ERRC Letter to Prime Minister of Spain


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Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999 11:34:03 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: ERRC Letter to Prime Minister of Spain

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Original sender: European Roma Rights Center <errc@errc.org>

ERRC Letter to Prime Minister of Spain


European Roma Rights Center Letter to the Prime Minister of Spain
July 22, 1999
 
On July 22, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international
public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and
provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, sent a letter
to Mr  Jose Maria Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain, to express concern
at the recent eviction of approximately one thousand Romanian Romani
refugees from Madrid. Copies of the letter were also sent to Mr Jaime
Major Oreja, Interior Minister of Spain; Mr Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon,
President of the Madrid Government; and Mr Jose Maria Alavarez del
Manzano, Mayor of Madrid. The text of the letter follows:
 
Honourable Mr Prime Minister,
 
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public
interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and
provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is concerned
about the recent eviction of approximately one thousand Romanian
Romani refugees from a site on which they had been living in Madrid
and the treatment to which they are presently being subjected at the
hands of Spanish authorities.
 
According to reports in the Spanish press, at around 7:00 AM on July
8, 1999, around fifty police officers evicted the approximately 100
Romanian Romani families, comprising around one thousand individuals,
from the site on which they had been living in the Malmea area of the
Fuencarral District of Madrid.  Employees of the municipality, some of
whom were driving bulldozers, also took part in the eviction. During
the raid, police officers destroyed makeshift housing in which the
Roma had been living. The expelled Roma were also reportedly not given
adequate time to gather belongings, and many abandoned possesions at
the site.
 
Virtually all of the Roma concerned are asylum seekers in Spain whose
applications had been rejected at the first instance and for whom
appeal procedures are still in progress. They had not been provided
with basic accomodation or social support by Spanish authorities and
were therefore living in deplorable conditions while their appeals
were pending.
 
According to ERRC research, the Roma living in Malmea had not
previously been told that they would be evicted. According to press
reports, Mr Pedro Nunez Morgades, a representative of the Madrid
municipality, the families "knew they had to go away". The Spanish
daily El Pais reported on July 9 that police sources had stated that
the Roma living in Malmea had been told that they should leave Madrid
or they would be expelled from Spain. The Madrid municipality
maintains that the Roma living in Malmea left "voluntarily". According
to the same issue of El Pais, Ms Maria Tardon, competent for security
affairs within the Madrid city administration, stated on July 10 that
the raid had been a "garbage collection action" and that "marginal
groups cannot be permitted to disturb the public order and to create
health problems."
 
One group of Roma expelled from Malmea comprising approximately 120
persons reportedly fled North. At a petrol station approximately sixty
kilometres outside Madrid, still on the evening of July 8, a
five-year-old Romani boy named Samuel Paun was run over and killed by
a truck.  According to press reports, the body of the victim was
repatriated to Romania the following day, July 9, along with members
of his family. City officials have dismissed as "demagogy" any efforts
to link the death of Samuel Paun to his eviction earlier the same day.
 
According to the July 10 edition of the Spanish daily El Mundo,
hundreds of Roma, including pregnant women, newborn babies and the
elderly, spent two nights sleeping on the streets and in various parks
in Madrid. Spanish NGOs told El Mundo that members of the group were
suffering hunger and dehydration and a number of children had chicken
pox.

As of July 11, authorities had erected tents in an industrial area
outside Madrid, along the road to San Roque. Authorities reportedly
registered 280 individuals for the site, but have refused to continue
registering people, although tens of additional Roma from the evicted
group subsequently arrived there. Authorities have stated that they
intend to settle the evicted Roma in four or five smaller groups
outside the Madrid city limits. However, locals in Villaverde, one of
the reported planned sites, have stated their intention to block the
arrival of any of the displaced Roma.
 
On July 21, Mr Jaime Major Oreja, Interior Minister of Spain, answered
parliamentary queries concerning the eviction of the Malmea Roma in
the Spanish Chamber of Deputies. He reportedly reaffirmed that the
police and municipal raid and eviction of July 8 had been a "cleaning
action". He stated that the 280 Roma presently accomodated on the San
Roque road were to be separated and relocated to four or five places.
Mr Major Oreja reportedly stated that the Roma on the San Roque road
are now "better off" than they had been in Malmea. Mr Major Oreja made
no comment on the fate of the approximately seven hundred Malmea Roma
not presently staying on the San Roque road.
 
On July 21, the ERRC visited the San Roque road settlement and
documented the situation of Roma living there. The ERRC noted that
there were four tents with approximately 20-25 beds per tent; the
tents were evidently severely over-crowded. At least forty Roma at the
site had not been registered at the site by authorities and were
therefore not entitled to be housed in the tents. There was only one
source of water at the site. In the entire time they had been on the
site, the Roma living there had reportedly been provided with one kilo
of milk and two boxes of biscuits per family, as well as two diapers
per child. At the time of the ERRC visit, children were suffering from
skin rashes as a result of the failure to provide enough diapers and
the lack of adequate sanitary facilities. Many were also evidently
sunburned. Roma stated that they had been unable to cook at the site,
since they had abandoned cooking ware in Malmea. Although the Roma had
reportedly been promised ambulance service, there was no ambulance at
the site. The only officials present were two police officers and
according to local Roma they were on 24-hour guard there. The site was
entirely without public transport access into Madrid. According to
ERRC information, as of July 21, those Roma from Malmea not located on
the San Roque Road were dispersed in various places around Spain, with
some remaining in Madrid. These Roma were not being provided for in
any way by authorities.
 
Honourable Mr Prime Minister, the ERRC is deeply concerned that this
group of Romani refugees from Romania have evidently become victims of
forced migration at the hands of Spanish authorities. The ERRC notes
the failure of the Spanish authorities' failure to provide them with
adequate housing in the first place. Both the evictions and the
present conditions in which the Roma of Malmea are being housed
constitute inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3
of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as well as Article 7
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The violent disruption of their home and family lives and their
continued accomodation under deplorable conditions additionally
constitutes violations of Article 8 of the ECHR. The raid is also in
violation of Article 1, Protocol 1 to the ECHR, which provides that
"Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment
of his possessions." The relocation of the Malmea Roma to areas
outside Madrid, far from where their appeal procedures are held, may
violate the due process rights of the Romani refugees concerned.
Efforts by authorities to distance themselves from consequences of the
July 8 police raid and eviction, such as the death of Samuel Paun and
the widespread suffering of persons rendered homeless, are
insensitive.
 
Numerous international organisations, including the European Roma
Rights Center, have documented the dire human rights situation of Roma
in Romania; deadly pogroms occurring throughout the 1990s have
resulted in the burning and beating deaths of Roma. Police brutality
against Roma in Romania is endemic. Documentation of the situation of
Roma in Romania is available at the ERRC internet website at
errc.org.  The European Roma Rights Center respectfully urges your
office to ensure that Roma from Romania seeking asylum in Spain are
accorded access to adequate asylum procedures and that they be
provided with dignified accomodation during review of their claims.
Actions by the police to evict, threaten or otherwise degrade Romani
asylum seekers in Spain should be swiftly and unequivocally condemned
by your office.
 
The ERRC additionally urges that Spanish authorities undertake
thorough and impartial investigation into the actions of the Madrid
police and Madrid municipality on July 8 in the Malmea area, taking
into account domestic and international legal norms. Authorities who
have violated the rights of Roma in the course of the raid and
eviction should be suitably punished.  The ERRC respectfully requests
to be informed of the results of such an investigation and any
disciplinary action taken.
 
Sincerely,
Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director
 
Persons wishing to express similar concern are urged to contact Mr
Maria Aznar at:
Fax: (34 91) 390 07 51
 
*****************
 
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest
law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://errc.org.
 
European Roma Rights Center
H-1525 Budapest 114
PO Box 10/24
Hungary
 
Telephone: (36 1) 42 82 351
Fax: (36 1) 42 82 356
 
*****************
 
SUPPORT THE ERRC!
 
The European Roma Rights Center is dependent upon the generosity of
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank
tranfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:
 
European Roma Rights Center
Budapest Bank Rt.
99P00402686
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1
Hungary

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