Bulgaria’s Garmen Residents Rally in Sofia over Illegal Roma Dwellings
Some 150 people protested in central Sofia on Saturday against what they perceive as inaction of Bulgarian authorities on the issue of illegally built Roma dwellings in Garmen municipality.
The protesters from the ethnic Bulgarian majority in Garmen, in southwestern Bulgaria argue that the government should tear down about 120 houses built by Roma people on municipal farmland in violation of existing construction regulations.
The protesters demanded the resignation of Interior Ministry Rumyana Bachvarova, Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova and Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.
On May 24, a dispute over music played too loudly in a neighborhood with a predominant Roma population, turned into clashes between Roma people and Bulgarians. Bulgarians demanded that the law treat them and the Roma equally, tackling petty crime against Bulgarians and providing for illegal housing in Garmen to be demolished.
The European Court of Human Rights had asked Sofia to freeze plans to demolish the illegal buildings until authorities provide housing for vulnerable families.
Meanwhile, Lilyana Pavlova said that the local authorities in Garmen are to blame for the rise in the number of illegally built homes by Roma people in the municipality over the past 15 years.
The first illegal Roma dwellings in the municipality were first spotted back in 2000, Pavlova told bTV station on Saturday.
“Back then there were 14 of them but nothing has been done to stop the illegal construction activities. For this reason, the number of illegal buildings there has increased to 124,” she said.
Garmen municipal authorites, Pavlova said, have allowed 775 people to officially register over the past 15 years as residing in dwellings built on plots of land not earmarked for house construction and without any permit.
Therefore, Pavlova said, she had asked the Department of Civil Registration and Administrative Services, GRAO, to find out whether those residence documents have been issued properly. If those documents had been issued in violation of existing regulations, the registrations will be cancelled, she added.
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