The city of Utrecht is proud to be the first human rights city of the Netherlands.
But in the case of Roma, Sinti and Travelers, the city has an extinction policy that will inevitably result in ending the Roma, Sinti and Traveler lifestyle in Utrecht.
Imagine a young man whose mother just passed away. Then imagine that he receives a letter from the mayor, stating that the city will demolish the mother’s home and replace it with a concrete block.
The mayor says he wants to put an end to the young man’s way of life. For Roma, Sinti and Traveler families in the Netherlands, this is not a story that is hard to imagine. It is their reality.
The Netherlands, just like other northern and western European countries, is host to several Roma, Sinti and Traveler communities. Although these groups now mainly live in permanent or semi-permanent mobile homes, their traveling lifestyle is an important part of their heritage. (…)
Local conflicts over housing
Local Dutch authorities, including the city of Utrecht, have a history of conflict with Roma, Sinti and Traveler communities, often revolving around housing. These conflicts, which have escalated in recent years, take place at the local level. The Dutch national government does not have a policy relating to Roma, Sinti and Travelers’ housing. The national government explicitly refers this matter to local authorities,asking them to ‘normalize’ the housing situation of Roma, Sinti and Travelers.
The term normalization implies that local authorities are not to consider the mobile home lifestyle of Roma, Sinti and Travelers as ‘normal.’ The national government suggests five ‘normalization’ policy options for local authorities. The first option it suggests is a ‘zero option,’ which leaves no space for mobile home sites at all. The other four options are a ‘phasing out’ policy, integrating Travelers’ housing into conventional housing policies, a ‘demand-oriented’ policy and a ‘neutral policy.’
The national government does not ask local authorities to consider human rights when they make their policy choice or when they apply it in individual cases.
Many local authorities have interpreted ‘normalization’ and the ‘zero option’ to mean what they term an ‘extinction policy’ for Traveler sites. Local authorities openly state their intentions behind this policy.
For example, the mayor of the city of Waalre said in 2012 that he intended to make mobile home sites ‘disappear.’ (…) http://www.liberties.eu/en/news/utrecht-city-of-human-rights-for-roma-sinti-travelers