GENEVA (11 September 2015) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday expressed serious concerns about ongoing forced evictions of Roma and Travellers in a number of European States, including most recently in France and Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria, following anti-Roma riots in July, the authorities announced they planned to evict Roma from the Kremikovtzi settlement in the municipality of Gurmen. The forced eviction was postponed after a request was made to the European Court of Human Rights to impose interim measures. On 4 September, the Court decided not to impose the interim measures after the Government informed it the eviction would be postponed until 30 September so that alternative accommodation could be identified.
However, the Bulgarian authorities proceeded with the eviction on 7 September, and according to civil society sources no alternative accommodation was offered. A total of 41 people, including 21 children, were made homeless.
Further evictions are feared in Gurmen, as well as in Varna municipality where a number of Roma homes are scheduled to be demolished and alternative accommodation is reportedly also not being provided.
“I urge Bulgaria to halt these forced evictions which are devastating to the affected communities,” the High Commissioner said. “The recommendations of various international human rights mechanisms* covering such situations should be adhered to, and no one should be made homeless.”
In France, the peremptory forced eviction of more than 150 inhabitants of a migrant Roma shantytown in the municipality of La Courneuve on 28 August was strongly criticized by civil society organizations and by the French
Défenseur des droits (or Ombudsman).
The eviction was carried out without the minimum 24-hour warning, in the early afternoon when many inhabitants were absent, and their possessions as well as some identity documents were reportedly destroyed. Only a handful of families were offered shelter, and only for three nights. As a result, most of them have subsequently been rendered homeless.
At present, most of the evicted Roma from La Courneuve are reportedly living in tents near the town hall, relying on support from civil society activists who have made strenuous efforts to ensure that the children are able to attend school, despite the authorities’ reluctance to register them, and it is reported that their continued admission to local schools is by no means assured.
“From the perspective of rights of the child, this is extremely worrying,” Zeid said.
The High Commissioner noted that the events in La Courneuve were simply the latest in a succession of collective forced evictions of Roma migrants in France since 2012, and expressed concern at reports that further evictions are planned.
“It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a systematic national policy to forcibly evict the Roma,” the UN Human Rights Chief said. “Two key international Treaty Bodies, namely the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Human Rights Committee, earlier this year both urged France to refrain from such forced evictions without the provision of alternative housing. I join them in calling on France to replace this punitive and destructive policy with a policy of genuine inclusion.”
Forced evictions of Roma and Travellers have continued in a number of European countries in recent years, including Albania, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
“We have interacted with authorities and civil society in several countries, and continue to try to increase awareness of international standards. In some cases, we have also tried to mediate and we consistently urge authorities to provide alternative housing solutions as a matter of course,” Zeid said, noting that there have also been some recent positive developments, including the Serbian authorities halting a planned forced eviction of a Roma settlement in Grmec. In addition, a Serbian court has for the first time applied the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the national legal system.
“These developments are welcome,” the High Commissioner said. “I urge other States to follow suit, and make a much greater effort to treat the Roma sensitively and fairly, in accordance with international standards. Failure to do so simply exacerbates entrenched popular discrimination against what is already one of Europe’s most deprived and marginalized communities.”
*See (1) 10 June 2015 Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/FRA/CO/20-21), esp. Point 9.
and (2) 17 August 2015 Final Observations of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/FRA/CO/5), esp. Point 13.
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