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Today’s illegal eviction of the illegal encampment in Wrocław (in Paprotna street), where the Romanian Roma have been living for the last 7 years, confirms my belief that not only in Europe but also in Poland municipal authorities do not see the city as a whole. They see only a selected area – a given district or investment, and homogenous recipients-users. They do not want or are not able to notice what has already been noticed in South America or Asia – that a real value of the city is the combination of the formal elements (e.g. public and residential buildings) with the informal ones (e.g. encampments, slums, squats).

According to Justin McGuirk [1], the task for architects (and in my opinion, also the task of the civil servants) is to integrate slums “with the city as a whole, to create connections and flows, the points of communication and social inclusion that will erase the lines of exclusion and conflicts. The urbanism in the informal city has to be wiser than it used to be before; it has to be flexible in order to cope with unexpected changes.”

Wrocław has yet to learn to be inclusive – the aforementioned encampment has been “tidied up” and “cleaned” on the basis of the decision of the County Building Supervision Inspector, who sees the fact that in the 21st century people live in health-threatening conditions as something beyond comprehension.According to current human rights standards and international law, destroying houses (illegal or uninhabited buildings can serve as places for living) without the eviction order or the confiscation of the private possessions of the Roma (it is not known if they have been secured in any way) is the violation of law. The European Court of Human Rights stated in a similar case (Bulgaria, 2012) that “the legality of building and living in a given place does not influence the fact that we can treat that place as a house/flat, and an eviction has to be justified and proportional to the purpose. Also, the authorities have to consider the risk of homelessness as a result of the eviction.” [2]

Watching actions undertaken by the municipal authorities in relation to the Romanian Roma (and also in relation to the inhabitants of the second encampment in Kamieńskiego street, who were sued by the city), I notice the terrifying weakness of democracy which is dominated by the neoliberal approach of the city. The main values are increasing the value of the land, maximization of the profit and the primacy of the ownership, not human life and dignity. Not to mention state’s obligations towards any minorities. The ignorance of the civil servants and social workers in Wrocław is accompanied by hatred on the part of some Internet users who easily divide people into those who work (the good ones) and those who do not (loafers and beggars). The idea of assimilation does not exist – it was proven in the 1960s when the Roma were forced to move to shoddy flats from their caravans. And again we turn to the social and economic system, to the need of education, not only intercultural. The Association “Nomada” in Wrocław prepared a report [3] about the system exclusion of the Romanian Roma in Wrocław. That report should be an obligatory reading for people who arbitrarily decide about breaking someone’s life (eviction). As I have already mentioned, making such a decision results not only from ignorance or short-sightedness but also from the lack of understanding of the informal city structure. The encampment will not disappear, it will just move somewhere else.

Our duty as the inhabitants of Wrocław is exerting pressure on the civil servants so that they prepare system (legal and economic) solutions for the excluded communities and introduce the Roma themselves to the difficult and time-consuming mechanism of integration (which is rejected by some of them). We should build on the experience of the countries that include illegal constructs in the existing urban fabric. Even if such solutions seem culturally distant. I will sum everything up with the quote from the Urban Think Tank, a design office from Venezuela: “A city that is completely planned … is a myth. It is the historical mistake of town planners, designers and architects who are not able to notice, not to mention analyse and creatively use, informal aspects of the city life, because they lack professional vocabulary in order to describe them.”

Katarzyna Wiącek

 

[1] The author of the book ”Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search for a New Architecture”

[2] Amnesty International

[3] Nomada Association Report

Comment

Projekt ‘MIEJSKI SYSTEM INFORMACYJNY I AKTYWIZACYJNY DLA MIGRANTÓW’ jest współfinansowany z Programu Krajowego Funduszu Azylu, Migracji i Integracji oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

Projekt LOKALNE MIĘDZYSEKTOROWE POLITYKI NA RZECZ INTEGRACJI IMIGRANTÓW realizowany był w ramach programu Obywatele dla Demokracji, finansowanego z Funduszy EOG.

Projekt LOKALNE POLITYKI MIGRACYJNE - MIĘDZYNARODOWA WYMIANA DOŚWIADCZEŃ W ZARZĄDZANIU MIGRACJAMI W MIASTACH był współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej w ramach Europejskiego Funduszu na rzecz Integracji Obywateli Państw Trzecich oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

Projekt LOKALNE MIĘDZYSEKTOROWE POLITYKI NA RZECZ INTEGRACJI IMIGRANTÓW był współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej w ramach Europejskiego Funduszu na rzecz Integracji Obywateli Państw Trzecich oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

Projekt ‘WARSZAWSKIE CENTRUM WIELOKULTUROWE’ był współfinansowany ze środków Unii Europejskiej w ramach Europejskiego Funduszu na rzecz Integracji Obywateli Państw Trzecich oraz budżetu państwa. Wyłączna odpowiedzialność spoczywa na autorze. Komisja Europejska nie ponosi odpowiedzialności za sposób wykorzystania udostępnionych informacji.

LOKALNE MIĘDZYSEKTOROWE POLITYKI NA RZECZ INTEGRACJI IMIGRANTÓW Projekt realizowany był przy wsparciu Szwajcarii w ramach szwajcarskiego programu współpracy z nowymi krajami członkowskimi Unii Europejskiej.