UN Decries ‘Structural Discrimination’ Facing Serbs and Roma in Croatia

The nine-member family had found a home to buy in the village of Hlebine in northern Croatia. There was only one problem: they were Roma.

In August, villagers in Hlebine threatened to protest outside the house of the mayor of the neighbouring municipality, Novigrad Podravski, convinced that he had persuaded the family to vacate the municipality in favour of Hlebine.

The owner of the family’s prospective new home came to the mayor’s aid, announcing that he would tear up the sale agreement. Everyone was happy, except for the Roma.

Such situations are not unusual in Medjimurje, a northern county that is home to the biggest population of Roma in Croatia.

Earlier in August, after the River Drava burst its banks, several families who had evacuated their homes returned to find them raised. But not by the floods. The police have still to find out who was responsible.

I fear a repeat of the same scenario from four years ago when a young family bought a house and someone wrote on it, ‘We don’t want Gypsies’. Their barn was set on fire.

This is the reality for Croatia’s Roma community, a situation underscored by a United Nations report issued at the end of August that also highlighted the plight of minority Serbs.

Both are stigmatised and their right to education and employment undermined, it said. The Roma are also ghettoised.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Croatia to adopt “special measures necessary to eliminate the existing structural discrimination that affects the Roma and the Serb minority groups and remove all obstacles that prevent the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights”.

According to Natalija Havelka, executive director of the Osijek-based Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights, which contributed to the UN report, 92.3 percent of Roma in Croatia are classified as poor and about 70 percent of Roma families live in extreme poverty.

“The state is obliged to fulfil its obligations in order to protect its citizens, individuals and groups,” Havelka told BIRN.

Link: https://balkaninsight.com/2023/09/18/un-decries-structural-discrimination-facing-serbs-and-roma-in-croatia/



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