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Forced eviction of Roma families to an isolated farming area, Garmen, Bulgaria


In 1960, Bulgarian authorities relocated several Roma families to an agriculture zone in Garmen following the administrative evolution of Bulgarian municipalities [8]. The Kremikovtsi neighbourhood has been established as a segregated area, hosting today around 1000 Roma, including 350 children, some of them with disabilities [7][12]. The place remained out of the urban regulation planning until 2000 when some initiatives for legalizing the constructions have been undertaken by Ahmed Bashev, former mayor of Garmen (1999-2001) [8]. Meanwhile many Roma families obtained documents proving the ownership of the lands on which their houses were built [7]. In 2013-2014 the municipality, decided to organize public tenders for selling small parcels located in the settlement but this tender has never taken place [7]. One year later, the municipality decided to execute houses demolition orders issued in 2011 [5]. 

This measure was taken following a conflict between Roma and non-Roma communities which attracted intensive media coverage and political manipulation from far-right parties and leaders [1][2]. Violent protests, increasing police presence in the Roma settlement, have been held by non-Roma against the "illegal Romani houses"[1]. The local authorities undertook house demolition and forced evictions as a response to the protesters’ claims [3][5]. As a result pregnant women, babies, elderly and children with disabilities were forcibly evicted without being provided alternative shelter despite a legal decision of the European Court for Human Rights [4][6][7]. 

Thus, particularly vulnerable people, including children with disabilities, have been deprived from basic living conditions, adequate infrastructure and access to running water and sanitation [12]. All the evictees had to find solutions by themselves, being hosted temporary by relatives in Kremikovtski in other houses built without permission, decreasing the living space per capita [7, page 36]. Other families moved to makeshift housing built from unstable and inflammable materials rising health hazards, such as fires and potential spread of epidemics due to the lack of running water and worsened hygiene conditions [7]. Garmen’s local authorities called on government to tackle the humanitarian crisis caused by forced evictions [4]. However they planned to demolish another 120 houses in the Roma settlement in the following months aggravating the humanitarian crisis in Garmen [5][4][13]. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Forced eviction of Roma families to an isolated farming area, Garmen, Bulgaria
State or province:Blagoevgrad
Location of conflict:Garmen
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Only one report is available about house demolition and forced evictions in Garmen. It has been released by a national NGO and focused on Human rights violation.

Health and social impact of forced evictions and house demolition has never been analysed by the relevant authorities despite the high number of evictions carried out in Bulgaria affecting only Roma communities, including children with disabilities, pregnant women and people suffering from serious health issues.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:850-1,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Relevant government actors:The Ministry for regional development; Ministry for agriculture; Ministry for Health; Ministry for employment and social affairs;
Local authorities (mayor and municipal council); regional authorities (Prefect); Regional health inspectorate
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bulgarian Helsinki committee
Amnesty International
Equal opportunities initiative association:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Fires, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
Potential: Accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Infectious diseases
Other Health impactsSpecific health impact on children with disabilities deprived from adequate infrastructure and basic facilities due to forced evictions
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsIncrease of stigma, discrimination, rejection of Roma by society; criminalisation of an ethnic minority;
Poverty and social isolation of vulnerable groups got deeper


Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Proposal and development of alternatives:The local authorities undertook measures for renovating an old public school to provide temporary shelter to the evictees in a village located near Garmen. Protests against this action were immediately organised by non-Roma residents rejecting the idea their village to host additional Roma families.
As a result alternative accommodation was not offered to the evicted families.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Since the communist regime, the majority of Roma neighbourhoods have existed as informal settlements and were out of the urban regulation planning of the municipality. Thus, Roma houses are built without construction permit and could not be granted any legal status. Public authorities use this fact to justify forced evictions and house demolition. Nevertheless these measures raise many issues related to environmental discrimination and Human Rights violation as they affect particularly Roma, an ethnic minority in Bulgaria.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

European Roma Rights Centre vs Bulgaria, decision of the European Committee of Social Rights, 2005{%22ESCDcIdentifier%22:[%22cc-31-2005-dmerits-en%22]}

Naidenova vs Bulgaria, decision of the UN Human rights committee, 2012

Regional development act

Territorial urban and rural development act

Yordanova and others vs Bulgaria, ECtHR 2012{%22itemid%22:[%22001-110449%22]}

Spatial development act - (in Bulgarian: Закон за градоустройството)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Roma Evictions and Demolition of Roma Houses: A Sustainable Solution for Roma Integration or a Problem of Roma Discrimination in Bulgaria?, report 2017 Equal opportunity association

[8] Roma World foundation, documentary 2016

[9] Ministry of Regional development, statement 2015

[1] Bulgaria tensions lead to Roma home demolitions, BBC, 21 July 2015

[2] Bulgarian Roma Families Left Homeless after Campaign Fueled by Racism, Liberties, 23 June 2015

[3] BG on Air, 27 May 2015

[4] Bulgarian Helsinki committee

[5] BNT, 14 July 2015

[6] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, statement 1 July 2015

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[10] Amnesty International, campaign for awareness raising and mobilization, 2015

[11] OSCE, ODIHR statement, 13 July 2015

[12] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, statement following house demolition of a pregnant woman and a family with 8 children

[13] Bulgarian Helsinki committee, Opportunistic Politicians in Bulgaria Evict Roma for Votes, 12 October 2015

13. Bulgarian Helsinki committee, Opportunistic Politicians in Bulgaria Evict Roma for Votes, 12 October 2015

Meta information

Contributor:Radost Zaharieva, Human rights researcher and consultant
Last update07/08/2019
Conflict ID:4382



House demolition in Garmen

Source: BBC

House demolition in Garmen

Source: Bulgarian Helsinki committee

House demolition in Garmen

Source: Novinite, 29 July 2015

House demolition in Garmen

Source: Bulgarian Helsinki committee

House demolition in Garmen

Source: BBC

House demolition in Garmen

Source: BBC

House demolition in Garmen

Source: Novinite, 29 July 2015

House demolition in Garmen

Source: Bulgarian Helsinki committee

House demolition in Garmen

Source: Novinite, 29 July 2015