MINELRES: ERRC Action to Challenge Systemic Substandard Housing of Roma

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Fri Apr 29 11:01:24 2005

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

Collective Complaint against Bulgaria under the Revised European Social 
Charter Launched Today Seeks Redress for Comprehensive Failure of Policy

21 April, 2005, Strasbourg/Sofia: The European Roma Rights Centre today 
brought a Collective Complaint under the Revised European Social Charter 
(RESC) against Bulgaria for persistent and systematic violations of the 
right of the family to social, legal and economic protection with
respect to Roma in Bulgaria as guaranteed under Article 16 of the
Charter and related international standards. In order to ensure the
necessary conditions for the full development of the family, which is a
fundamental unit of society, Bulgaria has undertaken under Article 16 of
the RESC "to promote the economic, legal and social protection of family
life by means such as social and family benefits, fiscal arrangements,
provision of family housing, benefits for the newly married, and by
other appropriate means."

The ERRC Collective Complaint alleges that these commitments are not
upheld with respect to Roma at present in Bulgaria, because the
Bulgarian government has adopted and/or tolerated a range of policies
and practices that strike at the fundamental basis of family existence,
namely the need for security, privacy and shelter, and freedom from
racial and other discrimination.

The ERRC Collective Complaint is based on long-term ERRC research into
the housing situation of Roma in Bulgaria, undertaken independently as
well as with partner organisations. The conclusions of this research
indicate that:

* Very large numbers of Roma - in particular those Romani individuals
residing in informal slum settlements - are precluded from legally
registering their housing; Roma as an ethnic group have been
systemically compelled to reside or left in situations in which, as a
group, they face no reasonable alternate options other than residing in
housing lacking a legal basis, and therefore in a state of permanent
high insecurity and under generalised threat of forced eviction;

* This housing is in the main of significantly poorer quality than
housing in other areas and inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians or other
ethnic groups; Romani settlements frequently lack access to communal
services and infrastructure;

* In practice authorities have on numerous occasions forcibly evicted
Roma from housing without providing them with adequate alternate
accommodation or sufficient compensation or adequate redress for
destroyed housing, thus rendering many Romani families homeless or
vulnerable to other human rights abuses;

* A number of major Romani settlements are today under permanent threat
of wholesale or partial destruction as a result of urban plans, and
inhabitants have in the main been excluded from decisions about their
housing fates and left uninformed for significant periods of time as to
plans for their future housing arrangements;

* Despite adopting policy commitments to improve Romani housing,
Bulgarian law- and policy-makers have not acted sufficiently to see
these commitments realised;

* Despite the clear emergence and development of a right to adequate
housing under international law, Bulgarian lawmakers have yet to adopt
domestic law guarantees recognising a right to adequate housing, and
have therefore failed to secure adequately the right to adequate housing
under Bulgaria's domestic legal order. Indeed, in recent years Bulgarian
lawmakers have actually eroded previously existing protections.

The Collective Complaint alleges that, taken together with their very
large scale character, these issues give rise to systemic violations of
the rights ensured in Article 16, read together and/or independently of
the Revised Charter's Article E non-discrimination guarantees, as well
as other provisions of international law. The Collective Complaint also
alleges that Bulgarian policies and practices in the field of housing
for Romani families constitute racial segregation, as banned under
international law.

In documenting the human rights situation of Roma in Bulgaria, the ERRC
works closely with partner organisations Romani Baht and the Bulgarian
Helsinki Committee.

For further information on the ERRC Collective Complaint, please contact
ERRC Research and Policy Coordinator Savelina Danova-Russinova:


The European Roma Rights Centre 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 Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201



The European Roma Rights Centre 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
transfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:

European Roma Rights Centre
Budapest Bank Rt.
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1

For correspondence, to subscribe and unsubscribe from this list, please
use: office@errc.org.