Saturday, February 20, 2010
FROM: THE SOFIA ECHO
By Nick Iliev
Slovak town raises concrete wall around Roma ghetto - report
Thu, Feb 18 2010 11:22
A 2.2-metre wall built with public funds separates the Slovak town of Ostrovany, separating two thirds of the population, who are Roma, from the rest, the Times on London said on February 18.
"Nobody told us that this was happening — they just came one day and started building," the daily quoted one of the town's Roma residents, Peter Kaleja, as saying. "The mayor should not have spent that money on the wall, but should have built houses for us."
Regardless of the outrage emanating from human rights activists or the Roma who found themselves in a concrete exile, local authorities said that the extreme measure was necessary "to protect householders whose gardens back on to the Roma settlement and who complain that their fruit is frequently stolen".
The accusation is that the Roma "huts" were constructed illegally in the area, and thus the local population fell victims frequently to looting and theft.
Illegal Roma huts and spawning ghettos are no isolated to Slovakia alone. On January 14, 2010, the Bourgas Municipality in Bulgaria ordered one such Roma ghetto in the city's Slaveikov borough razed, and the Roma dispersed from the site.
The Roma site, which at the time consisted of some 20 shacks and other "shelters", was perched in immediate proximity to a major railway junction.
On January 14, bulldozers flattened five barracks, and the occupants of the remaining 15 or so shelters were told to collect their belongings and clear out by January 15, when the bulldozers returned and cleared the rest of the perimeter.
The Bourgas municipality has a similar problem in the summer of 2009, when 30 sheds were cleared by authorities after a Roma camp site suddenly arose in the same area. At the time, a small girl had died after being hit by a passing train.
"We are trying to get the message across clearly, that every time illegal construction takes place here, it will be destroyed and cleared. We will not allow roaming Roma here," Bourgas mayor Dimitar Nikolov was quoted as saying by Dnevnik
But the concrete wall in Slovakia has raised other concerns. It sent a powerful message of exclusion, said Stanislav Daniel, of the European Roma Rights Centre, quoted by the Times.
"It has a very high symbolic value. We would not object to the owners building their own wall and paying for it. But this is the first time that a municipality in Slovakia is using public money to protect the private property of a few people."
Posted by Morgan at 1:42 PM