Displaced Roma Families Head into Brutal Winter without Adequate Housing

December 3, 2010

This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

Around 100 children, women and men, forcibly evicted from their homes by the Romanian government six years ago, continue to live in dirty, inhumane conditions.  With nowhere else to go, they are stuck in small, overcrowded metal shacks that stand next to a large sewage plant. A sign outside the plant warns of “toxic danger”, yet the authorities have failed to heed this warning and the Roma families are suffering.

The Roma families are from the Romanian town of Miercurea Ciuc, and despite the fact that authorities told them the movie was only temporary, six years have passed and there are still no plans to relocate them. The 75 people remaining are living with only 4 toilets between them, 1 tap for water, and shacks that do not provide protection from the elements, which is of serious concern for the winter season when temperatures drop below -25 °C (-13 °F). In addition, the families are also living within 300 meters of toxic waste, which is prohibited under Romanian law. Many Roma have expressed concern about their health, and the health of their families, reporting an awful stench that constantly lingers in the air.

International law was violated when the Roma were forcibly evicted six years ago: the families were not given the opportunity to challenge the eviction decision, and they were given no opportunity to engage with the decision-making process. No written, detailed notification, including the date of the eviction, was given to all involved evictees sufficiently in advance, despite the requirements of the Romanian law. In addition, the current conditions in which they live do not fulfill the human right to adequate housing. Unfortunately, this case is not unique to Romania: the Roma people have frequently been the targets of discrimination across Europe, suffering from inadequate housing, education, health, water and sanitation. The Decade of Roma Inclusion, initiated in 2005 by eight European countries with international support, acknowledged the disparate conditions facing Roma, sometimes derogatively referred to as ‘gypsies,’ throughout Europe.  Sadly, half way through the initiative, there still remains much to be done to ensure adequate human rights for the Roma population. Help make a difference by participating in this year’s Global Write-a-Thon, and sending letters to the Romanian authorities demanding that action be taken to help these Roma families.

Jodi Rafkin, Romania Country Specialist, and Elizabeth Stitt, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.