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Film on fair housing features international human rights law

20 May 2016

A new film, being released today by the UN Human Rights Office, shows how adequate housing is not a luxury, but a right.

The film focuses on the case of Seljatin Burgazi and his family. For more than a decade, they have lived in Grmec, an informal settlement in Belgrade. He and other Romani families fled to Belgrade during the ethnic cleansing of their province in Kosovo during 1999.

But, in June 2015, Burgazi and 60 other Roma families living in Grmec were faced with eviction. According to a municipal building inspector, the homes were built illegally and were to be torn down. They families had a one-day notice to remove their homes or have them demolished.

The news was devastating to Burgazi, who suffered a heart attack and had to be hospitalized.

“I just could not tear down my house,” he said. “I built it with my own hands. I did not have a place to go. Where should my children go now, should we sleep in the street? I was desperate.”

Enter the UN Human Rights Office and the NGO Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights. Advocacy was done at national and international levels, citing the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which sets out the right to adequate housing.

It worked. A Serbian court recognised the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), stopping the forced eviction until adequate housing solutions could be found.

“I did not know I had any rights at all,” Burgazi said. “Now, I know that, when the day comes for us to leave our homes, we shall not end up on the street, but enjoy the right to proper housing worthy of human dignity.”

You can watch the full film on the issue here.

20 May 2016