Hearing on Fighting Racial Discrimination in Housing: Forced Evictions against Roma :Recommendations from the stakeholders

21 October 2015

This hearing took stock of the systematic forced evictions of Europe in Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy and France. The hearing addressed the questions, like What are the competences of the European Commission to intervene on forced evictions, and what has it done so far to address this issue? How can National Roma Integration Strategies contribute to improving Roma access to housing? How are international human rights standards applied? How can EU funds be used to prevent evictions?

 

Alone in France 3.947 Roma were forcibly evicted during the first half of 2015. According to La Voix des Rroms" 40 million euros were spent in France to evict Roma.   The French human rights organizations signalized that evictions are still not stopping and that the mayor of the La Courneuve evicted 80 Roma families on the 27th of August  from the oldest camp Samaritan putting the Roma to fight again for their survival. Bulgaria is another case where forced evictions against Roma were carried out.  In the city of Varna and the village of Garmen politicians gave orders for demolishment of Roma houses as an instrument for gaining electoral support from the mainstream society.  It is unclear whether prior notices for the evictions were distributed to the evicted before the demolitions. In the city of Rome, Italy so far 69 evictions were carried this year.  This action affected 1, 008 people.  Hungary is one of the countries that decided to remove from the city of Miskolc 450 Roma families in July, 2015.

The public hearing gathered a variety of speakers from civil society and cross party of members of European Parliament. They displayed their strong commitment on taking actions against eviction.   Meanwhile, the representatives of the European Commission clearly stated that the Roma evictions are not on currently on their agenda and their focus is on educational matters. In addition the representative of EC mentioned that they lack resources to investigate evictions in the member states. Even though the representative of the four countries were invited – only Bulgarian representative was present at the meeting.

There is no remedy taking place, the responsibility for the evictions is being shifted form the local to national level. Evicted Roma are not being secured with alternative housing or any kind of legal protection. In the case of Garmen, the European Human Rights Court said that the Government must stop the demolition of houses and evictions, but in fact it was only postponed.  The available legal instrument that can be used in the framework of the Equality Race Directive is the infringement preceding that was so far used against Slovakia and Czech Republic in the area of discrimination on education. However, it was never used in the area of housing.

Recommendations

During the hearing the following Recommendations were provided to the European Commission and European Parliament:

TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION

1. The European Commission should investigate breaches of the Race Equality Directive – particularly the prohibition of harassment in the area of housing resulting from forced evictions of Roma, and initiate infringement proceedings against member states which breach the Directive by harassing Roma through evictions.

2. The European Commission should use EU funds to stop and prevent further forced evictions against Roma in EU countries. Several member states have planned under their Operational Programs EU money to promote adequate housing for Roma. The Commission could recommend to member states to use this money for the already evicted Roma families and legalize settlements (Bulgaria) and/or ensure access to adequate housing (Italy, France), rather than evicting people from their homes.

Example: NGO ‘National Human Rights Collective Romeurope’ has reported that in France in 2014 were spent about 30 million euro for evictions of Roma people.

3. Member States failing to comply with their National Roma Integration Strategies’ goals should be requested to redress the situation swiftly and include in the housing part of their progress reports the measures they have taken to fight against discrimination and segregation in housing for Roma, including preventing forced evictions. Shadow reports coming from the civil society should be used to feed into the progress report.

4.  The Commission should ensure that member states report on their commitment stated in the Council Recommendation’s paragraph 2.3: “Ensure that forced evictions are in full compliance with Union law as well with other international human rights obligations, such as those of the European Convention on Human Rights”. European Commission should make sure that governments are meeting the ex-ante conditionality of NRIS and ensure that funds are stopped if that is not the case. The European Commission should have a strong monitoring system and action plans to remedy the situation, both of which should be regularly assessed.

Example: in its June 2015 report, the European Commission writes that member states who do not meet the ex-ante conditionality of NRIS in place will have to present an action plan to remedy that ("in 2016" according to the European Commission , more specifically, before 31 January 2016, according to the decision of the Ombudsman). Bulgaria does not meet the ex-ante conditionality fully, according to the Operational Program for Regional Development.

Example: FRA should make sure to include in the Roma framework's  such on forced evictions, including on early warning and adequate alternative housing solutions. This will help assessing the situation and inform public policies and National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS)

TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

7. Members of European Parliament should initiate an own-initiative report or study by the European Parliament to analyze and give official evidence on racial discrimination in housing of Roma.

8.  Members of European Parliament should send a written question to Commissioners Cre?u, Jourova and Thyssen about their plans to tackle discrimination of Roma in housing, specifically forced evictions as well as the use of EU funds to tackle this phenomenon.

9. Members of European Parliament should organize field trip go at least to one country: to assess the situation regarding evictions and ensure there are political commitments made.

The public hearing was organized by the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), Amnesty International, European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO), European Network against Racism (ENAR) and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).

 For more info please click here: Concept note, Factsheets 



 

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