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Romani origin people, citizens of Romania, refer Poland to the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the demolition of their homes in the city of Wrocław

16 persons of the Romani origin, citizens of Romania, refer Poland to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in relation to the demolition of their homes in the encampment (colony) at Paprotna street, effected in July 2015 by the city of Wrocław.

Last Friday, on 22 January 2016, the Strasbourg Court received a complaint in connection with the events of 22 July 2015, when the city of Wrocław levelled to the ground the Romani people’s colony in Wrocław, at Paprotna street. At the moment of the demolition, the colony comprised four houses and one room where charcoal/firewood and a generator were kept. The applicants (adults and children) had lived in the colony since 2009 and remained there on the date of the demolition.

The applicants are Romanian Romani (citizens of Romania) – a social group marginalized in Poland. Even though the Romanian Romani have dwelled in Poland for over 20 years, and some of them were born here, they continue to live at the margins of society. They are citizens of the European Union, but they do not benefit from the rights related to that status. As they live in extreme poverty, they are not able to fulfil the requirements for registration of their residence in the territory of the Republic of Poland. The particular status of this group has not been given any consideration in the case at hand.
The complaining Romani did not know anything about the planned demolition of their homes. They left their homes in the morning, on 22 July, and then the encampment was demolished. Due to this, the applicants lost their living place, along with their personal belongings. No one secured their possessions. Some of the items (e.g. generators and furnaces) were taken away and the remaining property was levelled to the ground and taken to the nearby landfill along with the rubble (all the home furnishings, documents, medications, etc.). No one was ready to tell the applicants what happened to their belongings located in the colony. The applicants were forced to track the trucks with rubble being transported out of the colony’s area, and to look for the remains of their possessions in the landfill. As a result of the demolition, the Romani applicants became homeless, and after a while, they built new houses in the colony at Kamieńskiego street, and they continue to live in conditions that do not meet any safety standards (in an area owned by the Wrocław Municipality). No support whatsoever in providing a roof over their heads was offered to them, and there was no psychological support either. Among the persons who have lost their homes there were children and persons with disability.

The Romani did not know anything about the planned demolition, as the decision of the District Construction Supervision Authority including the order of demolition had been sent to the Wrocław Municipality as the owner of the property on which the encampment had been built. The District Supervision Authority decided that the Romani are not a party in this case. As a consequence, they had no possibility to complain against the decision or to challenge it in court. Furthermore, the executed decisions that ordered the demolition were not final (the decisions of the second instance authority were only issued on 29 July, that is, seven days after demolishing the colony).

The applicants claim an infringement of their rights guaranteed in Art. 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment), Art. 8 of the Convention (right to private and family life and the right to respect for home), Art. 14 in connection with Art. 8 (prohibition of discrimination) and Art. 13 in connection with Art. 8 (right to effective remedy).

The case is part of the Anti-discrimination Programme of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, called „Article 32”. The attorneys-in-fact for the sixteen applicants are dr Dorota Pudzianowska from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and advocate Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram from the law firm Clifford Chance Janicka, Namiotkiewicz, Krużewski sp. k. Konrad Gortad and prof. Ireneusz Kamiński have also been involved in the case.

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