|Belville Roma Settlement I Photo by Beta|
According to the City of Belgrade’s data, almost half of the families are internally displaced people from Kosovo and they will be moved to the various Belgrade suburb areas, while the Roma from other parts of Serbia will be returned to their towns of origin.
Some of the families, who signed the agreement with the authorities, will be sent to Kosovo to the towns they left during the conflict in 1999.
Belgrade police and city authorities did not use force during Thursday’s eviction, which was monitored by the media as well as representatives from Amnesty International, local NGOs, UN organizations, the EU delegation in Serbia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“People are coming up to us, with tears in their eyes, asking us what they should do and where they should go,” said an Amnesty International observer present at the eviction.
Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas, who has been present during Thursday’s eviction, said that the intention of the authorities was to make better living conditions for Roma and their neighbors.
“This is a question of law and respect of the rules in Belgrade, and who does not comply will be sanctioned”, Djilas said.
The eviction of Roma has caused the outcry of both national and international humanitarian organizations, noting that Belgrade authorities failed to consult the Roma communities, denying them adequate information, notices and legal remedies.
“The Serbian government is flagrantly violating international law by allowing Belgrade city authorities to carry out this eviction,” said Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen.
NGOs warned that the metal containers where Roma will be housed do not meet adequate standards, given that each person has been allocated only 2 square meters of space.
According to Serbian human right activists, this is the 17th time there have been Roma evictions in the past two years.
Previously, on April 11, locals from the Belgrade suburb Resnik have protested over the relocation of Roma from Belvill to their neighborhood. After several days of protests, the authorities managed to persuade the locals to allow the settlement of Roma families.
Although there are no official statistics, the Commissariat for Refugees estimates that about 22,500 Roma from Kosovo have taken refuge in Serbia. NGOs say the number is much higher, at about 40,000.
Refugees from Kosovo moved in large numbers to Belgrade, seeing the Serbian capital as their best chance to earn money from collecting waste. Once in the capital, they often had no choice but to build informal settlements.
However, many Roma moved to Belgrade from elsewhere in Serbia as well, to find work and support their families. The exact number of Roma people living in Serbia is unknown.