Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna says that it intends demolishing 200 illegal buildings in the Roma neighbourhood Maksuda, a move that follows clashes and tensions in Stara Zagora over the demolition of illegal housing in a Roma area of the town.
The issue of illegal housing has come to the forefront in Bulgaria after the deadly floods in June in the Asparouhovo area of Varna. Thirteen people died in those floods, with an investigation finding that an aggravating factor was illegal structures blocking stormwater infrastructure.
In Varna’s Maksuda, July 21 was the deadline for the voluntary demolition of 51 of the structures. The district administration said that orders for compulsory demolition were being prepared.
The first illegal houses were destroyed last week, according to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.
Roma people in Maksuda held a protest on July 21, saying that they were giving the district administration 14 days to find accommodation for them. They said that it did not matter whether this was open land, municipal housing or caravans. They were prepared to pay bills for electricity and water, they said.
In Stara Zagora’s Lozenets area, demolition machines arrived on July 22 to continue the campaign to remove illegal structures, BNT reported.
The previous day, Roma people climbed on to the roofs of housing to try to prevent demolition. Amid a strong police presence and with several reporters on the scene – with two national television stations covering proceedings live on air – a man was arrested after throwing roof tiles at police and officials. One police officer was reported to have been injured.
Stara Zagora mayor Zhivko Todorov said that talks had been held with Roma people in the area on building new homes that would be legal.
Todorov said that currently, no applications had been submitted for council housing.
It also emerged that people in the illegal housing had illicitly tapped electricity from the supply network.
Thirty-three of the 55 houses slated for demolition have been knocked down so far.
“The procedure started two years ago. We have gone through all the legal procedures, we issued orders, we informed people,” Todorov said.
These buildings had been built illegally in the Borova Gora park. The law says that no buildings can be put up in a park and steps had been taken. The buildings could not be legalised, he said.
“We cannot wait for a tragegy like the one in Varna to take place in Stara Zagora, so steps are being taken and we have to show no compromise towards the law being broken, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and so on,” Todorov said.
(Screenshot from BNT)