MEP and OSCE/ODIHR call for evictions of Roma to end in Bulgaria
Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called on Bulgarian authorities yesterday to immediately address inter-ethnic tension and halt evictions in Roma communities. On 29 June, Romani families were forcefully evicted from their homes in the municipality of Garmen.
The evictions are being undertaken in response to anti-Roma protests there and under an atmosphere of intense anti-Romani rhetoric coming from various political parties. "Bulgarian authorities should halt any further evictions that put Roma at risk of becoming homeless. Such actions must comply with international standards and provide for adequate housing for those evicted,” Link said.
“The continued hate speech, extremism and violence against Roma across Europe is of great concern and threatens these individuals’ security and democratic values more broadly,” the ODIHR director said. “Protests confirm the persistence of deeply-rooted prejudice and racism against Roma and Sinti in our societies. In Bulgaria, this is especially relevant in the light of violent anti-Roma protests in 2011.”
All of the OSCE participating States, Bulgaria included, have committed to improving the situation of Roma and Sinti, and political leaders at all levels have the responsibility to promote tolerance and non-discrimination against them. “Politicians should lead by example and refrain from anti-Roma rhetoric to gain support from the electorate. This is not in line with Bulgaria’s commitments to combat discrimination and promote equal opportunities for all citizens,” Link said.
The ODIHR Director's call was echoed today by several MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats Group, including Soraya Post, the Group's Roma Spokesperson. The Group strongly condemned the recent spate of violence against Roma in Bulgaria.
"The forced evictions and anti-Roma attacks of the last few months in Bulgaria are indicative of a wider anti-Gypsyism across Europe," Post said today. "We must do more to protect the Roma population and challenge the underlying prejudices that exist in our society. Given the nature of the recent violence against Roma in Bulgaria it is imperative that these attacks be recognized and prosecuted as what they are: Hate crimes."
"We must also put pressure on the Bulgarian authorities to do more to protect the Roma population," Post said. "They must immediately take action to prevent attacks, stop demolishing Roma homes and provide housing for those that have already been evicted. In this regard, we welcome the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which last Friday asked the Bulgarian government to take urgent interim measures to 'stop the demolitions, until alternative housing is secured for the vulnerable claimants.' Finally, more must be done to fight anti-Gypsyism across Europe. This underlying prejudice is not only the cause of the current crisis but also at the root of the larger social exclusion of the Roma population. It is a disgrace that in the 21st century many Roma do not have access to basic utilities in their homes and that only 29 % of Roma children graduate from secondary school. The continued deprivation and exclusion of Roma across Europe makes a mockery of our claims of moral and humanitarian leadership in the world."
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