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Thousand Roma evicted from Belgrade settlement

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Ilona Lo Iacono
WVoN co-editor 

Serbian authorities evicted approximately 1,000 Roma from their homes in Belvil, New Belgrade, on Thursday, despite opposition from human rights groups.

According to Amnesty International (AI), the Roma of Belvil were not properly consulted, and were denied adequate information, notice and legal remedies.

Some residents were handed slips of paper informing them of their resettlement location just one day before the eviction.

The lack of consultation, the organisation says, has meant that some of the 250 families may have been split up, while others now face homelessness.

A pregnant 17-year-old girl was reportedly told that she will be sent to the town of Nis in southern Serbia, where she has no home, and nowhere to stay.

A disabled woman who uses a wheelchair was sent to a site far away from where her daughter – who cares for her – lives. After the woman spoke with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Serbian authorities promised to move her from that site, although no action has yet been taken.

Romani women in Serbia face serious barriers to receiving adequate healthcare at the best of times.

Lack of identity documents, health insurance or health cards prevent many of them from accessing such services, while medical practitioners also discriminate against them, according to the European Roma Rights Centre.

“Discrimination against Romani women is particularly evident in the areas of reproductive and maternal health and emergency care due to these being the most commonly used health care services,” the Centre says.

Substandard housing and extreme poverty are also major contributing factors to the poor health of Roma in Serbia, and, while some argue that the eviction from the wooden and cardboard shacks of Belvil (see AI’s video of the settlement here) will improve living conditions, previous evictions have not done so.

Roma who were evicted in March from Belgrade’s Block 72 were moved into metal containers which AI describes as “old, dirty, overcrowded and without ventilation or electricity”.

The evictees are to be moved to several different sites, where they will be housed in metal containers, which NGOs warned do not meet adequate standards, given that each person has been allocated only two square metres of space.

Residents of Resnik, a suburb of Belgrade, protested for weeks against the relocation of Roma to their neighbourhood, who  are unlikely to find a welcoming home anywhere: Roma are regular victims of far-right violence across Europe, and Serbia is no exception.

Almost half of the 250 families who were resident in Belvil are internally displaced people from Kosovo, and will be resettled in other areas of Belgrade.

Some of the families, who have signed an agreement, will reportedly be returned to Kosovo, to the towns they left during the conflict in 1999.

Others who are not registered as residents of Belgrade are being returned to their original municipalities, which AI says are likely to be ill-prepared for the new arrivals.

According to Serbian human right activists, this is the nation’s 17th Roma eviction in the past two years.

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