Amnesty International and Romani activists on Tuesday erected a small House of Cards in Bucharest to highlight the unsafe and inadequate housing conditions to which thousands of Roma people are often relocated.
A new Amnesty report, “Pushed to the margins: Five stories of Roma forced evictions in Romania”, follows the journeys of several people from three Romanian cities after they were forcibly evicted from their homes and relocated.
“What we see now in Romania is the deliberate expulsion from the society of vulnerable people who live below or on the poverty line and suffer from inadequate housing conditions,” Barbora Cernusakova, Amnesty International’s expert on Romania, said.
“Legislative flaws allow local authorities to sweep away long-established Romani communities entirely and relocate them to inadequate housing, out of sight of the rest of the population, under the pretext of ‘inner-city regeneration’ and ‘development’,” she added.
The report cites the case of controversial mayor Constantin Chereches who one year ago decided to relocate a group of around 150 Roma to a former chemical plant in Baia Mare, in northwest Romania.
According to media reports, the 38 Roma families were moved to the former chemical plant, which had been closed as a result of pollution concerns. Several of them, including 22 children, later had to be taken to hospital after inhaling poisonous gas.
Mayor Chereches defended the move, saying he had a written agreement with 60 families, or about 300 people, to move into the building, where they would have running water, heating and free garbage removal under a three-year contract.
Ironically, on Tuesday, anti-graft prosecutors started an investigation against Chereches, who is accused of corruption.
The Roma community in Romania is struggling with discrimination, poor literacy rates and massive unemployment.
It officially numbers around 620,000 in the country of 20.5 million, but it is widely believed that there are actually at least twice that many Roma in the country.
Many people of Roma origin do not declare their ethnicity in censuses due to the widespread prejudice that they face.
Roma rarely own land and property and they are further disadvantaged by lack of social housing in a country where 97 per cent of housing is now private.