MINELRES: Romani Baht Foundation: Roma evictions in Bulgaria

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Sep 8 15:24:42 2005

Original sender: Romani Baht Foundation <baht2000@rtsonline.net>

Dear Colleagues,

On September 1, 2005 the Romani Baht Foundation together with the 
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Project Association 
presented in front of the mass media its position with regard to the 
actions of Sofia Municipality for tearing down Roma houses in Hristo
Botev neighborhood in the capital city and the local administrationís
statement about its intentions to demolish more Roma houses in other
municipal sub-districts in Sofia that have been identified as illegal

The Romani Baht Foundationís position is as follows: 
1. The local administrations in the capital city, as well as the central
authorities, for many years have displayed culpable irresponsibility
with regard to the situation in the Roma neighborhoods. It was as far
back as 1999 when the Bulgarian Government took formal commitment before
the Roma community in the country by signing the Framework Programme for
Equal Integration in the Bulgarian Society and thus making it a
government program.  A large part of the activities envisaged in the
Programme concern the housing problems in the Roma ghettos. It has long
been acknowledged that the majority of the housing is illegally
constructed.  It has also been clear for a very long time that it is
mainly the local authorities that are to blame for this problem. The
local administration allowed or tacitly agreed with this illegal
construction. It is common knowledge what the price is for that.  At the
present moment the local administrations demolish the Roma houses and
leave them on the street. Their argument is that the Roma cannot live in
illegal houses because the law is for everyone. However, nobody started
solving the problem of illegal construction in Bulgaria from the modern
hotels at the seaside or the palace-like homes in the elite districts of
Simeonovo and Dragalevtzi in Sofia. The process was started with the
people who have no other alternative. They were left in the street. It
appears that it is not the principle of equality before the law that
guides the administration after all. The Framework Program reflects the
commitment of the government to propose legal reforms that would
facilitate the legalization of the Roma houses. Let this become clear to
the Bulgarian society Ė the Roma do not want the State to build houses
for them; the Roma simply want to have the security of ownership so that
they can take care for their homes as everyone else. 
2. The Bulgarian state breaches commitments made by adoption of
international conventions and treaties which based on the Bulgarian
Constitution have become part of the Bulgarian law and in cases of
contradictions have prevalence over it. Among these documents is the
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the
Revised Social Chart. In these documents the right to housing is defined
as a basic human right. 
3. The Romani Baht Foundation works with the European Roma Rights Center
for preparation of a complaint before the European Social Committee. We
expect the decision of the Committee and we are convinced that the
events from this week will result in a negative reaction from the
international community and negative evaluation of the actions of the
state and local authorities. 
4. We appeal to the Bulgarian Parliament to take responsibility and
revise the spatial development regulations in a way that will make
possible the implementation of the Framework Programme and the
legalization of the Roma houses. We appeal to the executive authorities
on the national and local levels to assume responsibility and undertake
specific measures for the implementation of the Programme.

Romani Baht Foundation
8 Nov Zhivot Str. Sofia 1373 Bulgaria
Tel/fax: 00 359 2 920 42

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