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Seoul district heads urge rights for Roma in Serbia

By Lee Woo-young
District heads in Seoul urged Serbia to secure the settlement rights of Romani people who have been forcibly evicted from their informal settlements in its capital city Belgrade.
The evictions have been subject to condemnation by the international community since 2009, officials of Amnesty International Korean branch said.
The 12 district heads out of the total 25 districts in Seoul participated in the signature collecting campaign by the Korean branch of Amnesty International calling for an end to forced evictions of Roma families. The signatures collected from Seoul citizens and the 12 district heads for one month will be sent to Belgrade next month.
“We asked participation of district heads as we thought they would understand the unfairness of forced eviction because they are involved in work related to it,” said an Amnesty International official related to the campaign.
It is the first time that the Korean branch of the international human rights body has conducted the campaign for district heads.
The Roma, whose members are also known as Gypsies, is an ethnic minority group widely dispersed across Europe often living in informal settlements as they are subject to extreme discrimination.
They were forcibly removed from their informal residences by Serbian authorities to make new buildings and roads in the capital city of Belgrade since 2009, according to Amnesty International report.
Amnesty International has condemned Serbian officials on violation of international standards on force evictions which they believe is the last resort after “genuine consultation with the affected communities” in its last October’s press release.
The 12 heads of wards participated in the campaign include the districts of northern Seoul such as Gangseo, Eunpyeong, Seodaemun, Seongbuk, Gangbuk, Dobong, Nowon, Dongdaemun, Gangdong, Gwanak, Guemchun, Guro.
Some of the remaining 13 district heads declined to participate in the campaign as they were reluctant to express their opinions on international matters as they are already preoccupied with domestic matters such as the recent damage from heavy summer rain, while some others failed to be interviewed by Amnesty International, NGO officials said.