Slovenia: Villagers Block Gypsies Return to Their Homes

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Nov 27 21:21:47 UTC 2006

>>From the NYTimes, November 27, 2006
In Slovenia, Villagers Block Gypsies Return to Their Homes

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia, Nov. 26 A group of Gypsies who had been forced to
flee their homes in central Slovenia a month ago by local villagers tried
to return late Saturday afternoon but were forced to turn back. The group,
an extended family of 31 people, tried to return to Ambrus, a village 30
miles southeast of Ljubljana, after four weeks in a refugee center. But
about 1,000 villagers and other residents of the area assembled, blocked
roads leading to the village and then battled riot police officers.
Officials then persuaded the family, the Strojans, to turn back.

The standoff prolonged a crisis that has dominated politics here for a
month and has prompted criticism of Slovenia from the Council of Europe,
the Continents human rights monitor, and from independent rights groups.
Despite assertions by the Council of Europe and Slovenias human rights
ombudsman that the family is entitled to return to their homes, the
government has been unwilling to force the issue. The family, who are
Slovene citizens, agreed to leave Ambrus on Oct. 28, after a mob
surrounded their homes. Local residents had demanded their removal after a
fight between a man from Ambrus and a Slovene who was living with the
Strojans, after which the villager fell unconscious. He remains in a coma,
and the man with whom he fought is in detention.

The government said it was justified in moving the family to the refugee
center, saying that it had acted to protect the Strojans. But human rights
groups contend that ministers sanctioned the mobs ouster of members of a
minority group from their homes. The government had promised to resettle
the group, but a plan to move them to a suburb of Ljubljana, the capital,
foundered when residents there protested. The fighting Saturday began
after the family left an army barrack that had been their home since their
expulsion from the village. Residents from Ambrus heard the group was
coming and barricaded the roads. The police were called, and three people
were injured in the scuffle that followed, witnesses said.

The family waited in a roadside parking area during the confrontation and
were then persuaded by government mediators to return to the barrack.
Milan Zver, education minister and president of a government commission
set up for the protection of the Gypsies, also known as Roma, said after
the confrontation Saturday that he was disappointed that the Strojans had
acted on their own to try to return home, without first consulting the
authorities, Reuters reported.

On Friday, Zoran Jankovic, the mayor of Ljubljana, withdrew an offer to
find the Strojans homes in Sostro, a suburb of the capital, after
inhabitants there staged two days of protests. The Slovene news agency STA
quoted Mr. Jankovic as saying, We found a good location, took care of
security, asked the nearest neighbors and agreed to take the proposal to
the borough council, but then somebody got ahead of themselves and
informed the locals. Prime Minister Janez Jansa has tried to mediate the
dispute between the family and residents of Ambrus, which is within his
parliamentary constituency. He talked with the Strojans on Saturday,
persuading them to return to the army barrack. He denied that they had a
right to return to the land, which they own, saying that they had not
secured the proper permission from housing authorities to build their

The prime ministers office said Sunday that the Strojans had conceded that
they could not return.


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