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Bulgarian NGOs get injunction suspending demolition of Roma homes in Peshtera

17.9.2015 20:48
The demolition of several dozen illegally constructed, Romani-occupied dwellings began on 20 August 2015 in the Maksuda locality of the Bulgarian city of Varna. (PHOTO:  YouTube.com)
The demolition of several dozen illegally constructed, Romani-occupied dwellings began on 20 August 2015 in the Maksuda locality of the Bulgarian city of Varna. (PHOTO: YouTube.com)

A Bulgarian coalition of Romani NGOs called the National Roma Coalition "Intellect" has issued a press release in response to the advice given to the Bulgarian Government by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on 15 September. The ECtHR said that “without a definite commitment on its part to ensure the accommodation of the vulnerable members of the applicants’ families before the demolition of their homes, the Court will, in application of Rule 39 of its Rules, indicate to that Government not to proceed with this measure”.

The court issued its advice in response to a request for interim measures filed by attorney Alexander Kashumov, the legal team of the Housing Program of the Trust for Social Achievements Foundation, and by Daniela Mihaylova, Director of the Legal Program of the Equal Opportunities Initiative Association in Bulgaria, all of whom are representing Romani people whose homes are being demolished in the municipality of Peshtera. In a letter to the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, the Regional Development Ministry and the Pazarjik Regional Governor, the municipality of Peshtera has confirmed that there are no housing alternatives being offered to the Romani people whose homes are being demolished, according to the NGO coalition.

Appeals against the local authority's demolition were also filed with the Pazarjik Administrative Court on 14 September. That court issued injunctions against the demolition pending a final decision, according to the press release.  

The NGO coalition claims that the only housing targeted for demolition by authorities is that owned by Romani people. They are also outraged that the Regional Development Ministry has claimed that the demolitions undertaken in the country to date have all respected the rights of the persons affected.  

The National Roma Coalition "Intellect" claims the Bulgaria Government has misled the ECtHR and other international institutions by claiming that the Romani people have been offered alternative accommodation when they have not. House demolitions have proceeded throughout Bulgaria and the residents are now homeless.

According to the coalition, the only house demolitions in Bulgaria involve Romani-owned properties; other demolition orders issued by the authorities are not for housing but for constructions such as farm buildings, fences, garages, wells, etc. The request made to the ECtHR for interim measures described the situation of Romani families in Peshtera and the fact that minors, orphans, and people with disabilities would be affected by the demolitions.

Romani families in Garmen and Varna whose houses have been demolished have been rendered homeless. More than 100 Romani people in Garmen, half of them children (including newborns and children with disabilities) still have not been provided with alternative housing and continue to live outdoors, according to NGOs.

The Romani people whose homes were demolished in Varna were temporarily accommodated in a shelter which they must leave after today. They, too, remain homeless, according to the NGOs.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights opened the 30th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 14 September by noting that he "remains concerned about the continued social exclusion and forced evictions of Roma in several countries, including Bulgaria and  France". The NGOs are urging the Bulgarian and local authorities to reconsider their decisions to demolish these homes and to implement the Government's National Strategy on Roma Integration, which has been endorsed by Parliament.

The NGOs are also urging the European Commission to address the issue of Romani homes being targeted for demolition. National Roma Coalition "Intellect" ends its press release by calling on the Commission not to rely solely on government information about the situation but to take NGO information into consideration as well.

agw, press release from the National Roma Coalition "Intellect" in Bulgaria, Roma Virtual Network
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Bulgaria, Civil society, European Commission, European Court of Human Rights, Housing



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