This website presents the stories of families displaced by construction on Belgrade's Gazela bridge.
New settlements have been provided for these families, but are they adequate?
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Gazela Blog

Discrimination against the Roma minority in Serbia is an issue bound to be discussed during the ongoing 78th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, when Serbia’s official report to the Committee will be scrutinised. While Serbia is only one among many European countries where Roma suffer from discrimination, a possibly distinct feature is the first hand experience of the European public banks in the matter.

During the first visit to Serbia of the European Investment Bank’s Compliance Office, CEKOR used the occasion to highlight the deplorable living conditions for the Roma families from Gazela that had been moved back to their municipalities of origin in Bojnik, southern Serbia.

Just prior to the new year, CEKOR sent this letter to both the EBRD and EIB about the worrying conditions for the families who had been returned to the south of Serbia after resettlement from the former Gazela bridge site.

After more than three months’ delay, the Complaints Office of the European Investment Bank recently released its concluding investigations (pdf) into the bank’s involvement in the resettlement of 175 predominately Roma families from underneath the Gazela bridge in Belgrade.

Belgrade newspapers are reporting that the Serbian government has signed an annex to its loan agreement with the European Investment Bank regarding provisions and obligations for additional housing containers for the resettled Gazela residents.

Amnesty International has published today a new report entitled Serbia: “Stop the forced evictions of Roma settlements” documenting last year’s resettlement of the Gazela community as part of its Demand Dignity campaign.

On 22 March CEKOR visited the Buvljak informal settlement in Belgrade where 7 families from Gazela who were resettled to southern Serbia have returned to live in shacks made of waste materials again.

Following last week’s announcement by the European Investment Bank that its Board had approved disbursement of funds for the Gazela reconstruction, the Public Enterprise ‘Roads of Serbia’ is set to sign a project contract with the Austrian company Štrabag, reports Serbian media today.

CEKOR visited the settlements of Makis, Rakovice and Mladenovac in mid-February, and while noting some improvements in the quality of life there, also noted a host of unresolved issues.

The bank’s Board of Directors is quoted as saying that the loan is granted “under the condition that the EBRD continues to work with representatives of Serbia and Belgrade on resettlement issues”.

In a strong showing of political advocacy, a delegation from the ‘Public Enterprise Serbian Roads’, the client responsible for construction works at the Gazela bridge, met in London last week with the EBRD to press for a final decision on disbursement of financing for the project.

Rumors that the City’s Secretariat for Social Protection had been acting as a clearinghouse to visitors wishing to speak with the resettled communities proved false late last week, but doubts persist about how information is being communicated among different stakeholders since the resettlement.

In recent days several media outlets have reported that Belgrade Mayor Dragan Đilas said the City is considering declining EBRD money for reconstruction works on the Gazela bridge. But why the sudden fuss over a loan that’s been under appraisal for nearly three and a half years?

The Serbian media is reporting that the Mayor of Belgrade has set a deadline of 15th March for the EIB and EBRD to approve financing for the Gazela Bridge rehabilitation, otherwise the City of Belgrade will look elsewhere for financing.

The Serbian media is today reporting that the Gazela Bridge has been closed to heavy vehicles for safety reasons.

Balkan Insight has today published a worrying article about the situation with the former inhabitants of Gazela who were considered not to be from Belgrade and were transported back to their places of origin.

This report was sent to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, and the City of Belgrade

Multimedia

What lessons from Gazela will be learned by the IFIs?

Bankwatch Serbian national coordinator Zvezdan Kalmar speaks here from Zagreb during the 2010 annual meetings of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development about the Sava River crossing project in Belgrade. The project, considered jointly for financing by both the EBRD and European Investment Bank (the latter having already approved and signed the project), will involve the resettlement of some 100 Roma families from the Buvljak settlement in New Belgrade.

Goca, Barajevo

She dreams about returning one day to Gazela, to Belgrade. She also tells about her friends, new and old.

Gordana, Barajevo

After a follow-up visit to Barajevo a month after the resettlement, Gordana describes how some of the issues in the settlement have improved while others are still to be addressed.

Daliborka, Mladenovac

Daliborka travels nearly 50 kilometres from Mladenovac back to Belgrade in search of employment, as does her husband, but usually unsuccessfully.

Mica, Barajevo

Mica, Barajevo

September 16th, 2009

Mica speaks about the difficulties in traveling to New Belgrade for work and some of the tensions with residents in town.

Gordana, Barajevo

Gordana, Barajevo

September 16th, 2009

Gordana recalls how the ‘consultation’ process about the resettlement took place – out on the street in the evening, with just a few minutes in a ‘take it or leave it’ manner.

Hamida, Mladenovac

Young Hamida reminisces about life in Gazela, the day the settlement was demolished and what she wants to be when she gets older.

Jadranka, Makis

Jadranka, Makis

September 15th, 2009

Jadranka and her family were one of the few families that initially resisted the resettlement proposals and were holding out for social housing in the municipality of Zemun. They have now moved to the settlement at Makis.

Maja, Rakovica

Maja, Rakovica

September 15th, 2009

Maja was with her children on the day of the resettlement, and she describes here what conditions are like in the settlement of Rakovica.

In their own words

On August 31, 2009, the homes of 175 Roma families were demolished from a slum below the Gazela bridge in Belgrade. How were they resettled? Where were they moved? What are they doing now?

Bridging the gap

Bankwatch and CEKOR produced this film as discussions about the resettlement of Gazela residents began to pick up in October 2008.