Wednesday, September 16, 2009
ROMA IN BULGARIA
The following article by Rene Beekman appeared on THE SOFIA ECHO
Roma housing demolition policy constitutes ethnic cleaning - Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Wed, Sep 16 2009 17:41 CET by Rene Beekman
If Bulgarian authorities were to continue the practice of demolishing illegal Roma housing, which is estimated at around 50 to 70 per cent of all Roma houses, that would equate to ethnic cleansing, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said in a media statement sent out on September 16 2009.
Responding to the demolition of houses in the Gorno Ezerovo borough of Bourgas by local authorities on September 8 2009, BHC said it was "seriously concerned".
"This act constitutes the severest human rights violation in Bulgaria this year and the severest violation since the new government took office," the BHC statement said.
Inhabitants of demolished houses in the Gorno Ezerovo borough had been left homeless, BHC said.
According to the BHC, the Sofia municipality has similar plans for houses in the Voenna Rampa area.
"In all cases the houses are demolished under the pretext of their "illegal status" and/or the lack of legal grounds for living in them, irrespective of the fact that these houses are the only homes their inhabitants have, and the fact that they have been living in them for many years," BHC said.
According to the BHC, local authorities had failed to ensure alternative housing for affected families and families had not received any protection from governmental institutions and judicial authorities.
"Extreme nationalist and xenophobic groups, from which the new government is receiving parliamentary and public support, have welcomed the local authorities' initiatives," BHC said, without specifying who it was alluding to.
The BHC said it "addressed the Bulgarian government, the prosecutor's office, the Ombudsman and other responsible institutions, as well as the international institutions, with an urgent request not to allow dozens of Roma families to remain homeless in the face of the approaching winter".
The BHC said that "the new government's tolerance of such practices is a very bad signal for its readiness to implement the 2006 National Programme for Improvement of the Living Conditions of the Roma".
According to the BHC, a large part of Roma housing in the country was formally illegal, with estimates varying between 50 and 70 per cent. "In such a situation, such wide-scale activities aimed at demolishing illegal Roma houses would constitute ethnic cleansing," the BHC said.
Earlier in the year, then Sofia mayor Boiko Borissov commented in local media that the Sofia municipality could not provide housing for, as he put it, everyone who had decided to leave their village and come to the city.
Posted by Morgan at 10:11 PM