So keres, Europa?! (So what, Europe?!)
Cluj-Napoca, Romania – Conference Day #3
On day three of the „So keres, Europa?!“ event the participants continued their workshops in preparation for the 48-hours-actions. Additionally, everyone was invited to take part in a „Social Media Marathon“. All delegates were given 45 minutes to go to the city centre to tell the whole world about the “So keres, Europa?!“ movement. Pictures and videos are spread through social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Our delegates Miss Sheeba Kiran and Mr Shazar Khan took part in the workshop “Rhythm through difference“. Part of the workshop was to visit the slums of Pata Rat on the outskirts of Cluj-Napoca. Pata Rat is situated 800 meters from a landfill and 200 meters from a former pharmaceutical waste deposit. The purpose of the tour was to get better insight and understanding of the life of Roma people living in Pata Rat and to make music using things from the garbage.
Our team also had the opportunity to meet Greta Elena Rita, a resident of this hostile and dangerous to health area. She kindly agreed to share her story.
Rita told her plight about her eviction from her home in central Cluj-Napaco in the freezing winter in the middle of December 2010. She cried when explaining that she and her community had nice houses with garden before they were forcefully relocated. She paused for a while as she was unable to control her emotions and continued again by telling that around Christmas time she along with the rest of the locality were informed by the authorities that they will be moved to another social housing.
Rita was not at home when people from the local authorities came and so a lady took the liberty to sign a new housing contract on behalf of Rita. Due to the lack of education among the Roma people, Rita was unaware of the content of the contract and the lady who had signed the contract on her behalf, did not explain anything more than saying to her that she just signed the legal documents on her behalf. Rita along with the rest of her community was scared and packed everything they could, but at such short notice they could not take everything from their houses.
The security company in charge brought bulldozers to build bars to take their houses away from them. The desperate families also tried to seek help from Mr Emil Boc, then Prime Minister of Romania, but according to Rita he did nothing and said that he does not really care. The Roma leader in the parliament at that time was also contacted for help.
On the next day, the mayor of Cluj-Napaco sent the security and police to forcibly remove Rita’s and other families from their houses, leaving them no chance to take more than their most important documents and the few possessions they had packed the night before with them. The security went on crushing their houses. When Rita and the other residents kept asking what was happening the only answer they got from the police was „you will know soon enough.“
They were then transported to Pata Rat, a landfill side, in trucks which were normally used for collecting the garbage of Cluj-Napoca.
Rita’s family was handed a contract assigning them an accommodation with two rooms, kitchen and bathroom. However, they only got a room without gas and electricity when they arrived to Pata Rat. Today, almost five years later, there is still no gas and water functions only if electricity works. 13 persons are living in one room as Rita lives with her husband, four sons, brothers, sisters and her parents.
76 families were evicted from their homes and resettled to Pata Rat in December 2010. Only 40 families were provided with housing like Rita’s family, the rest were given a very small amount of material to build houses themselves. Many of those families live in an open space since.
Rita cried when she was telling about the condition of the house provided by the local authority since not only it had no gas, it further had no ventilation, the floors were damp and cold as there was no proper heating and she and her family members frequently fell sick because of the humidity.
The affected families filed complaints against the officials but their voice was unheard. They then founded their own Association Amare Phrala to aggregate their voice and to highlight the injustice they were exposed to. They sued the Cluj-Napoca City Hall and demanded two thousand Euros to be paid to each person and that each family should receive a proper housing. They won the case in first instance in 2013 against the City Hall, however, the City Hall is using any opportunity to contest. The association again won their case in trial in Romania’s capital Bucharest. „The City Hall is contesting because they want to give the least amount of money possible to each person“, said Rita.
Cluj City Hall built eleven houses, only two of them were given to this community, other nine have been given to others they don’t know. The association is planning to take their case to European Court of Human Rights if they cannot get justice from the Romanian legal system. However, they are waiting to get this case finished in Romania first.
While the fights in court are tedious, the Amare Phrala was able to partner with the City Hall and managed to organise a school bus for the younger children. However, transport to school for high school students remains difficult as it is a long walk to the bus stop and there a lots of stray dogs on the way. Additionally, the pathways are muddy and dirty and even though Rita takes care that her children are dressed neat and clean when leaving the house for school, their uniforms are often covered in dust and their shoes are muddy by the time they reach school. As a result, the Roman children are often bullied and discriminated as it is clearly visible that they are from Pata Rat.
Miss Kiran was deeply impressed by the strength Rita demonstrated in her continued struggle for a better life for her family. As the GMA’s Director of Women Empowerment, Miss Kiran was keen to find out what Rita would like organisations like Global Minorities Alliance to do to support her in her fight for justice, therefore, she asked her for another meeting in the coming days to discuss this matter further. You will read more shortly here on GMABlog.
Sheeba Kiran currently reports from Cluj-Napaco, Romania. She is the Law graduate from Strathclyde University, Glasgow. She is also Global Minorities Alliance’s Director of Women Empowerment. She can be reached on Twitter @sheebakiran7