Demolition of Roma settlement in Lithuania

 

Is the demolition of Roma settlement a beginning of mayor’s pre-elections campaign?

More than 20 people live in the house of Zora Rinkevič. Photo: Marian Paluszkiewicz

The initiative of the mayor of Vilnius, Artūras Zuokas, concerning the demolition of illegally constructed buildings in a Roma settlement is a beginning of the pre-elections campaign – this is the opinion of defenders of human rights and the Roma community itself.

A week ago, 3 illegally constructed buildings were removed from the Vilnius Roma settlement. Another 12 buildings still “wait” in the queue for demolition.

— Did they build this, so that they can now come and ruin our homes?! – Zora Rinkevič, one of the inhabitants of the Roma settlement, expressed her opinion with anger during the interview with “Kurier”. – My daughter with her two children lived in the hut, which was destroyed last Monday. At the moment, she took refuge at my place. However, there is not enough space, because my other children and grandchildren also live here, in total more than 20 people in two rooms…

She said that the family has lived in the Roma settlement for few months – it came to spend winter here.

— Already in 1991, we got accommodated in the house on Verkių Street. The conditions are horrible there, winters are terribly cold. We experienced a fire twice, but we have no money for renovation. We came back to the Roma settlement, because we have no financial means to maintain that house, and here at least we do not freeze. At the moment, we use everything, which remained from the house of my daughter, to burn in the oven… – said our interlocutor, pointing towards some pieces of wood in the corner.

She noted that after the demolition her daughter was offered to rent a room in Naujininkai.

— The room is tiny and cold and she would have to pay for this „good” 500 Litas monthly. Where can one get so much money from, when at the moment it is impossible to find a job? Especially, when you belong to the gypsy nationality, which is marginalised by the society – said Zora Rinkevič.

Other inhabitants of the Roma settlement joined the complaining neighbour.

— Where are all those advertised Roma integration projects? We have got nothing out of it, because nearly all the money from the funds goes to the authorities. We were once promised that plants will be built, in which we will be able to sew clothes and our men will get employed. They lied to us and now they drive us out from our homes – a 60-year old Onutė was saying.

She added that the she herself would like to move out of the Roma settlement due to very difficult conditions, but she has nowhere to go.

Roma community underlines that driving people out on streets is an inadequate way of solving the problems of a Roma settlement. Photo: Marian Paluszkiewicz

— No one cares about us, because everyone associates a gypsy with drugs and other evil! In reality, this problem is very much on time and our people also suffer from it. However, the demolition of our houses and driving us out on streets is not a solution. Give us jobs and opportunities to buy our own property, that would be a good beginning – said Onutė. And what Zuokas is doing at the moment, is only a pure advertisement.

Defenders of human rights are of the same opinion. Henryk Mickiewicz, a director of the Lithuanian Human Rights Monitoring Institute, told “Kurier” that the actions of the mayor are too chaotic and they are implemented in a wrong time.
— Before the complete demolition of the Roma settlement, one should have had a strategic plan, predicted concrete places for resettlement and ways to integrate the Roma into the society and the job market. One can learn this on the example of Spaniards and Slovakians. The gypsy community in Lithuania is not big, so if having some degree of willingness and wish, their problems can be resolved – said Henryk Mickiewicz.

He noted that the initiative of the mayor reminds more of the beginning of the pre-elections campaign than an attempt to settle the problem of the Roma settlement.

— The attempt to show the power at the cost of the unpopular national minority is a typical pre-elections strategy. The Roma community is “bad”, and it is a “problem”, and the mayor is a “hero”, who solves this unpleasant “problem”. I consider such approach towards the situation negatively, there is a need for another plan – said Henryk Mickiewicz. 

http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/02/20/wyburzenie-taboru-poczatkiem-kampanii-przedwyborczej-mera/

Tłumaczenie Małgorzata Juchniewicz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Małgorzata Juchniewicz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.