By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media
The clock struck 8AM in Kristiansand and it was the day after the election. Employees from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and Kristiansand Municipality stood ready nearby. Under the Vestervei Bridge, there had been a camp for years that Roma people have used during the summer months. Up until this year, these people have had the possibility to sleep in the basement of an abandoned school during the winter months. But after it was renovated and rebuilt into apartments, this emergency housing has become uncertain moving forward. Now, the camp will be demolished, the people living there will be removed, and all remaining property is to be discarded and destroyed.
The excuse for this encroachment is an incident that happened three months earlier: on the night of Sunday, June 23. A little after 3AM, emergency services responded to a report about a fire in the camp, which they extinguished quickly. According to the Roma inhabitants, somebody had set their blankets on fire. This is the culmination of several years of harassment of the Roma people locally.
According to a notice posted in the camp by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration,
Repairs of the infrastructure, along with improvements on the damages to the bridge as a consequence of the fire on the night of Sunday, June 23, will be carried out. After these improvements have been made, the area will no longer be accessible for new establishment.
Nobody has asked us to pick this time [to start the work]. This has very little to do with politics. We were thinking about how we didn’t want this to be used during an election campaign.
It is unclear if the demolition and eviction has any connection with the Gartnerløkka Project, where the bridge that extends over the Roma camp is slated for demolition and reconstruction.
In and of itself, it is shameful that people must life in such inhumane conditions. But the fact that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and Kristiansand Municipality are involving themselves in taking the roofs off of the homes of many Roma people without offering alternative housing is a direct violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which Norway has signed and ratified. It is a scathing example of how the authorities in Kristiansand trample on those who are lowest in society.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25(1)
A correspondent for TFM has spoken with local Roma people. They say that their very existence is now precarious. They are deeply despaired over the demolition of the camp. Some say that they will try to travel further to another city, while others say that they will now sleep on the streets. The future is very uncertain for the city’s Roma people.