(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International today called on Czech authorities to prevent forcibly evicting dozens of Roma families living in rental accommodations in the north-eastern Czech town of Ostrava this weekend.
On Friday morning, the head of Ostrava’s construction office delivered an eviction notice to more than 40 Roma families living in rented housing on Prednadrazi Street, giving them just over 24 hours to leave the premises voluntarily. If the inhabitants fail to leave, they risk having the police enforce the eviction order.
Since local authorities provided only a day’s notice, the human rights organization is concerned that it will amount to an illegal forced eviction. Thirty families with have not been provided alternative housing arrangements yet.
“If an eviction is found to be the only workable option, nobody should be left homeless,” said Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia deputy program director at Amnesty International. “The authorities must ensure that any alternative accommodation complies with the criteria for adequate housing.”
International criteria for adequate alternative housing include stipulations on the size, affordability and location of the accommodation, as well as its accessibility to essential services.
The dormitories that have been offered as alternative housing for some of the Roma families are inadequate as they usually assign one room to each family, though some families have up to nine members. Several families may have to share cooking and sanitation facilities.
Serious concerns have been raised about their ability to afford the proposed alternative. Rental prices for a room at the dormitories are more than double what the families are currently paying for a flat.
Ostrava’s construction office has reportedly justified the planned eviction by claiming the residences on Prednadrazi Street are unsafe for human habitation due to damage to the structure and electrical installations, as well as inadequate sanitation.
Amnesty International and European Roma Rights Center have learned that the sanitation problem was caused by a failure of the property owner and local authorities to maintain the sewerage system, which has left numerous houses polluted with raw sewage.
“Eviction should only be carried out as a last resort, after Ostrava authorities have explored all other feasible alternatives,” concluded Tigani.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.