Groundbreaking report presents violations and obstacles impeding the realization of homeless people’s rights in Belarus.

The report, “Homeless people and the right to housing in Belarus,” was prepared by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee in collaboration with Human Constanta (Belarus) and Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights (Switzerland). The joint initiative aims to study and draw attention to the problems experienced by homeless people in Belarus in order to improve their condition and call for the fulfilment of their rights. The report is the first substantial document addressing these issues.

It analyzes state policies surrounding homelessness in Belarus and describes the limitations preventing the homeless from fulfilling their right to shelter and housing. It criticizes the insufficient attention given to the problem of homelessness and recommends that the government adopt an all-encompassing program for preventing, reducing, and mitigating homelessness.

In 12 recommendations, the three human rights organizations summarize what measures the Belarusian authorities should take to fulfil the human rights of homeless people.

“As a conclusion of the events during the Ice Hockey World Championship 2014 documented in the report, we call on the Belarusian authorities to prevent the repetition of mass arrests, administrative arrests and removal of homeless people from the city in connection with the June 2019 European Games in Minsk”, states Lars Bünger, Chairman of the Swiss Branch of Libereco.

The report is based on a study of Belarusian legislation and shows a lack of reliable statistics measuring the scale of the problem of homelessness in Belarus. This contributes to the neglect of this issue in the country. Furthermore, the lack of policy itself lends to the persecution of independent initiatives helping the homeless.

In face-to-face interviews made from November 2018 to January 2019 in Minsk and two regional cities, homeless people stressed the practices which restrict their access to public spaces. Several cases are documented in the report. They show how homeless people must risk their health when they are forced to seek out less secure places to spend the night.

Furthermore, the report presents an analysis of the procedures required for securing social housing, finding that in its current form, homeless people are excluded from this benefit. Existing rules governing evictions do not provide for alternative housing and do not account for the high risk of homelessness among evictees who find themselves in a vulnerable financial state.

The report also addresses limited access to justice in eviction cases, which is an additional risk factor for evictees who have been rendered homeless.

All findings are complemented by an online map of homeless assistance services and several videos introducing civil society activists working for the homeless.