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Mariana Vincani (22, left) was able to learn sewing thanks to Brunilda Peqini, a national UN Volunteer empowering Roma youth and families in Cërrik, in the Elbasan District, central Albania. (UNV/Fabienne Copin, 2012)
Tirana, Albania: In Albania – the country with the highest percentage of youth in Southeast Europe – Roma youth face heavy discrimination. Their exclusion from sports competitions, school events, vocational training and community life often has a negative impact on their self-confidence.
As they overcame the cultural barriers in their own Roma and Egyptian communities, four Albanians from Tirana, Elbasan, Fier and Durrës enlisted as UN Volunteers to share their experience directly with youth from nearly 2,000 Roma and Egyptian families, thus helping them exercise their rights to civil registration, child protection, health, education, vocational training and employment.
Ethnic minorities in Albania — Macedonians, Greeks, Serbs, Montenegrins, Vlachs, Roma and Egyptians — announced they will pursue a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, following Albania’s Constitutional Court ruling last week to erase the category “nationality” in legal and civil registries.
The court determined that “nationality” is not necessary to include on the census forms to enumerate the population in Albania.
A particular bone of contention is erasing “nationality” in the official books documenting birth, including for already recognised minorities like the Greeks in the south of Albania and the Macedonians in the Mala Prespa area.
The Albanian court acted on the legal challenge issued by several local judges as well as the Red and Black Alliance, one of the main opponents of recording ethnicity and religious identity in the Albanian census that took place last October.
"Some artificial Greek minority is going to ask for special status, maybe for a percentage in parliament or government," said Albania’s Higher Council of Justice deputy head Kreshnik Spahiu. The Council is chaired by President Bamir Topi to monitor the judiciary.
The minorities claim the government openly discriminates by making it unconstitutional for citizens to be of any other nationality than Albanian. Some already sent protest letters prior to deciding to challenge the court ruling in Strasbourg.
"The already recognised minority of Macedonians living in the Mala Prespa area can no longer declare themselves as such. We demand that the Albanian authorities allow the free expression of nationality for all Macedonians throughout Albania, not only in Mala Prespa," Edmond Temelko, president of the Macedonian Alliance for European Integration, told SETimes.
"The Greeks who are recognised as a minority in the southern part of the country also can no longer declare themselves as Greeks. That is valid for the Serbs and Montenegrins as well, not to speak of the others which were not recognised as minorities to begin with," Temelko added.
"The situation is very worrisome for us. Our politicians of all stripes, minority media, intellectuals and the country must not allow the realisation of this insidious plan of Tirana against us," Greek resident Dimitris Doutsis told the newspaper Vouliarati.
The court’s decision comes just weeks after minorities voiced protest regarding the unfulfilled promises by Albanian politicians to record citizens’ ethnicity during the census.
Vangel Dule, representative of the Greek minority’s Party for Human Rights also condemned the international community representatives in Tirana for ignoring the minorities’ pleas for dialogue and co-operation.
"[T]he legal struggle on the issue of nationality will be continued in Strasbourg because the [constitutional court’s] decision is contrary to Article 20 of the constitution of the Republic of Albania," Dule said at a recent meeting of all minorities’ representatives in Korca.
At the meeting, minorities’ representatives signed a joint declaration, saying they do not recognise the results of the October census. The headcount was rife with manipulations, abuse and was conducted without sufficient transparency, they said.
"The greater percentage of minority members responded positively to our call for a boycott and they are not enumerated. The law on the census [is] not to reveal the actual number of minorities, but to manipulate the statistics, which represents a continuation of the discriminatory policy of the totalitarian regime," the declaration said.
"Article 20 of the census law stipulates a $1,000 fee for all who will declare themselves non-Albanian if they were not entered as such in the registers. With such actions, the Albanian state continues the policy inherited from the previous totalitarian system to artificially show it is ethnically homogenous and not a multi-ethnic country," Temelko said.
The minorities appealled to the government to initiate a genuine dialogue to amend existing legislation and to respect their rights based on international standards.
At the beginning of October, Albanian Foreign Minister Edmond Haxhinasto met with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Popovski, telling him the census results would mirror reality and that Macedonians and all minorities would be permitted to declare what they are.
"Careful implementation of the censuses is important for the process to be aligned with the international and European legal framework regarding the area of human rights," Macedonian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Borce Stamov told SETimes.
What is needed to meet international standards, he said, is “full and consistent respect for the principle of self-identification and not misusing the provisions of domestic law”.
SILVER SPRING, Md. - In Albania, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is reaching out to one of Europe’s most deprived communities, the Roma. Often discriminated against and denied basic rights of housing, employment, healthcare, and education, ADRA is helping nearly 1,000 Roma families improve their overall health conditions, with a focus on women and children who otherwise are often overlooked.
Through this initiative, ADRA is utilizing a mobile clinic to visit various Roma communities surrounding the capital city of Tirana. The clinic offers physician-administrated medical treatment and medication to those who visit, and holds short health education talks for children and family members of patients. As many of the ailments are preventable and treatable, health education is given during the examination, focusing on good personal hygiene. Messages of prevention, nutrition, hygiene, and family planning are emphasized, as they are issues relevant to many Roma communities.
Agency reports revealed some of the most common sicknesses amongst those who received treatment were of arterial hypertension, intestinal parasites, upper respiratory infections, asthma, skin infections, depression/anxiety, ulcers, and diabetes. Numerous women who visited the clinic suffered from high-blood pressure, and although many were previously prescribed medication, they were not taking them consistently due to lack of money.
The living conditions of many Roma communities are considered below standard, varying from tents and cardboard boxes, to makeshift houses. Children are often withheld from attending school in order to help secure income for the family to make ends meet. Work for adults and children often consist of gathering scraps of iron and plastic, or begging in the streets. Traditionally, money earned by the family is given to the family patriarch, who often spends it on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling.
Three out of five Roma children die before the age of five, the majority of whom have never seen a doctor. ADRA recognizes the urgency and necessity of providing these communities with medical care, while countering the prejudice that Roma communities endure.
In Rromani Baxt Albania Community Center setting, on 1 August 2011 started 6 months professional course skills in tailoring field. In this course attends 10 young rroma women.
This project funded by World Bank, refers the possibility of organizing training course for professional skills in tailoring field, training about human rights in generaly and women in specific, and olso family planning for rroma women in Allias area, Kinostudio Tirana.
Project aimsgiving employment possibilities to a young rroma women group in this area, and olso stimulate attendance and motivation for professioal training in other part of community, for contributing in creation of a nesserly acces in job market for roma community, notably women and young girls.
One of the priorities of National Strategy for improving Rroma living condition in Chapter III ” Economy, Employment, Poverty Reduction and Social Welfare is Employment and professional training” Objective IV, Priority 4.2 (Establishing professional training courses for the preferred vocations)