UARU
Why Romani People Have Been Evicted From Kyiv
18 April, 2017

Almost 300 Romani people have been deported from Ukraine's capital by the local authorities. On March 6th, 2017, a city councilman Volodymyr Netrebenko claimed that he and several colleagues had managed to “finish moving a Roma settlement [out of Kyiv] to three other regions of Ukraine”.

“Most of them moved to the Zakarpatskiy region (a region in Western Ukraine, where 30% of the Roma population in Ukraine live),” Netrebenko wrote on his Facebook page. “It required a certain amount of money, a lot of meetings, dozens of phone calls and about 80 hours of work. This issue required decisiveness on our part, fast action and finding solutions to top-priority questions - which we handled successfully.”

The camp of Romani people in Kyiv. Photo by movement "Youth for peace"

By “decisiveness" and "fast action”, Netrebenko means the eviction of Romani people from one of the Kyiv districts. Almost 300 people, including 200 children, were living in a local shanty town.

On March 31st 2017, unidentified people in balaclavas came to the camp, took pictures of the Romani settlers, took their fingerprints and ordered them to leave.

The camp after the fire on March, 6th

“We’ve been living here for three years but nothing like this has ever happened before. I don’t know why they are doing this,” Maria says, a resident of the Romani shanty town. She came to Kyiv from the Zakarpatskiy region in hope of earning more money. Once they’ve been moved out by the police, Maria plans on coming back home. The police have already bought her train tickets.

The deportation initiative started after a deputy from the Kyiv City Council, Andriy Strannikov, announced plans to solve 'the problem with illegal Romani settlements' in Kyiv. Before the Romani people were evicted from the camp, unidentified people set it on fire.

The fund for Romani women, ‘Chirikli’, which defends the rights of the Romani people, described this situation as “horrible”. “We can’t contact the people leaving the camp,” says the president of the fund, Julia Kondur. “We just know they’ve scattered and many of them are in hiding, many have turned their phones off because they are afraid of persecution. Fortunately, there were no casualties.”

The camp of Romani people in Kyiv. Photo by movement "Youth for peace"

Local Romani advocate, Aksana Filipishyna, tells Hromadske that the recent decision of Kyiv authorities to deport the Romani settlement violates the international law on the rights of minorities. Human rights defenders have already sent their complaints to the mayor of Kyiv and the National Police in order to avoid such incidents in future, and to understand why the arson attack on the camp was not prevented in the first place.

This is not the first incident of severe discrimination of Romani people in Ukraine in recent months. Earlier, there were reports of tensions involving Romani people in the Kharkiv and Zakarpatskiy regions. In 2016, ethnic clashes also occurred in southern Ukraine, in the Odesa region. In the village of Loschynivka, several Romani houses were attacked and set on fire by locals after one of the Romani men was accused of killing a 9-year-old kid. The village council ordered the deportation of the entire Romani community.

An initiative aimed at integrating Romani people into Ukrainian society, known as 'Strategy 2020', was adopted by the government in 2013. However, Roma civil activists claim that the situation still leaves much to be desired. Conditions have not improved for the Romani people in recent years; many still live in segregated areas, below the poverty line and without proper access to education and medical care. Negative attitudes towards Romani people are pervasive in Ukrainian society, according to recent polls.

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Photo by Ekatirina Sergatskove, Hromadske

The Romani population in Ukraine survived genocide in the World War II, when the Nazi forces and their allies organized the mass extermination of the community in Ukraine. According to different approximations, more than 300,000 Romani people were killed during the war in the territory that now belongs to Russia and Ukraine. Around 12,000 Roma were killed in the Babi Yar massacre of 1943 in Kyiv alone.
Ukrainian Romani organizations estimate that the number of Roma living in Ukraine at over 400,000.

/Ekaterina Sergatskova, Liuda Kornievych