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Serbia: Aid Evicted Roma

Government Should Ensure Adequate Housing for Families Left Without Homes

BRUSSELS - The Serbian authorities should provide alternative homes and
compensation for 47 Roma families forcibly evicted in Belgrade on April
3, 2009, from housing considered substandard, Human Rights Watch and
the European Roma Rights Centre said today in a letter to the Serbian government.

Police forcibly evicted 128 Romani individuals living in Novi
Beograd's Block 67, a poor neighborhood populated by the displaced,
including women and children, and destroyed much of their personal
property. Residents were told the day before the eviction that they had
15 days' notice before being forced out. The police came with
bulldozers the next day, leaving the families homeless.

"It's a scandal that the government left these families on the
street," said Wanda Troszczynska, Western Balkans researcher at Human
Rights Watch. "Serbia needs to get these people rehoused now, and make
sure that other Roma families don't suffer the same fate."

The Serbian government should compensate the families involved for
lost property and other damage associated with the forced eviction and
destruction of property, Human Rights Watch said. It should also ensure
that other Roma families are protected from forced eviction and that
any future actions in relation to evictions are carried out in
accordance with Serbia's international obligations, including
assistance finding adequate housing.

Although the evicted persons were told that alternative
accommodation in containers was available in the Boljevci settlement in
the Municipality of Surčin, residents in Boljevci forcibly prevented
the evicted individuals from making use of this housing. As a result,
the evicted Roma, including children, were forced to sleep outside
without any shelter on the night of the eviction. At least 12 families
remain homeless. Further evictions are planned for an unspecified date.

Currently holding the presidency of the Roma Decade of Inclusion,
which is an initiative of European governments to improve the
socioeconomic status and social inclusion of Roma, Serbia is obliged
under international law to protect people from forced eviction. The
letter calls on the Serbian government to ensure that Romani
communities in similarly precarious positions are afforded appropriate
protections against arbitrary forced evictions, and to provide adequate
alternative housing to those subject to eviction.

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