Serbian Roma Families Facing Forced Eviction

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Serbian Roma Families Facing Forced Eviction

LONDON - Amnesty International today urged the Belgrade authorities to
halt plans to destroy a Roma settlement amid fears that an eviction
could be imminent.

At least 70 families living in an informal settlement in the
Vidikovac area of the Serbian capital, many of whom fled there after
being forcibly evicted from other sites, could be left homeless again if
the demolition goes ahead.

"The authorities have yet to find a long-term solution for Roma who,
after seeing their homes repeatedly destroyed, live in constant fear of
being evicted at any time without warning," said Sian Jones, Amnesty
International's expert on Serbia.

Under international law, evictions can only be carried out as a last
resort, once all other alternatives have been exhausted.

The Belgrade authorities have not offered the families any
alternative accommodation or compensation. They have failed to consult
the community, instead issuing them with two eviction notices in April
and mid-June, the latter threatening the settlement with eviction from
early July.

"The city authorities have no respect for the Roma people's dignity
and human rights, we have been suffering discrimination in this society
for far too long," a Roma activist, who wants to remain anonymous due to
fear of eviction, told Amnesty International after her visit to
Vidikovac on 30 July.

"The youngest of the Vidikovac residents are the most vulnerable to
forced evictions. We are talking about kids with no chance to live
normally. They can't learn like other children, their health is at
risk."

Thirty-five of the families at risk of eviction joined the Vidikovac
settlement in April 2010, when their homes on the other side of the
street were destroyed by the Belgrade authorities. They were offered no
alternative accommodation, assistance or compensation.

Another 20 families arrived at site after being evicted from a nearby
area without prior notice, leaving them unable to rescue anything but
the few belongings they could carry. Promises of food and assistance
from the authorities failed to materialise.

"This vicious circle of forced evictions can only be broken through
the development of a sustainable resettlement plan, which ensures the
right to adequate housing for all affected communities," said Sian
Jones.

Many of the Roma families living in Vidikovac were forcibly returned
to Serbia from several EU states between 2006 and 2008.

Many had left Southern Serbia in the 1990s in search for work and,
after failing to find adequate housing or employment when returned to
their home towns, joined informal Roma settlements across Belgrade.

The Belgrade authorities have reportedly said the city's settlements
will be removed because they lack proper sanitation. However, they have
not specified where families living on the site can be relocated or how
their human rights will be protected when their homes are demolished.

"The authorities act as if it is our fault that we live in the
settlements, as if it is our choice. What other choice have we got? If
you are Roma you haven't got many choices," the Roma activist said.

Amnesty International's Demand Dignity campaign aims to end the human
rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign
will mobilise people all over the world to demand that governments,
corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those
living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more
information visit http://demanddignity.amnesty.org/campaigns-en/

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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