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Governments must do more to ensure housing rights for Roma – UN expert

Governments must do more to ensure housing rights for Roma – UN expert

An independent United Nations rights expert has urged European countries to ensure the right to adequate housing for Roma, as more and more of them have been forcibly evicted from their homes and are facing growing discrimination.

“Housing rights of Roma are abused in several parts of Europe,” stated Miloon Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, in a joint statement issued with the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

Mr. Kothari drew attention to an increasing number of reports of evictions of Roma communities and families “which have been carried out in violation of human rights standards.”

He also noted an “undeniable growth of anti-Romani sentiment or ‘anti-Ziganism’” in Europe, and a lack of action on the part of authorities to tackle this problem. “It is regrettable that the actions of many public authorities – particularly at the local level – have been to acquiesce in this intensification of anti-Romani hatred.

“As a result, the rate and number of forced evictions of Roma have grown dramatically, and segregation and ghettoization in the housing field appears to have intensified and become entrenched in recent years,” he stated.

The Special Rapporteur pointed out that the right to adequate housing is crucial for the enjoyment of other rights, including privacy, education, employment, health and electoral participation, and pointed out that the “substandard” education of Roma in many European countries is often the result of placement far from decent schools or repeated eviction.

Calling for concerted action at the local, national and European levels to end the housing crisis of the Roma, Mr. Kothari urged that domestic laws be strengthened to ensure security of tenure for all vulnerable groups, and that legal protection against forced eviction be brought into conformity with international law.

In taking these and other measures, he stressed the need for “full and meaningful” consultation with affected Roma communities.