Europe is considered the pinnacle of human luxury and comfort in lifestyle. However, this projection overlooks or discounts any predicament as part or portion of the citizens’ face; some are similar to ones that persist and are magnified when ‘developing’ countries are viewed.
Luník IX, dubbed ‘Hell on Earth’, is the largest slum in Europe.It is a neighbourhood in the city of Košice in Slovakia. It is the largest slum/ghetto area in Europe. The community living there mainly consists of Roma people. They are said to originate from migrants from South Asiatic regions and travel to central parts of Europe.
Historically, nomadic tribes like the Roma were forced to settle down due to Czechoslovakia declaring nomadism illegal due to the immigration crisis in the 1930s. After being inducted into the Soviet side, Czechoslovakia wanted to turn the Romas into workers and chose a place to integrate the Roma people forcefully. The region in Košic was selected because it has the highest concentration of Romas in all of Slovakia.
Inhabitants arrived by 1981, with 40% being Roma and 60% Non-Roma. Initially meant for army men, workers and Roma, most who were financially abled started leaving after a better housing policy was offered to them in 1995. This policy saw the non-problematic families being offered new residence while the illegal residents of Košice moved to Luník IX. By October 2001, only financially disabled Roma people continued to inhabit this region.
Today 7,500 Roma population is systematically segregated to a periphery in Slovakia. They live in nightmarish conditions in the slum. The unemployment rate in Luník IX is about 97% which is starkly high compared to the 6% average in Slovakia. The government does not provide electricity, water and central heating for the European cold, and the regions continue to be neglected by the government. If provided, the supply only runs for 2 hours. The garbage disposal system is pathetic, with the streets of the regions completely littered with inhabitants throwing waste from their buildings. On a further note on the buildings, the roof leaks water, they are dirty and hence greetings for disease to enter the area. The sewage system overflows muck in the street of Luník IX.
With an extremely high 6,645/km² population density in 2022, it becomes hard to contain the spreading of diseases due to unsanitary environments like the hepatitis epidemic. The Bratislava SME reported that a 4-year-old girl died, and an 18-month boy was severely burnt in a fire in the settlement. In 2016, two small Roma children died in the area. Both the 6- and 4-month-old boys died in a segregated neighbourhood. Three more minors died in the Roma slum.
It is crucial to fight against this systemic racism in Slovakia and uplift the Roma in Luník IX. They continue reeling under poverty due to bureaucracy and are discounted by the world due to the shiny guise upheld by Europe.