Inconvenient Human Rights: Water and Sanitation in Sweden's Informal Roma Settlements
Health and Human Rights Journal, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 61-72 (2017)
13 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2017
Date Written: 2017
Following an increase in Roma migration under the European “freedom of movement” laws, Swedish municipalities initiated more than 80 evictions of informal Roma settlements on the grounds of poor sanitation between 2013 and 2016. These evictions echo policies from earlier in the 20th century, when Roma living in Sweden were often marginalized through the denial of access to water and sanitation facilities. The recent Swedish evictions also follow similar government actions across Europe, where Roma settlements are controlled through the denial of access to water and sanitation. However, access to water and sanitation — central aspects of human health — are universal human rights that must be available to all people present in a jurisdiction, regardless of their legal status. The evictions described here violated Sweden’s obligations under both European and international human rights law. More positive government responses are required, such as providing shelters or camping sites, setting up temporary facilities, and directly engaging with communities to address water and sanitation issues. The authors conclude by providing guidance on how states and municipalities can meet their human rights obligations with respect to water and sanitation for vulnerable Roma individuals and informal settlements in their communities.
Keywords: Human Rights, Right to Water, Roma Settlements
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