Forced Evictions and the Right to Housing of Roma in Russia - Report

http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/Romrussie501angconj2008-2.pdf

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its Russian partner Anti-Discrimination Center "Memorial" (ADC "Memorial") publish a fact-finding mission report entitled: Forced Evictions and the Right to Housing of Roma in Russia.

This report is the result of a joint mission that gathered first-hand testimonies in several Russian provinces and towns, including West Siberia.

The Roma living in the Russian Federation are victims of severe forms of racial discrimination, which occur in the broader context of growing racist violence in the country. The mission focused particularly on the "Keldari" (or "Kotlyari") group: this group represents 30% of all Romani in Russia, it is one of the most segregated and the one most threatened by forced evictions.

In 1956 a decree of the Soviet Supreme prohibited "vagrancy" and forced Romani people to settle. Their houses were rarely properly registered. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the legal framework governing property and the use of land has become extremely complex, and Roma lack the knowledge and the documents to access property rights. The locations where Keldari communities settled had little or no value at the time, but have gradually become the target of speculation. The Russian administration refuses to regularise their occupation of the land and bypasses them when taking measures for the allocation or sale of the land they occupy. When Roma refuse to leave voluntarily, they are often cheated or become victims of forced evictions. In most cases, these evictions follow a court decision but the procedure often violates the right to a fair trial. These evictions are often carried out with violence and in some cases they follow a local campaign vilifying the Roma community as a whole.

Non-registration of their houses also deprives the Roma of a range of economic and social rights in the frame of the Russian Federation "permanent registration" system. When evicted from their house, they are not offered alternative housing or adequate compensation which, in similar cases, non-Roma Russian citizens are usually able to obtain.

The report concludes that the forced eviction of Roma and the demolition of their houses carried out by the authorities violate the right to adequate housing guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ratified by the Russian Federation. FIDH and ADC "Memorial" urge the authorities of the Russian Federation to immediately stop forced evictions of Kelderari Roma, enable them to secure ownership of their property and adopt a federal plan to eradicate social and economic marginalisation of Roma in the country. It also encourages the Russian Federation to ratify the Revised European Social Charter and to address a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures. The Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) published on 20 August 2008 followed the observations and recommendations of FIDH and ADC "Memorial": it noted the absence of a federal programme addressing the social and economic marginalisation of the Roma and recommended that the state review its policy of demolishing illegally constructed Roma settlements, legalise long-existing settlements, and provide adequate alternative housing whenever forced evictions of Roma take place.

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