Outg. Ref. № 138/28.07.2014
TO: ROSEN PLEVNELIEV
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA
PP BULGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY
PP MOVEMENT FOR RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
OMBUDSMAN OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA
AGENCY FOR SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
STATE AGENCY FOR CHILD PROTECTION
MUNICIPALITY OF STARA ZAGORA
COPY TO: GINKA TCHAVDAROVA
EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL AFFAIRS AND INCLUSION
EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION,
HUMANITARIAN AID AND CRISIS RESPONSE
Subject: The necessity of urgent engagement with the resolving of the crisis after the demolition of the illegal buildings in the Roma neighborhood in Stara Zagora and finding a permanent solution for children and their families. Establishing mechanisms for sustainable resolution of ripening crises of a similar nature in other Bulgarian cities and municipalities.
Dear Sirs and Madams,
The National Network for Children is an alliance of 124 civil society organizations from across the country who work with and for children and families. With this letter, we would like to express our strong civil concern about the situation with the inhabitants of the Roma neighborhood in the Municipality of Stara Zagora. After the order for demolition of the 55 illegal buildings and their destruction, a huge part of the children and families who use to live in them are now without shelter, food, medicine, clothing and basic survival conditions.
The increase of mental tension among the community and tension between different ethnic groups as a result of the demolition of the buildings finally explodes the confidence in the Bulgarian society and the institutions. The inability of parents and people who care for children to cope with life’s challenge leads to repetitive increase in the pressure on children and even bigger ignorance for their needs. The Bulgarian and foreign experience shows that in the absence of a clear plan for intervention in such situations the cases of violence against children sharply increase. The access to basic universal services such as education and healthcare is threatened even in greater degree. The responsibility of the state and society at this time includes making children visible and not allowing them to pay the price of conflict between parents and institutions.
In 2010, during the process of demolition of bl. 20 in Yambol, the National Network for Children appealed to institutions to turn the crisis into an opportunity by creating a real expertise in resolving the issue with the many Roma ghettos in-country. It is about time to admit that we do not know how to solve these problems effectively and humanely with special care for children as the most vulnerable group. At present, Bulgaria doesn’t have a national housing policy for disadvantaged families and working mechanism to adequately deal with similar situations in line with international rules to respect for human and in particular children’s rights. Made this way the eviction and demolition of the buildings actually deprives children and their families from home, without having provided any adequate measures to support and ensure social peace and safety of children.
Considering the effects of placing children in institutions and the efforts that Bulgaria is taking in deinstitutionalization, supported by European Structural Funds and the national budget, we believe it is unacceptable the created crisis by the institutions to lead to placement of children in institutions.
As an emergency measure we insist on creating an inter-institutional and multidisciplinary team who will plan and address the situation correctly including development of an action plan which will be adequately resourced. We express our willingness to engage and partner in good faith and with full support for finding a constructive way out of the situation in the best interest for the children.
In a longer term, NNC strongly advocates for the development of a national policy for dealing with the housing problem of disadvantaged families, legislative mechanism for dealing with such situations and a resourced plan for a drastic reduction of the number of children living on the streets or in illegal constructions. The present situation of long-term neglect of illegal buildings and sporadic reactions of local authorities for their physical removal is not a solution to the problem – rather it creates additional risks to children on the one hand, allowing them to live in unsafe buildings and on the other – the demolition in practice leaves them on the street.
We join the recommendations of the coalition “A Decent Home” to prevent similar situations in the future by changing the approach of local authorities and National Construction Control Agency to implement preventive controls to stop illegal construction and take action to facilitate and support legal development for people from vulnerable groups in all phases – from design to commissioning such as preparation of standard designs for residential buildings, the provision of regulated land with access to electricity and water, providing funding mechanisms for building and buying homes at favorable conditions, effective use of existing vacant housing stock.
The National Network for Children believes that the way to deal with resolving such situations is not only a question of human and children’s rights, but a question of values in our society and the choices we make. Children grow up with what they see and learn from their lives. If the child lives in an environment and spirit of hatred, confrontation and hostility, the child learns to hate, oppose and to be hostile. We urge you to look at this letter as a sign of hope for Bulgaria’s ability to realize that our choice to be part of the European Union is primarily a choice of values, but also an opportunity to invest in Bulgarian children!
In conclusion, we call upon the responsible institutions, including the Agency for Social Assistance, the State Agency for Child Protection, the political parties and the caretaker government to be formed, not only to support effectively the local government in solving the case. Moreover, it is necessary to ensure adequate participation by the scientific community and civil society, so in terms of cooperation and transparency to document, analyze and systematize the use of resources, tools and their relevance to the achievement of specific objectives. Such tool would allow the next government to review and significantly improve the current regulatory framework that should ensure that the investment for full inclusion of Roma in Bulgarian society is effective.
We reaffirm our willingness to partner in finding a lasting solution to the issue and to defend the best interests of children as a starting point in the process.
With best wishes,
National Network for Children
Translator: Kristiyana Ognyanova, intern
Photo: rgbstock.com/ lusi