nulawlab Project

Inconvenient Human Rights: Access to Water and Sanitation in Sweden’s Informal Roma Settlements

Swedish municipalities have initiated more than 80 evictions of vulnerable EU citizens, mostly Roma, from informal settlements on the grounds of poor sanitation since 2013, according to a new report from the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and Södertörn University.  As part of the report, the NuLawLab has developed an interactive map displaying the evictions and relevant documents.

“This is both a human rights tragedy and a failed policy approach to Roma settlements,” says Martha F. Davis, co-author of the report, Fulbright-Lund University Chair in Public International Law at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and NuLawLab faculty director. “The evictions described in the report may be appropriate from an environmental standpoint, but they violate human rights law if no alternatives are offered to provide water and sanitation to the affected individuals beyond a few days.”

The report finds that when the government fails to provide assistance with these basic human needs, the grounds for eviction are virtually assured, and this cycle simply follows the well-worn path of Roma discrimination throughout the past centuries.  “We see that often the same people who are evicted just establish a new campsite, likely near a cemetery or a gas station where they can access water for drinking and cooking. After a few days or weeks, the eviction cycle begins once again,” says Natasha Ryan, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Law at Södertörn University who co-wrote the report.

In June, 2016, the authors distributed the report to, and briefed members of, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as part of the Committee's most recent review of Sweden's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee's Concluding Observations specifically mention the need to provide basic services and long-term housing options when informal settlements are evicted.  Swedish advocates are now working with municipalities and the national government to recognize and meet these obligations.

You can read more about the report here.  Download the entire report here.  Access the NuLawMap below, or click here.