Ongoing forced evictions of Roma and Travellers in a number of European States, including France and Bulgaria, are cause for serious concern, the United Nations human rights chief said today.
On 7 September, after anti-Roma riots last July, Bulgarian authorities evicted Roma from the Kremikoytzi settlement in the municipality of Gurmen. According to civil society sources, no alternative accommodation was offered and a total of 41 people, including 21 children, were made homeless as a result. Further evictions in the area, as well as in Varna municipality, are now feared.
“I urge Bulgaria to halt these forced evictions which are devastating to the affected communities,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “The recommendations of various international human rights mechanisms covering such situations should be adhered to, and no one should be made homeless.”
In France, more than 150 Roma in the municipality of La Courneuve were forcibly evicted from their homes in August. Those evicted are reportedly living in tents and relying on support from civil society activists, who are making efforts to ensure that the children are able to attend school, despite the authorities’ reluctance to register them.
“From the perspective of rights of the child, this is extremely worrying,” the High Commissioner said.
He also noted that this was the latest in a succession of forced evictions of Roma migrants in France, and expressed his 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,” he 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.”
France and Bulgaria are not alone; forced evictions of Roma and Travellers have continued in a number of European countries in recent years.
The High Commissioner noted that there have been some positive developments, including the halting of a planned forced eviction of a Roma settlement in Grmec by the Serbian authorities. Also, 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.”