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September 18, 2021

 

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Roma children electrocuted while playing in a Belgrade settlement

20.3.2021 7:28
The site in Belgrade, Serbia of the tragic death of a Romani child accidentally electrocuted while playing in a dump in March 2021. (PHOTO:  Opre Roma Serbia)
The site in Belgrade, Serbia of the tragic death of a Romani child accidentally electrocuted while playing in a dump in March 2021. (PHOTO: Opre Roma Serbia)

Six Roma children who were playing near a rubbish dump in an informal settlement in Belgrade, Serbia, were electrocuted. One of them, a 14-year-old boy, died on Thursday, 18 March. All of them have serious injuries, two of them suffered burns over 80 % of their bodies. When the distraught family called for an ambulance, it arrived 30 minutes later.

Most of these families had moved to Belgrade from the southern Serbian regions seeking a better life, but ended up living in dangerous conditions around waste dumps. This informal settlement is one of more than 40 across Belgrade municipal territory where people live in improvised housing without any basic infrastructure – inluding no indoor plumbing - and in an insecure environment.

Zeljko Jovanovic, the director of the Berlin-based Roma Initiatives Office, commented on the child's death as follows: “This is such tragic news. This was his playground. Kids deserve a safe place to play. Unfortunately, thousands of Roma face this life every day. For decades, we have been asking municipalities and governments to take the situation seriously and as a matter of urgency. However, despite various campaigns and requests, many Romani people are left with an impossible choice between dangerous, life-threatening surroundings and the impossibility to earn the basic means to survive economically. Solutions can be found, but we need the attention and devotion of the local authorities.”

“Many of the Roma in the settlements have either come from Kosovo or moved from poorer areas of Serbia," Jovanovic said. "These families often have little choice other than to migrate from their villages in search of jobs. They end up living in unsanitary and deplorable conditions. This tragedy is just an example of the price they have to pay for not having a chance to find a decent living, neither in their original homes nor in Belgrade.”

“The municipality must at least ensure these people are not exposed to dangers to their health and lives," the director of the Roma Intiatives Office said. "If that much can be done, then this child’s life will not have been not taken away in vain.”

agw, Ishara Bhasi Callan
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Belgrade, Berlin, Civil society, Deceased, Homeless people, Housing, human rights, Kosovo, local authority, Poverty, refugee, Roma, Roma Initiatives Office (RIO), Serbia



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