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Courts Archives: European Committee of Social Rights

European Roma Rights Centre v. Portugal (Complaint No. 61/2010)

Year: 2011 (Date of Decision: 30 June, 2011)

Forum, Country: European Committee of Social Rights; Portugal

Standards, Rights: Non-discrimination and equal protection of the law; Right to adequate housing; Ethnic minorities

Summary Background: The complaint submitted by the European Roma Rights Centre (the “ERRC”) alleged that a range of housing related injustices suffered by the Roma community in Portugal violated rights protected under the Revised European Social Charter including the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection (article 16), the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion (article 30), the right to housing (article 31), alone or in conjunction with the right to non-discrimination (article E).

Holding: In examining the case, the Committee took particular note of three issues: the precarious and difficult housing conditions for a large part of the Roma community; the high number of Roma living in segregated environs; and, the inadequacy of rehousing programmes for the Roma community [para. 15].

In its decision, the Committee addressed the need to implement integrated housing policies for the Roma in a non-discriminatory manner, underscoring that one of the primary purposes of the Charter is to strengthen solidarity and promote social inclusion [para. 18]. The Committee clearly stated that both direct and indirect discrimination (including failing to take account of relevant differences and failing to take adequate steps to ensure accessible rights) are prohibited [para. 19].

The Committee further observed that the disproportionately high percentage of Roma living in poor housing conditions triggered a positive obligation of the authorities to take this into account and respond accordingly [para. 30]. It quoted the ECHR in noting that, as a vulnerable minority, the Roma required specific protection measures.

In addition, the substandard housing conditions of the Roma [paras. 32-35, 38] prompted the Court to affirm that the right to housing includes a right to fresh water [para. 36]; adequate space, protection from harsh weather conditions and other threats to health as well as a dwelling that is structurally secure [para. 37]; a location which allows access to public services and other social facilities [para. 41]; and a residence that is culturally suited [para. 49]. The Committee placed the issue of location within the broader issue of segregation and declared that States must be vigilant in implementing housing policies so as to prevent spatial or social segregation of ethnic minorities or immigrants [para. 41].

In light of its findings, the Committee concluded that there were violations of articles 16, 30 and 31 of the Charter in conjunction with the right to non-discrimination.

Additional Comments: This case examines the State’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human right to housing.

Link to Full Case: http://www.escr- gal%20%28decision%29.pdf

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International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS) v. Greece Complaint No. 49/2008

Year: 2009 (Date of Decision: 11 December, 2009)

Forum, Country: European Committee of Social Rights; Greece

Standards, Rights: Non-discrimination and equal protection of the law; Right to adequate housing; Ethnic minorities

Summary Background: A complaint was submitted by the International Center for the Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS), alleging that the Roma community in Greece face violations of their housing rights as well as suffer discrimination in access to housing. The applicants considered this to be in breach of article

With a view to ensuring the necessary conditions for the full development of the family, which is a fundamental unit of society, the Parties undertake to promote the economic, legal and social protection of family life by such means as social and family benefits, fiscal arrangements, provision of family housing, benefits for the newly married and other appropriate means.
of the revised European Social Charter, which covers the right of a family to social, legal and economic protection.

Holding: The Committee held that Greece had failed to provide access to adequate housing to the Roma community despite a prior decision of the Committee that mandated progress in this respect [paras 35-37].

While the Committee recognized certain positive steps taken by the Greek government in ameliorating the living conditions of the Roma, including the development of non-discrimination legislation [para. 38], it emphasized that merely ensuring identical treatment as a means of protection against any discrimination was not sufficient. The State was required to respond to the unique circumstances of the Roma with discernment and take appropriate positive measures in order to achieve meaningful equality [para. 40].

The Committee thereafter examined the issue of forced evictions. Even when communities unlawfully occupy land, certain procedural guarantees must be complied with during the eviction process and these include proper justification for the evictions, adequate and reasonable notice, process conditions that respect the dignity of the affected, including consultations with the evictees prior to eviction, alternative accommodation and accessibility of legal remedies. However, the State did not properly respect procedural guarantees. In light of all the above, the Committee concluded that the State was in violation of the right to housing as protected within the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection under the Charter [paras 55-70].

Additional Comments: The case examines the duty of the State to respect, protect and fulfil the Right to Housing.

Link to Full Case:

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