Amnesty International Demands Romania Address Gaps in Housing Law Affecting Most Vulnerable

For Immediate Release

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Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, Twitter: @spksingh

Amnesty International Demands Romania Address Gaps in Housing Law Affecting Most Vulnerable

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International urges Romanian authorities at all levels to close legal loopholes that affect the housing of some of the country's most marginalized groups, amid Romania's continuing economic challenges that have seen two governments fall in fewer than three months.

"Gaps in Romania's law have allowed local authorities to forcibly evict people from their homes without any safeguards, including prior notification or adequate consultation," said Jezerca Tigani, Europe and central Asia deputy program director. "Often, the local authorities leave people homeless."

"People who live in informal settlements and social housing tenants who have not had their lease renewed have no legal protection and can be forcibly evicted from their homes at any moment," added Jezerca. "Such human rights violations are affecting the most vulnerable, very often Roma."

A briefing by Amnesty International, Unsafe foundations: Secure the right to housing in Romania, outlines key requirements under international law with which governments must comply to safeguard the right to housing, including a prohibition on forced evictions.

The briefing provides the Romanian government with a "housing law checklist" based on international standards that should serve as guidance for legal reform that is long overdue.

The current law in Romania does not prohibit forced evictions. Nor does it prohibit housing relocations to areas which are unsafe and/or polluted, and which pose a risk to people's lives and health. It does not oblige authorities to provide public housing in locations that allow effective access to employment, health-care services, schools, child-care facilities and other services.

Further, the current law does not expressly prohibit segregation in housing and does not provide adequate protection against this particularly pernicious form of discrimination.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of Romani communities being forcibly evicted and relocated to the outskirts of the cities, to overcrowded homes lacking access to essential services and to isolated locations that present serious environmental and health risks.

"The absence of fundamental legal protections and safeguards puts Romania directly in contempt of international standards on adequate housing," said Tigani. "It gives the green light to local authorities to put vulnerable families in even more appalling living conditions."

On the freezing morning of December 27, 2010, 356 people, mostly Roma, who lived for years in Coastei street in the centre of the city of Cluj-Napoca, were forcibly evicted without adequate notice or consultation. They were taken by truck with their belongings to new housing units in the Pata Rât area situated on a hill close to a landfill site and a chemical waste dump on the outskirts of the city.

About 30 of the evicted families were not offered any alternative accommodation. Some of them constructed improvised houses next to the existing units without access to electricity, water or sanitation and at risk of new eviction.

Coastei Street is not an isolated case of forced eviction; the authorities have violated their obligations under international law as a result of deficiencies in the Romanian law.

"No matter whether people rent, own or occupy their home or land without proper documentation, everybody is entitled to the same level of protection against forced evictions, harassment or other threats," said Tigani. "The new Romanian government should model its housing law on the international standards that it has voluntarily accepted and ensure that the law guarantees adequate housing and related rights for everybody in the country."

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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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