Ghettoization of Roma in Serbia
Belgrade, June 27, 2009
For more than ten days - by decision of Belgrade city
authorities - Roma have been living in a settlement fenced off by wire.
The decision has been made within preparation for the 2009 World
University Games. For, as Mayor of Belgrade Dragan Djilas put it, "the
city will not allow wild settlements to obstruct its development." The
wire barrier has been erected under the pretext of security concerns.
Such hypocritical justification of Roma segregation and ghettoization
has gained support from all governmental agencies of the Republic of
In order to hide "the city's eyesore" from the world,
the authorities have maximally restricted Roma's movement in the
vicinity of the university camp Belleville. Tens and tens of police
officers and private security guards are posted around and in the
settlement round the clock and patrol all over it with police dogs. Roma
are constantly exposed to torture and threats, particularly when the
patrols learn that some of them have communicated with human rights
defenders ready to alert general public of their degrading treatment.
They are threatened with jail and insulted on racial and ethnic grounds.
Some have even been beaten by their "guards."
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia has
contacted the Belgrade Secretariat for Social Protection (the most
relevant institution when it comes to solution of the problems of Roma
population) in the attempt to learn whether those people - denied a
fundamental human right, the right to free movement - were being
provided the necessities of life. Unfortunately, despite all promises
from relevant institutions food, healthcare and the right to work are
not available to Roma inhabitants. Water cisterns are supplied to them
irregularly, whereas - according to the information the Committee
obtained - they will have to wait for their food rations, which imply "a
long procedure." Ambulances that used to have free access to the
settlement cannot drive in now because of the fencing. The same refers
to the trucks that were used for transport of wastepaper on which Roma
in Serbia can earn their living. The situation aggravates as time goes
by - new barriers made of wire and concrete poles are being erected
obstructing the only access for ambulances and trucks. According to
latest news, inhabitants themselves are being checked at police posts
and kept there for hours. Last but not least, Roma are growingly
endangered by neo-Nazi organizations, whereas the police do not
guarantee them any protection.
Such situation just follows on the city authorities'
brutal and irresponsible attitude towards Roma. In April 2009 - also
within preparation for the 2009 World University Games - they tore down
the barracks housing Roma and left them without roofs over their heads
for days on. The same scenario applies to both cases - the authorities
firstly make a decision and implement it and only then try to cope with
consequences of their deeds. And all this happens at the time of
Serbia's presidency of the Roma Decade. A priority the country has bound
itself to meet was to solve housing problems of Roma citizens. However,
instead of paying heed to this socially most vulnerable group and
developing a long-term strategy for improvement of its situation, the
city authorities have constructed a "modern" concentration camp in the
capital and appointed police officers to guard it.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
alerts of the dramatic situation of Belgrade Roma and calls upon all
relevant institutions to end the restrictions imposed on them. We demand
the authorities to remove the barrier without delay and secure the
freedom of movement to all citizens without exception. We also appeal to
OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Delegation of the European
Commission to Serbia to intervene against such racist methods bearing in
mind that the treatment of Roma has been placed on the top of