WARSAW, 5 April 2012 – Speaking ahead of International Roma Day on 8 April, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, called today on governments and local authorities to redouble their efforts to improve housing and living conditions for Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area.
“The dire living conditions and lack of a registered legal place of residence endured by many of Europe’s Roma have a profoundly negative effect on all aspects of their lives,” Lenarčič said. “Addressing these problems will help foster much-needed improvements in access to employment, education, health care and public services for these communities.”
He also noted that forced evictions of Roma and Sinti in a number of OSCE participating States in recent years had sometimes been carried without sufficient advance consultation with those affected or the provision of adequate alternative housing, compensation or legal remedies.
“These disquieting incidences have affected both long-standing, informal Roma settlements and those of Roma migrants living in segregated camps,” Lenarčič said. “Providing solid legal residency rights or durable and adequate housing alternatives for these communities is an urgent need.”
In many instances Roma and Sinti communities lack legal status in settlements where they have been living for decades, or reside in neighborhoods that lack land rights or are not included in local urban plans.
In the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area, adopted in 2003, the OSCE participating States committed themselves to regularizing the legal status of Roma and Sinti families and their homes. The improvement of housing and living conditions is also one of the priority areas in the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies recently adopted by the European Commission.