Romania's slow ‘slums’

Romania's slow ‘slums’

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The country faces a severe shortage of social housing. The eliteization of the city center and the return of properties confiscated during the communist era expel tenants with few resources. Among them, the Roma community, about 2.5 million out of a population of 19 million. 90% of them live in extreme poverty and are victims of racism. An example can be seen in Pata Rat, on the outskirts of Cluj-Napoca, in a dump where four Roma communities live

Romania faces a severe shortage of social housing. The elitization of the city center and the return of private property confiscated during the communist era expels tenants with few resources. "Every year thousands of people are displaced, and in the future they will be more. The affordable access to housing has to become a political priority. Otherwise, what we see today will be nothing more than the principle of Romania's slums," denounces Adrian Dohoratu, a housing activist and currently a member of Parliament.

The scarcity problems are partly due to the restitution law (10/2001), which although it seems to have only localized effects, has been very destructive, producing waves of evictions, gentrifications, increases in the value of rent and housing changes in other projects for profit. This law was supported by the dominant anti-communist discourse, which states that the socialist regime harmed landowners between wars when they nationalized their properties, and that they and their heirs have a legitimate right to recover them, regardless of what may happen to tenants who currently live on them. Neighbors who are now affected by evictions generally belong to vulnerable social groups. The evictions receive almost no media attention and the evictees are poorly supported by the authorities and public opinion, because the right to property prevails over that of tenants and because people belonging to vulnerable social groups are subject to an invisible social stigma .

Children are the most affected; they tend to suffer discrimination at school and, in fact, did not attend school until the social workers of the Pata-Cluj project started enrolling them and taking them to Cojocna and Cluj, to the schools that agreed to accept them. The fact that schools wonder whether they will be admitted or not gives an idea of ​​the discrimination they suffer.

The European Commission indicates that 26% of Roma have already suffered segregation in ordinary schools. The European Fundamental Rights Agency (EUFRA, 2008) recently recognized that Roma children, despite the growing number of programs dedicated to them, continue to suffer particularly high levels of discrimination in the education system. In addition, a recent European Commission document on the contribution of the Structural Funds to the inclusion of the Romanian population indicates that there are still disadvantages in education, including low school attendance and overrepresentation in so-called "special schools". This will make it very likely that the next generation of Romanians will remain in extreme poverty and increasingly marginalized, unless there is strong political intervention supported by investments and major training programs.

Romania has a large Roma community: the most recent census indicates that there are 622,000; however, according to the World Bank, the country is home to 2.5 million out of a population of about 19 million. Approximately 90% of these families live in extreme poverty and are victims of racism. The number of members of this ethnic group in poverty is three times greater than that of any other ethnic group, according to the NGO Small Steps Project.

It is estimated that 500,000 Roma are completely illiterate. Only one in ten can read and write, and there is still reluctance in the Roma community to attend high school after 10 or 11 years, according to the People 2 People organization. The main cause is the lack of access to pre-school education and the inability to remain in elementary school with children of their age.

The city of Cluj has been working since 2012 to expand the Pata Rat landfill with European Union funds for the construction of a new landfill, so far unfinished. Apparently, the work is carried out without taking into account its environmental impact. Officials hope to close the landfill later this year, as it is one of the biggest ecological problems in Cluj County. A landslide in July 2017 resulted in sewer drainage in a nearby stream.

In an interview with the magazine 'Adevărul', the Disaster Relief Inspectorate says, for example, that by October 4, 2017 they had to intervene 27 times. In total, 20 tons of garbage were removed.

Events in Cluj napoca