Of the 2.5 million people in displacement around Europe as a result of unresolved conflicts, some 390.000 IDPs are still accommodated in “collective centres” and have sometimes been there for decades in indecent conditions. Tens of thousands of others continue living without security of tenure in informal settlements and makeshift shelters, thus making the lack of adequate housing a major concern in protracted IDP situations.
The “collective centres”, many of them former public buildings, were never intended for long-term residence. Most of them are dilapidated, crowded and unhygienic after being occupied but not renovated for some 20 years. The remaining residents are often the most vulnerable among the IDP population (elderly, mentally or physically handicapped, traumatised individuals, etc), which explains their dependence to assistance and their difficulty to find more suitable accommodation.
While recognising the efforts that many Governments have made to improve conditions in collective centres and to reduce the number of IDPs living in them, only small numbers have actually benefited from these schemes. Evictions from these centres are becoming commonplace, with the courts increasingly supporting the rights of owners of buildings in line with successive European Court of Human Rights judgments on the issue.
The issue of adequate housing for IDPs is closely linked to support to local integration, which is an option that states hosting IDPs are often reluctant to support for political reasons.
Keeping IDPs lodged in sub-standard collective centres offers no sustainable solution. Adequate housing is a right independent from the political issues surrounding protracted displacement. The Parliamentary Assembly should make recommendations for comprehensive and targeted assistance responding to the specific needs of this vulnerable population. With solidarity, Council of Europe member states can help promote and find alternatives to these collective centres. The Council of Europe together with its Development Bank can find practical and financial solutions.