Roma community in Romania still treated like waste six years on

The families are socially excluded and their living conditions are inhumane © Amnesty International

By Fotis Filippou, EU Team Campaigner for Amnesty International

Amnesty International recently visited Romania, where we met with a Romani community living behind a sewage treatment plant in Miercurea Ciuc, central Romania.

More than six years after they were forcibly evicted from their homes, around 75 Roma people, including families with children, are living in unsanitary conditions in metal cabins and shacks.

Back then they were told that the move would be temporary but it has started to feel very permanent.

Many have said how unbearable it is to live there and how afraid they are for their and their children's health © Amnesty International

Now living on the fringes of the city, the families are socially excluded and their living conditions are inhumane. The sanitation facilities are woefully inadequate, with only four toilet cubicles for 75 people and one tap for drinking water.

The metal cabins and shacks are overcrowded and provide no protection from heat and rain. The approaching winter, during which the temperature in Miercurea Ciuc can be below -25 °C, is a reminder of the need for an alternative site to be found without further delays.

Angela, a young Romani woman living by the sewage plant told me: “In the summer this barrack is still unbearable, it gets very hot inside. If we would not open the roof window, we would cook in it. In the winter it is so cold that the water in the bucket freezes. We even burn our clothes and shoes [in the stove] in order not to freeze in the barracks.”

There are only four toilet cubicles between 75 residents and one tap for drinking water © Amnesty International

A sign on the fence of the sewage plant warns of “toxic danger”. Romanian law stipulates that people should not live within 300m of potential toxic hazards, and the Romani families are living well within this danger zone.

The stench of human excreta fills the air around the cabins and shacks. Many families have told me how unbearable it is to eat or sleep with that smell and how afraid they are for their and their children’s health. Having spent only a few days there at a time during my several visits to Miercurea Ciuc, I can only begin to understand how it must be like to have that smell hanging over you 24/7.

Amnesty International joined Romanian organizations, such as the NGO Romani CRISS, which has legally assisted the community since they were forcibly evicted in 2004, in campaigning for a safe home – meeting international standards of the right to adequate housing – for the families living by the sewage plant.

Over the last six years the Roma have been trying to speak to the authorities, but to no avail. Their voices are still not heard by the local decision-makers.

During our last visit to Miercurea Ciuc three members of the community joined us in a meeting with the local authorities; they told the authorities that the only thing they needed was a safe home to live – away from the sewage plant.

In winter the temperature in Miercurea Ciuc can be below -25 °C © Amnesty International

At the meeting, Iren, a 27-year-old Romani woman, said: “We are also humans… We cannot be thrown out into nothingness.”

Unfortunately during the meeting no concrete plan was presented or promise was made by the authorities to redress the situation.

However, members of the community told us they felt stronger as Amnesty International activists from around the world have been campaigning on their behalf since January 2010.

Gabor, a Romani man wanted to share this message: “I would like to thank them for their help and ask them not to give up and continue their work.

“There are lots of children here and we would like them not to have to grow up in this smelly place and in such circumstances, but to have a better chance in life.”

Please take action in support of the Romani families in Miercurea Ciuc.

Amnesty International’s work on Roma is part of its Demand Dignity campaign

Posted in Demand Dignity, International Organizations, Racial Discrimination, Romania, Slums/Housing | 6 Comments

  1. auscop says:

    maybe someone should have a look how the danish government treats these people!!!!

  2. Ramona Coita says:

    It’s very good that Amnesty International decided to get involved in this matter!The roms did need this help. I just hope that the roms will also be cooperant because unfortunately in many of the situations they just refuse the help.

  3. Maria Constantine says:

    I have seen these people treated like rats. People suspect them, despise them, blame them, criminalize them. Their children suffer horribly. This is world wide discrimination against an ethnicity largely because of poverty and deep misunderstanding. It is said by many that they refuse help. That is largely because they fear the helpers. We need more people to learn their language and customs and to enter into the dialogue with intentions to help them lead integrated lives or else to protect their culture and traditions.

  4. Well I don’t think it’s really the fault of the the Presidents that are in power during the government­al turnovers. Our terms, unlike in many countries in those regions, don’t last lifetimes. Only 4 to 8 years. So while one President may have had a more cordial relationsh­ip with whomever is in power, doesn’t mean that the incoming President shares the same policies or viewpoints­.

  5. Ingvar Enghardt says:

    I have heard romanians saying, when we talked about respect of Human Rights: – You see we are not so civilized as other eoropeans, so you cannot expect too much from us.
    Maybe so, but even uncivilized people have to abide by the laws that their representatives have signed. What you are doing to the Roma is a criminal offence, and culprits should be brought to court.

  6. Waferlee says:

    Hold on a second!
    This people got a few years ago normal houses, but their first action was to burn everything that was made of wood, to sell everything that was made of metal and than – what a surprise – the houses became insalubre and so on.
    On Monday The A.I. representativ didn’t want to pay a visit to those whom he “protect”. And he had no clue that these people got the water and electricity for free.
    So each of the activist may take home 1 rromi people and we’ll speak after 1 year.

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