THE PREŠOV District Court has ruled that the town of Sabinov and the state Construction Ministry acted in a discriminatory way towards a group of Roma citizens living in the town. The court ordered the plaintiffs to be paid €1,000 in damages, the regional Korzár daily reported.
The town discriminated against the Roma citizens by moving them from municipal flats in the town centre to new flats of a lower category. The ministry had provided the subvention for the construction of the new low-category flats, which the court also found to be discriminatory. The court ruled that the ministry should have investigated for whom the flats were being built as well as their location.
The Sabinov authorities have announced that they will appeal the decision, saying that they had been trying to relocate Roma residents living in decrepit houses in the town centre for several years. The first flats built from the Construction Ministry’s subvention were located about a kilometer from the town centre and were completed in June 2006.
The Roma residents helped to build the new flats and gradually moved out of their previous flats as their rental contracts expired. Many of the residents had not been paying rent. The old houses in the centre required repairs and the municipality sold some of them.
Ingrid Horváthová, one of the Roma who moved to the new low-standard flats said she had been paying for her residence in the centre and she did not like the new place at all.
“There was nothing in here,” she told Korzár. “No kitchen unit, no tiles in the bathroom, no shower, just the sink. I had to put everything here myself.” Horváthová lives in a two-room flat with her husband, her father, five children and a daughter-in-law.
“It’s like a concentration camp here,” she said about the outdoor environment. “We are not animals.”
Kristina Babiaková, the lawyer for the Roma residents, said that the court’s ruling sets a precedent which “should influence the rules of providing state subventions and ensure keeping of international obligations and national rules of providing housing so that there is no discrimination”.
Some people from Sabinov, however, do not share her opinion.
“I have a business next to a house where [the Roma] lived and they destroyed it so much that it had to be demolished,” Marek Marchevka from Sabinov told Korzár. “The sight of decrepit houses will not attract visitors to the town. I agree with the relocation.”