Instead of Insulting Roma, the Mayor Should Ensure Fair and Socially Responsible Housing Policy in Belgrade

The A 11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights strongly condemns the discriminatory statements against Roma men and women living in informal settlements in Belgrade made by the Mayor of Belgrade Aleksandar Šapić.

By accusing all residents of informal settlements of stealing, begging, unwillingness to work, as well as destroying public property in the apartments assigned to them, the Mayor of Belgrade grossly violated the provisions of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, which prohibit harassment and degrading treatment.

The aforementioned provisions of the Law expressly prohibit the creation of an offensive and hostile environment that insults the dignity of an entire social group based on its personal characteristics, which is why the A11 Initiative filed a complaint against the Mayor of Belgrade to the Commissioner for Protection of Equality.

In addition to generalizations that stigmatize one of the most vulnerable minority groups in our society, the Mayor presented numerous inaccurate information related to housing solutions offered to the residents of informal settlements. Contrary to the Mayor’s statements about proactive housing solutions offered, so far the inhabitants of these settlements have been displaced only when it was necessary to implement some of the city infrastructure projects. In addition, we would like to emphasize that despite the numerous initiatives of various organizations, the city authorities failed to take into consideration any proposed improvement of the basic conditions of the existing informal settlements by providing their residents with regular access to potable water and electricity, which would make their lives more humane and tolerable.

It should also be stressed that not a single social apartment has been built and financed from the city budget in Belgrade in the past eight years at least, that could be made available to the most vulnerable, including residents of informal settlements. This shows the lack of the city housing policy that should ensure accessible and affordable housing for citizens of Belgrade who, due to their poor financial health, are unable to solve their housing needs differently.

Hereby, we invite the Mayor of Belgrade to respond to the warning issued by the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality by sending a sincere apology to Roma man and women, as well as to take a more thorough approach to designing and implementing a fair and socially responsible housing policy in the city of Belgrade.