Belgium: Roma Travellers to be evicted in EU capital, fire reported at their halting site
The European Roma Grassroots Organizations network reports that Roma Travellers living in the Anderlecht neighborhood of Brussels, Belgium are scheduled to be evicted on 28 June and that a fire has been reported at their halting site. All the evictees, according to ERGO, are reportedly Belgian Roma whose ancestors have lived in the country for centuries.
The evictees are said to have been born in Belgium, as were their parents and grandparents. The community has lived on the territory of Anderlecht municipality in the EU's capital for as long as it members can remember.
Belgian Roma Travellers remain one of the most neglected communities in Europe. During the Second World War, a large part of the Belgian Roma community who were traditionally travelling and living in caravans were deported to the Nazi concentration camps.
Today, a generation later, Belgian Roma Travellers are being constantly evicted from halting site to halting site, unwanted and unwelcome by local authorities. Just two weeks ago Anderlecht municipality announced to the current occupants of the Dante Street site that they needed to leave.
Reportedly the land where the camp is located is polluted. However, this is reportedly not the first attempt by the Mayor of Anderlecht, Eric Tomas (Socialist Party) to get rid of the halting site altogether.
According to ERGO, police have ordered those using the site to move on many times without ever giving them an official written notice as to why. In April local police allegedly visited the Dante Street site and gave such verbal orders again without creating a paper trail of their instructions.
The Roma refused to follow the police orders in April without receiving documentation of the necessary legal reasons for them, according to ERGO. The land on which the halting site is located is apparently not municipally owned.
An Armenian family foundation - the Boghossian Foundation - owns the property, ERGO reports. So far the foundation has reportedly refused to cooperate with local authorities or police and does not support evicting the Roma from their private land.
ERGO believes the municipality has now found another excuse for the evictions – the pretext is that the land is polluted. This is all happening in the context of the upcoming local elections that will take place in October there.
Many unanswered questions are raised by these events. "Is antigypsyism acceptable in the very heart of the European Union?" asks Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, director of ERGO network.
"Is the Socialist Party ready to take responsibility for such an act, and do they propose any alternative for the Belgian Roma who actually are Belgian citizens? What moral right would an Armenian foundation have to evict members of another minority who have historically gone through the very same persecution and genocide that the Armenians have experienced?" the ERGO Director asks.
Is antigypsyism the last acceptable form of racism?
According to ERGO, for several years it has been legally possible that Traveller halting sites be created in Brussels with allocated land and facilities. There is reportedly even a special fund from the Brussels Region that can be used for this.
Haren municipality is the only one that has so far showed an interest and taken advantage of this funding, according to ERGO. Now, on Dante Street, three days before the evictions, ERGO reports that part of the camp was set on fire.
According to ERGO, the perpetrators of the arson remain unknown. The evictions are still apparently scheduled to take place as planned on 28 June 2018.
Where will these Belgian Roma go now? Will their children be able to enrol into and attend school?
Will they be provided an alternative halting site? Wherever it is they end up, they seem destined to be evicted from again.
The European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO) brings together more than 28 (pro-)Roma grassroots organisations from across Europe to empower communities, fight antigypsyism and achieve equal citizenship for members of Roma communities.
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