In Belgrade, a New Order for the Roma

The results of an April resettlement of some Roma families are more nuanced than the initial outcry would suggest.

By Uffe Andersen
Belgrade, 11/07/2012 - Danilo Curcic holds up a set of house rules. First among them, in large, boldface type, is a strict prohibition on relieving oneself next to the “mobile housing unit.” The second rule, also in bold, prohibits parents from letting their children do the same.
The rules are meant for Roma who live in containers set up in late April on the outskirts of Belgrade. Ten families were transferred there after Belvil, a slum where they had been living, was cleared to make way for an access road to a new bridge.
Although it's better than where they previously lived, Sinisa and Zorica Cvetkovic, with their son, Stefan, say their two-room container gets unbearably hot during the day.
Curcic, who works for a refugee-aid group in Serbia, said the emphasis on such matters says something about those in local government who drafted the rules.
“That the city administration believes this to be the most important thing to regulate in the settlements shows the degree of prejudice and stereotypes that the representatives of the administration have regarding the Roma in the container settlements,” he says.
Curcic’s organization, Praxis, is one of the fiercest critics of the Belgrade authorities’ policy of moving Roma from the center of town to the suburbs – or to the towns where they originally came from, even if many years ago.