Displaced Roma Families Head into Brutal Winter without Adequate Housing

This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

Around 100 children, women and men, forcibly evicted from their homes by the Romanian government six years ago, continue to live in dirty, inhumane conditions.  With nowhere else to go, they are stuck in small, overcrowded metal shacks that stand next to a large sewage plant. A sign outside the plant warns of “toxic danger”, yet the authorities have failed to heed this warning and the Roma families are suffering.

The Roma families are from the Romanian town of Miercurea Ciuc, and despite the fact that authorities told them the movie was only temporary, six years have passed and there are still no plans to relocate them. The 75 people remaining are living with only 4 toilets between them, 1 tap for water, and shacks that do not provide protection from the elements, which is of serious concern for the winter season when temperatures drop below -25 °C (-13 °F). In addition, the families are also living within 300 meters of toxic waste, which is prohibited under Romanian law. Many Roma have expressed concern about their health, and the health of their families, reporting an awful stench that constantly lingers in the air.


Thousands Waiting for Compensation After Toxic Waste Dumping in Côte d'Ivoire

In August 2006, toxic waste was brought to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on board the ship Probo Koala, chartered by oil-trading company Trafigura. This waste was then dumped in various locations around the city, causing a human rights tragedy.

A picture taken on September 29, 2008 shows a woman whose face is disfigured, reportedely due to the dumping of toxic waste in August 2006. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

More than 100,000 people sought medical attention for a range of health problems and there were 15 reported deaths.

Three years after the tragedy justice seemed imminent:  on September, 23 2009, the High Court of England and Wales approved a $45 million settlement between nearly 30,000 victims of the toxic waste dumping and Trafigura.

More than one year after reaching the settlement victims are still waiting to receive compensation.

The process to distribute the compensation to the victims has been plagued by repeated delays. In late 2009 a group calling itself the National Coordination of Toxic Waste Victims of Côte d’Ivoire (CNVDT-CI) claimed to represent the 30,000 victims who had reached the out-of-court settlement in the UK with Trafigura.  However, all of the claimants in the case were actually represented by a UK law firm and under the terms of the UK settlement, endorsed by the UK High Court, only this firm – Leigh Day & Co. – had the mandate to distribute the US$45 million compensation settlement to the claimants.  Despite this in February 2010 a deal was agreed between Leigh Day and CNVDT-CI over distribution.

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed serious concern about the role of CNVDT-CI, whose claim to represent the 30,000 victims involved in the UK settlement is patently untrue. Many of the claimants have stated that CNVDT-CI does not represent them.

By July 2010, an estimated 23,000 people had received their compensation, but shortly thereafter the process was halted for reasons that are not clear. In September 2010 CNVDT-CI began a new distribution process. However, recent reports suggest that the process has once again ground to a halt with thousands of legitimate claimants still awaiting payment. The future of the remaining compensation funds is not clear and we are concerned that the delays and lack of transparency around the process may be enabling the misappropriation of the funds.

We are urging the government of Côte d’Ivoire to step in and ensure that all of those who are entitled to compensation receive it in a process that is transparent and fair.