Monday, April 30, 2012

International Roma Day celebrated with mass, forcible evictions

As Serbian politicians, from the Prime Minister to the Mayor of Belgrade, were marking International Roma Day (April 8th) with high-flown rhetoric about equality, the whole rotten shebang were organizing the forcible eviction of 250 Roma families (1,500 people) from their makeshift settlement of tin & wood huts in order to provide room for an access road to a new bridge over the River Sava. And the plot only sickens from there. Without collaborating with the families involved about their needs & the resettlement plans, the authorities arranged for some of the families to be deported to other parts of Serbia with no provision for housing (including a 17-year old pregnant woman on her own) or relocated to another suburb & housed in metal shipping containers unsuitable for human habitation. The plan entailed separating families with elderly, infirm, disabled (like the woman in a wheelchair sent to a different place than her caretaker daughter), moving people far from their work sites, segregating Roma in ghettos, making whole families homeless. Residents of Resnik, the suburb where the metal containers were set up, marked International Roma Day violently protesting against the relocation--disavowing racism but using repugnant nationalist rhetoric about cultural unity. If all this chicanery weren’t enough, the mayor of Belgrade threw cynicism into the brew by denouncing the nationalists as “racist”--but of course, disavowing his own. Amnesty International & Serbian human rights groups have been protesting Roma evictions which have gone on for years, are slated to continue, & have a strong ethnic cleansing character. The rights groups denounce forcible evictions for violating human rights & international law & have appealed to the European Commission & European Investment Bank (EIB) to stop the action since Serbia is a candidate for entry to the European Union & EIB is bankrolling the bridge. That’s like appealing to Beelzebub to stand up against evil. The human rights groups got promises for prefabricated housing & for complying with international law; the Roma got squat--because the EIB is not a social service agency; it’s an agency of neoliberal plunder that bankrolled the Sava bridge to facilitate export industries in Serbia. There are over fifty such EIB development projects in Central Europe alone as well as in Africa (Zambia & Uganda) where officials prioritize transport, mining, infrastructure projects over human needs like health & housing & the environment & which only benefit a small elite. All 250 families (some shown here) were evicted last Thursday. Media reports note Belgrade police did not use force but that’s only if you think lining up a phalanx of bull dozers is not threatening. You can protest Serbian treatment of Roma by contacting the Mayor of Belgrade: or

(Reuters photo)

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