Amnesty International has urged Serbia to stop forcible evictions and “systematic discrimination” against the Roma as the Balkan country strives to comply with European Union social norms.
The Serbian government “has failed to comply with its obligations under international and regional human rights treaties to prohibit, prevent and end forced evictions,” says a report from the UK-based rights group to mark International Roma Day.
EU officials this week called for better treatment of the Roma in eastern Europe, most of whom live in illegally built slums and work in the informal economy.
Serbia, which is seeks to join the bloc, has lobbied hard in Brussels for official candidate status by December. Regional political problems – besides slowing down EU accession – have foiled efforts to keep track of Serbia’s Roma, thought to number about 500,000, or 7 per cent of the population.
People forced out of Roma shanty towns in Belgrade in the past three years include many who had earlier been displaced from Kosovo, the territory dominated by ethnic Albanians that declared independence in 2008. Others had been deported back from EU member states.
Dragan Djilas, Belgrade’s mayor, objected to paying from his city budget for new arrivals from economically moribund southern Serbia.
Amnesty criticised the city authorities for moving people to metal containers in isolated areas. Yet the containers, Mr Djilas argued, were far superior to shacks under traffic overpasses. He tried to link the new housing to mandatory school registration for Roma children.
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