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Let’s lobby together to put Roma as true citizens of Albania


August 20, 2013, Tirana, Albania: the Albanian Ombudsman, Mr. Igli Totozani called on stakeholders to meet and find a solution to provide access to Roma minorities to social housing, after 70 Roma families were forcefully evicted on August 7. “There are some gaps in the legal framework that compound serious obstacles to the long term solutions for the integration of Roma community in Albania. If we don’t change those, the situation cannot change for better” – said Mr. Totozani, adding that “We need to come together as one voice and lobby the Albanian Government for changes in the legislation so that Roma citizens have access to social programmes as all the other Albanian citizens”.
Various institutions were present at the discussion initiated by the Ombudsman, including amongst others, the EU Delegation, Embassies from EU countries and the USA, the OSCE Presence in Albania, the Council of Europe, UNDP and many other civil society and NGO actors, including the newly established Albanian Roma Federation representing 14 local Roma organizations.
The 70 families were evicted two weeks before from the former Centre for the Realization of Works of Art in Rruga e Kavajes, in the capital, Tirana, where most of them had been living for more than 10 years. The land which is a private property was given to a construction company for building and all were forcefully evicted without any other form of support. For the past weeks 265 people, and among them almost 100 children, are sleeping outside in the street, in a waste ground. With the summer heat and the lack of shelter they are unable to provide food or meet other basic needs. While they have been supported by a group of civil society organizations, including Terre des hommes Albania, with food, water and basic health services, this emergency situation cannot be tolerated any longer.
The Albanian Roma Federation as well as Roma and Egyptian youth activists have closely monitored the difficult conditions faced by Roma community, which is very problematic for all families and especially children. “We openly express our concerns as we have observed neglect and lack of response from the Tirana Municipality, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and the Government”. The Albanian Roma Federation and Roma and Egyptian youth have called on relevant institutions, specifically the Municipality of Tirana to take urgent measures to immediately accommodate Roma families who are the open air from 2 weeks but so far no acceptable alternative or support has been provided by the authorities, in denial of the fundamental rights of these citizens.
Many of the Albanian Roma Federation, other CSOs and the international institutions present in the meeting conveyed on the initiative of the Albanian Ombudsman committed to form an ad hoc coalition to jointly and more actively promote changes in the laws on Civil Registration, Economic Aid and Social Housing. This would constitute one step forward to ensure more sustainable and effective solution to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable Roma communities in Albania and restore their dignity and access to rights.
This gathering of organizations to further advance the recognition of Roma as full right-holders and citizens of Albania is welcomed as a strong sign of indignation in front of the constant violations and discrimination this minority is enduring in Albania. But Roma activists are also calling to solve the emergency situation of these families: “The long-term proposed solutions are good […] but the traumatized Roma children and their parents, who are still living in the street, need a shelter, food and medicines immediately. We call on the Municipality of Tirana and other institutions to help this Roma community and all the Roma population in Albania and to respect our rights” – said the representative of the Albanian Roma Federation, Xheladin Taco. (SC)