice of housing outside Roma only-settlements.”

In its report Amnesty International makes a series of recommendations to the Serbian authorities to prevent evictions in breach of international standards in the future, and to ensure the right to adequate housing for Roma, including:

– Stop all forced evictions, and guarantee that infrastructure projects do not result in any further forced evictions;

– Ensure that the eviction of the Belvil settlement, and any further evictions in Belgrade are carried out according to international standards, as reflected in the UN Basic Principles and guidelines on Development-Based Evictions;

– Ensure evicted Roma access to effective legal remedies including compensation and adequate alternative accommodation;

– Establish a legal framework to prohibit forced evictions and ensure that any further resettlements by the City of Belgrade do not constitute forced evictions.

Background

Roma are documented as living in Serbia from at least the 14th century. According to government estimates, their number is between 250,000 and 500,000. The majority of Roma suffer widespread and systematic discrimination in Serbia.

This report is based on research carried out by Amnesty International in Serbia between 2010 and 2011, including interviews with Roma affected by forced evictions in Belgrade; Serbian Roma and non-Roma non governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals working to protect the rights of Roma; government and municipal officials; international NGOs and others.

Source: Amnesty International

Date: 7 April 2011

The full report is available here.

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Date: February 2011

The document is available here.

Introduction

Amnesty International submits the following information for consideration by the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Committee) in advance of its examination of Serbia’s initial report, submitted under Article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the Convention).1 This briefing summarizes Amnesty International’s assessment of Serbia’s implementation of Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention, focussing on its failure to guarantee the right to adequate housing to Romani people in Serbia, without discrimination.

The organization has documented a pattern of forced evictions of Romani communities in Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia. It has also found that the resettlement provided to communities who have been forcibly evicted, in a number of cases does not meet international standards relating to the adequacy of housing and contributes to further segregation of these communities.

Further, the lack of safeguards under national law has particular consequences for Romani communities who – almost uniquely – are at high risk of forced evictions. The organization considers that Serbia is failing to guarantee the right to adequate housing without distinction on the basis of ethnicity.

Amnesty International has also documented violations of the rights to freedom of movement and residence of Romani people who have been forcibly internally displaced to Southern Serbia as well as discrimination against internally displaced Roma from Kosovo and forced returnees.

Amnesty International regrets that in a number of fundamental respects Serbia has failed to honour its obligations under the Convention. The present briefing focuses on discrimination against members of the Romani community in Serbia in relation to the right to adequate housing, and in particular on the rights of those living in informal settlements, where the organization focuses on the following concerns:

· The forced eviction of Romani people from informal settlements in Belgrade, and the consequent denial of other convention rights, before during and after eviction;

· The denial of the right to freedom of movement and residence;

· Failure to guarantee the rights of internally displaced Roma.

Date: February 2011

The document is available here.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) submits this parallel report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Committee or CERD) commenting on the First Periodic Report of Serbia, submitted under Article 9 of the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the Convention or ICERD).

This parallel report describes the current situation of Roma in Serbia, particularly noting recent developments in connection with anti-discrimination law, human rights judgments and anti-Romani violence and provides updates on the housing, education and health conditions in Romani communities in Serbia.

Source: European Roma Rights Centre

The full report is available here.

22 December 2010 – In 2008 Kosovo adopted a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from Serbia. The United Nations General Assembly subsequently referred the UDI to the International Court of Justice, which issued a July 2010 advisory opinion affirming that it was “in accordance with international law.” As of November 2010, 72 countries had recognised Kosovo. Serbia has not recognised Kosovo, continuing to regard it as a United Nations-governed entity within its sovereign territory. For the purpose of this overview, references to the situation in “Serbia” since 2008 do not include Kosovo.

In 1999, over 245,000 members of local minorities fled from or within Kosovo in fear of reprisals from the majority Albanian population after NATO air strikes forced the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and ended years of oppression of ethnic Albanians.

As of December 2010, there were an estimated 230,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Kosovo within Serbia, including an estimated 20,000 displaced Roma people who were never registered as displaced. In addition, 19,000 people remain displaced within Kosovo. The most vulnerable IDPs are Roma people, who tend to lack documentation and frequently endure extreme poverty in squalid informal settlements. (…)

The full report is available here.

Source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

 

 

París, 15 de diciembre 2010 – La supresión de la obligatoriedad de visa “Schengen” -para estancias inferiores a tres meses para los nacionales de Bosnia-Herzegovina y Albania- es un hito para los ciudadanos de ambos Estados. Esta decisión, adoptada el 8 de noviembre por el Consejo de la Unión, y aprobado por el Parlamento Europeo, será efectiva a partir del 15 de diciembre de 2010. Las asociaciones firmantes expresan, sin embargo, su profunda preocupación por las reservas formuladas por el Consejo de la Unión que prevé un seguimiento regular, por la Comisión Europea, de las reformas de las políticas migratorias, y la posibilidad de reinstaurar la obligación de visado en caso de “afluencia masiva” de nacionales de estos países.

En los últimos meses, representantes de la Comisión y del Consejo europeos han instado a las autoridades de los países de los Balcanes a reforzar el control de los flujos migratorios, y en particular los “motivos” de salida de sus conciudadanos. Esta exigencia, contraria a los principios contenidos en diversos textos internacionales, está relacionada con un aumento del número de solicitudes de asilo de ciudadanos de Serbia y Macedonia en varios países de la Unión Europea, una vez que estos países se han beneficiado de la exención de visado desde diciembre de 2009. En respuesta a la demanda, las autoridades locales se han comprometido a reforzar la vigilancia de sus fronteras y llevar a cabo controles de cara a impedir la salida de personas susceptibles de pedir asilo, o de lo contrario, esta exención podrá ser revocada.

Este nuevo endurecimiento de las políticas de inmigración de la Unión Europea recuerda que esta última ya ha condicionado el levantamiento de la obligación de visado para estos países a la firma de acuerdos comunitarios de readmisión, que entraron en vigor en enero de 2008, que forman parte de la panoplia de acuerdos que la UE impone a sus socios. Al introducir procedimientos acelerados, los acuerdos de readmisión fragilizan las garantías que normalmente deben concederse a los solicitantes de asilo como el principio de no devolución. De hecho, por este procedimiento, la persona detenida en el momento de cruzar irregularmente la frontera debe ser devuelta al país de origen en un plazo máximo de dos días.

La nueva iniciativa de la Unión Europea, que podría convertirse en un modelo para futuros acuerdos, vuelve a pedir a las autoridades de esos Estados que impidan la salida de sus nacionales que se consideran víctimas de la persecución en su propio país, violando de esta manera los principios de la Convención de Ginebra sobre el Estatuto de los Refugiados y los de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos, que establece en su artículo 13 que “toda persona tiene derecho a salir de cualquier país, incluso del propio, y a regresar a su país. ”

Al tratarse en su mayoría de personas pertenecientes a minorías étnicas, las asociaciones denuncian el doble discurso de las instituciones europeas que, por una parte, continúan criticando la discriminación que sufren, y, por otra, se niegan a concederles protección. Dado que la iniciativa de la Unión Europea está directamente relacionada con la llegada, a su territorio, de población romaní de Serbia y Macedonia, las asociaciones firmantes se preocupan por la señal dada a las autoridades de estos países y a un sector de su población, de que la población gitana no es bienvenida. Los países de los Balcanes están todavía fuertemente marcados por los efectos de la guerra y las tensiones interétnicas. Casi medio millón de personas desplazadas en la región, principalmente en Serbia, están -casi todas- desprovistas de sus derechos fundamentales.

Las asociaciones firmantes hacen por tanto un llamamiento a la Unión Europea para que garantice el respeto de los derechos de los refugiados internos y de los nacionales de estos países que deseen solicitar asilo en un Estado miembro de la UE.

Paris, 15 décembre 2010 – La levée de l’obligation de visa « Schengen » – pour des séjours d’une durée inférieure à trois mois pour les ressortissants de Bosnie-Herzégovine et d’Albanie – est une étape importante pour les citoyens de ces deux Etats. Cette décision, adoptée le 8 novembre dernier par le Conseil de l’Union, et approuvée par le Parlement européen, sera effective à partir du 15 décembre 2010. Les associations soussignées expriment toutefois leurs vives inquiétudes face aux réserves formulées par le Conseil de l’Union qui prévoit un suivi régulier, par la Commission européenne, des réformes des politiques migratoires, et la possibilité de réinstaurer l’obligation de visa en cas d’ « affluence massive » de ressortissants de ces pays.

Au cours des derniers mois, des représentants de la Commission et du Conseil européens ont exhorté les autorités publiques des pays des Balkans à renforcer le contrôle des flux migratoires, et notamment les « motifs » de départ de leurs concitoyens. Cette exigence, contraire aux principes prévus dans certains textes internationaux, est liée à une augmentation du nombre de demandes d’asile de ressortissants serbes et macédoniens dans plusieurs pays de l’Union européenne, alors que ces pays ont bénéficié de l’exemption de visa depuis décembre 2009.

Répondant à l’appel, les autorités locales ont promis de renforcer la surveillance de leurs frontières et de procéder à des contrôles ciblés visant à empêcher le départ de personnes susceptibles de demander l’asile, à défaut de quoi, cette exemption pourra être remise en cause. Ce nouveau durcissement des politiques migratoires de l’Union européenne rappelle que cette dernière a déjà conditionné la levée des visas à l’obligation pour ces pays de conclure des accords communautaires de réadmission entrés en vigueur en janvier 2008, qui font désormais partie de la panoplie des accords que l’Union impose à ses partenaires. Introduisant des procédures accélérées, les accords de réadmission fragilisent les garanties qui doivent normalement être accordées aux demandeurs d’asile comme le principe de non refoulement. En effet, par cette procédure, la personne interpellée au moment de franchir irrégulièrement la frontière doit être renvoyée vers le pays de provenance dans un délai maximum de deux jours.

La nouvelle initiative de l’Union européenne, qui pourrait devenir un modèle pour des accords futurs, revient à demander aux autorités de ces États d’empêcher le départ de leurs ressortissants qui s’estiment victimes de persécutions dans leur propre pays, violant ainsi les principes de la Convention de Genève relative au statut des réfugiés et ceux de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’Homme qui énonce dans son article 13 que « toute personne a le droit de quitter tout pays, y compris le sien, et de revenir dans son pays ».

S’agissant pour la plupart de personnes appartenant à des minorités ethniques, les associations relèvent le double discours des institutions européennes qui d’une part, continuent de critiquer les discriminations qu’elles subissent, et d’autre part refusent de leur accorder une protection. Etant donné que l’initiative de l’Union européenne est directement liée à l’arrivée, sur son territoire, de Roms de Serbie et de Macédoine, les associations signataires s’inquiètent ainsi du signal donné aux autorités de ces pays et à une frange de leur population, que les populations Roms ne sont pas les bienvenues. Les pays des Balkans sont encore fortement marqués par les effets de la guerre et les tensions interethniques. Près d’un demi-million de personnes déplacées à l’intérieur de la région, principalement en Serbie, sont – pour la quasi-totalité – dépourvues de leurs droits élémentaires.

Les associations signataires lancent par conséquent un appel à l’Union européenne afin qu’elle veille au respect des droits de ces réfugiés internes, et des ressortissants de ces pays qui souhaitent demander l’asile dans un État membre de l’UE.

Signataires : Chachipe a.s.b.l. – Migreurop – Réseau Trans Europe Experts

Roma in Serbien und Mazedonien klagen zu Recht über unwürdige Lebensbedingungen

20. Dezember 2010 – Die Flüchtlingsräte, PRO ASYL, Chachipe und weitere Roma- und Unterstützervereine[1] begrüßen die Aufhebung der Visumspflicht für BürgerInnen Bosnien-Herzegowinas und Albaniens in den Schengen-Vertragsstaaten, die am 15. Dezember 2010 in Kraft getreten ist. Sie bildet einen wichtigen Schritt in der Annäherung dieser beiden Staaten an die Europäische Union. Umso mehr sind wir über die Vorbehalte besorgt, die der Rat der Europäischen Union anlässlich seiner Entscheidung am 8. November formuliert hat.

Als Reaktion auf einen Anstieg der Flüchtlingszahlen in mehreren Ländern der EU, die im wesentlichen auf eine Erhöhung der Asylanträge durch serbische und mazedonische Staatsangehörige zurückgeht, haben VertreterInnen der Kommission und der belgische Ratsvorsitz die Balkanstaaten in den vergangenen Monaten besucht und die Regierungen aufgefordert zu verhindern, dass die BürgerInnen dieser Staaten die Aufhebung der Visumpflicht nutzen, um im Ausland Asyl zu beantragen. Die angesprochenen Regierungen beeilten sich zu betonen, dass Roma und andere ethnische Minderheiten an den ansteigenden Flüchtlingszahlen schuld seien, und versprachen, diesen angeblichen „Missbrauch“ des Asylrechts durch zusätzliche Kontrollen abzustellen.

Wir möchten daran erinnern, dass die EU die Aufhebung der Visumpflicht bereits von der Bereitschaft zur „Rücknahme“ unerwünschter Flüchtlinge abhängig gemacht hat. Die darüber hinaus gehende Aufforderung an die Staaten, ihre BürgerInnen gegebenenfalls an der Ausreise zu hindern, ist eine Aufforderung zum Bruch internationalen Rechts. Die Vorstellung, dass BürgerInnen aufgrund ihrer ethnischen Herkunft an der Ausreise gehindert werden könnten, ist vor dem Hintergrund deutscher und europäischer Geschichte unerträglich.

Nach Dafürhalten auch der EU Kommission werden ethnische Minderheiten in Serbien und Mazedonien weiterhin diskriminiert und in der Ausübung ihrer Rechte eingeschränkt. Es ist zu befürchten, dass die Initiative der Europäischen Union den offenen und latenten Rassismus gegen Roma in diesen Ländern weiter verstärken wird, indem sie den Regierungen und der Bevölkerung dieser Staaten zu verstehen gibt, dass die Roma auch in Westeuropa nicht erwünscht und für Einschränkungen der Visumpflicht verantwortlich sind.

Angesichts der öffentlichen Diffamierung der Roma und anderer ethnischer Minderheiten aus Balkan-Staaten mit dem Begriff des „Asylmissbrauchs“ möchten wir daran erinnern, dass die jüngste Erhöhung der Anzahl von Asylanträgen durch BürgerInnen Serbiens und Mazedoniens vor allem auf die unerträgliche Lebenssituation vieler ethnischer Minderheiten und in diesem Zusammenhang vor allem auch darauf zurück zu führen ist, dass die Flüchtlingsfrage in diesen Ländern nach wie vor nicht gelöst ist. Bis heute leben circa 500 000 Menschen als Binnenflüchtlinge in der Region, zum Teil unter katastrophalen Bedingungen. Dies gilt insbesondere für die Roma aus dem Kosovo, für die elf Jahre nach dem Krieg immer noch keine Lösung gefunden wurde. Wir fordern die Europäische Union auf, zu einer dauerhaften Lösung der Flüchtlingsfrage beizutragen und die Staaten bei der Integration der Binnenflüchtlinge und Gewährleistung der Rechte der Minderheiten zu unterstützen.


[1] Förderverein Roma, Frankfurt am Main ; Roma Union Grenzland, Aachen, Romane Anglonipe, Hannover; Roma Support Project (im Netzwerk Flüchtlingshilfe und Menschenrechte e.V., Hannover), Projekt Roma Centre, Göttingen

Roma in Serbia and Macedonia rightly complain about inhuman living conditions

 20 December 2010 – The Refugee Councils, PRO ASYL, Chachipe and other Roma and support organisations[1] have welcomed the lifting of the visa obligation for citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania in the Schengen countries. This has come into force, on 15 December 2010. This is an important step towards integration of these countries with the European Union. For these reasons, we are even more worried about the reservations that the Council of the European Union has expressed on the occasion of its decision. The Council’s decision was announced on the 8th of November 2010.

In reaction to the increase in the number of refugees in several EU member states, which goes back mainly to an increase in asylum applications filed by Serbian and Macedonian nationals, Commission representatives and representatives of the Belgian EU presidency visited the Balkan countries over the last few months and asked the governments to make sure that the citizens of these countries would not use the lifting of the visa requirement to ask for asylum abroad. The governments were swift to blame Roma and other ethnic minorities for the increase in the number of refugees and promised to put an end to the alleged “abuse” of the right to asylum by introducing further controls.

We would like to remind of the fact, that the EU has already made the lifting of the visa requirement conditional on the “readmission” by the countries of unwanted refugees. The request to the countries, to eventually keep their citizens from leaving their country is a request to break international law. The idea that citizens would eventually be hindered from leaving their country on the grounds of their ethnic background is unbearable to us against the background of German and European history.

According to the EU Commission, ethnic minorities continue to be discriminated against in Serbia and in Macedonia and are unable to a full enjoyment of their human rights. We are very much concerned that the current initiative of the European Union may reinforce the open and latent racism against Roma in these countries, as it makes the governments and population of these countries understand that Roma are also unwanted in Western Europe and that they are to be blamed for the restrictions to the visa liberalisation.

In view of the public defamation of Roma and other ethnic minorities from the Balkans, who have been accused of “abuse of the asylum system”, we would like to recall that the recent increase in the number of asylum applications of Serbian and Macedonian citizens has been caused mainly by the appalling living conditions of ethnic minorities and the fact that the refugee problem in these countries has not yet been resolved. About half a million people continue to live as so-called Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region, sometimes under terrible conditions. This is particularly the case for Kosovo Roma, for whom a durable solution has not yet been found, even when eleven years have passed since the war ended. We call upon the EU to contribute to a durable solution to the refugee problem and to support the states in their effort towards integration of IDPs and the protection of minority rights.


[1] Förderverein Roma, Frankfurt am Main ; Roma Union Grenzland, Aachen, Romane Anglonipe, Hannover; Roma Support Project (in the network Flüchtlingshilfe und Menschenrechte e.V., Hannover), Projekt Roma Centre, Göttingen

Romi u Srbiji i Makedonija imaju pravo kada se žale na neljudske uslove života

20. decembar 2010 – Izbeglički saveti, PRO ASYL, Chachipe i druge romske organizacije[1] pozdravljaju ukidanje viza za za zemlje Šengena građanima Bosne i Hercegovine i Albanije, koji je stupio na snagu 15. decembra 2010. Ovo je početni korak u približavanju tih zemalja Evropskoj uniji. Iz tih razloga, mi smo još više zabrinuti zbog rezervacija koje je Savet Evropske Unije  saopštio povodom svoje odluke, 8. decembra.

U reakciji na povećanje broja izbeglica u nekoliko zemalja članica EU, koja se odnosi uglavnom na povećanje zahteva za azil koji su podneli srpski i makedonski državljani, predstavnici Komisije i predstavnici belgijskog predsedništva Evropskom Unijom posetili su balkanske zemlje tokom poslednjih nekoliko mjeseci i tražili od vlada da osiguraju da građani ovih zemalja ne koriste ukidanje viza za zatraženje azila u inostranstvu. Vlade su hitro okrivile Rome i ostale etničke manjine za povećanje broja izbeglica i obećale da će stati na kraj navodnoj zloupotrebi prava na azil uvođenjem dalje kontrole.

Želeli bismo da podsetimo a je EU već uslovio ukidanje viza readmisijom neželjenih izbeglica. Zahtev da zemlje eventualno spreče svoje građane da napuštaju zemlju je zahtev za kršenjem međunarodnog  prava. Ideja da bi građani mogli bit sprečeni da napuste svoje zemlje radi svoje etničke pripadnosti je nepodnošljiva u okviru nemačke i evropske istorije.

Prema Evropskoj Komisiji, etničke manjine i dalje će biti diskriminisane u Srbiji i Makedoniji, i nisu u prilici da uživaju svoja puna prava. Mi smo jako zabrinuti da trenutna inicijativa Evropske Unije može da izazove otvoreni i latentni rasizam protiv Roma u tim zemljama, kako to čini da vlada i stanovništvo tih zemalja veruju da su Romi nepoželjni u zapadnoj Evropi i da su odgovorni za ograničenja liberalizacije viznog režima.

S obzirom na javno klevetanje Roma i drugih nacionalnih manjina s Balkana, koji su optuženi da, zloupotrebljavaju sistem azila,  želeli bismo da podsetimo da je nedavni porast broja zahteva za azil od strane srpskih i makedonskih građana uzrokovan uglavnom groznim uslovima života nacionalnih manjina i činjenicom da problem izbeglica u tim zemljama još uvek nije rešen. Oko pola miliona ljudi i dalje žive kao takozvana interno raseljena lica (IRL) u regiji, ponekad u strašnim uslovima. To je naročito slučaj za kosovske Rome, za koje trajno rešenje još nije pronađeno, jedanaest godina nakon završetka rata. Pozivamo EU da doprinese trajnom rešenju izbegličkog pitanja i podršci države integraciji raseljenih osoba i zaštiti manjinskih prava.


[1] Förderverein Roma, Frankfurt am Main ; Roma Union Grenzland, Aachen, Romane Anglonipe, Hannover; Roma Support Project (u mrezi Flüchtlingshilfe und Menschenrechte e.V., Hannover), Projekt Roma Centre, Göttingen

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