New Amnesty Report Reveals Roma family in Romania forced to live in metal cabins behind sewage works

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

More than 100 Roma people – including families with children – are living in metal cabins next to a sewage works in Romania after they were forcibly evicted from their homes, according to a new Amnesty report launching today.

The report, Treated like waste: Roma homes destroyed and health at risk in Romania, tells how the Roma people were forcibly evicted by municipal authorities from a building in the centre of Miercurea Ciuc – the capital city of Harghita County in central Romania. Most were resettled by the authorities in metal cabins on the outskirts of the town, behind a sewage treatment plant.

Some decided to move to a nearby waste dump, rather than live next to the sewage plant.

Erszebet, who lives next to the sewage treatment plant with her husband and nine children, told Amnesty International what life is like in a metal cabin: “It is tight, when the whole family goes to sleep we don’t fit in. We cannot take a bath; we cannot clean ourselves. It is too small. We don’t want the older girls to take a bath in front of their father.”

The temporary metal cabins and shacks are close to the sewage treatment plant, falling within the 300-metre protection zone established by Romanian law to separate homes from potential toxic hazards. The failure to protect the right to health is another violation of Romania’s national and international obligations.

Ilana told Amnesty International: “The houses fill up with that smell. At night the children cover their faces with the pillows. We don’t want to eat when we feel the smell. I used to have another child who died when he was four months old. I don’t want to lose the rest of my children.”

The Romanian authorities must stop the forced eviction of Roma families and immediately relocate those living for years in hazardous conditions next to waste dumps, sewage treatment plants or industrial areas on the outskirts of cities, said Amnesty International. The organisation is calling on the government of Romania to reform its housing legislation to incorporate international human rights standards with particular attention to housing.

Halya Gowan, Amnesty International’s Europe Programme Director, said: “Across the country Roma families are being evicted from their homes against their will. When this happens, they don’t just lose their homes. They lose their possessions, their social contacts, their access to work and state services.

“This pattern of forced evictions, without adequate consultation, adequate notice or adequate alternative housing, perpetuates racial segregation and violates Romania’s international obligations.

“The ordeal of the Roma families has continued for six years. Now is the time for the local authorities to provide them with adequate housing close to services and facilities in a safe and healthy location.

“Something needs to happen now. An example must be set – forced evictions must be stopped and the right to housing must be guaranteed. And this can and should be done by the authorities of Miercurea Ciuc."

While it is good for Amnesty to do something as regards the Romani People being evicted and placed by the side of sewage works in Romania but things are hardly different in Britain.

Where do we find most official Gypsy Caravan Sites in the UK? They are on or next to Industrial Estates, as in the case of Earlsfield, where it is next to a cement works. Or next to sewage works, just as in Romania, or on old and methane leaking rubbish dumps, or other such locations that all have their own associated health hazards. No sign of Amnesty here though. Why not, I wonder?

The situation is not much better compared to Romania but, I guess, attacking western European Union governments is not as easy as the ones in the East.

© 2010