Roma protest in front of Belgrade assembly

BELGRADE -- NGOs and Roma associations are protesting in front of the Belgrade City Assembly following the demolition of a Roma community in New Belgrade last week.

In a call for solidarity, around 100 protesters want the issue of the displaced Roma to be resolved in a dignified way, and have also demanded the resignation of Mayor Dragan Đilas.

Holding banners reading “Discrimination is the Heart of Serbia“ and “Roma Our Neighbor“, the protestors called for all displays of racism to be sanctioned.

Đilas said that the “prosecution and police have launched an operation to determine whether there was any abuse of the plight of Roma in the unhygienic community in New Belgrade Block 67.“

If it is established that abuse did indeed take place, the culprits will be punished accordingly, said the mayor at the opening of an exhibition entitled “Roma—People Like the Rest of Us“ at the Despot Stefan Lazarević primary school.

“A task force has been charged with finding a systematic solution for looking after the Roma from the unhygienic and illegal community who are registered as living in Belgrade,“ he said.

Đilas condemned the exploitation of the needy, of families with many children without lodging, and the practice of moving them to city land with financial compensation and false promises of housing.

The mayor said earlier that, according to the City Administration’s data, Enver Kovači, who had spoken on behalf of the New Belgrade Roma, owned a flat in the Belgrade suburb of Čukarica, while he also rented out "houses in the cardboard estate“ in New Belgrade, demolished last week, for EUR 50 each.