Roma families protest eviction

After being forced out of their homes by a construction company, Roma families lived on a nearby sidewalk for weeks

Many Roma families had been living on a sidewalk for weeks.

Many Roma families had been living on a sidewalk for weeks in a Tirana neighborhood after being evicted from their homes by a construction company.

About 40 Roma families who were kicked out of a Tirana settlement by a construction company have been granted housing by the the Albanian government at an old army base in the Tirana outskirts, following weeks of protests and living on a sidewalk. 

The treatment of the Roma families had come under international scrutiny, with EU representatives saying Albania could be denied EU candidate status if their needs are not addressed.

Roma community organizations had come to the aid of protesters, saying they are also trying to avoid other squatter settlements from being destroyed.

Representatives of Roma civil society say the destruction of the camp in the 21 Dhjetori neighborhood of Tirana is one of many such violent evictions and part of a trend aimed to kicks the Romani people out of Tirana and other major cities.

A year ago, several hundred Roma families were forcibly removed from their homes and their shacks set on fire in an area near the train station.

“We have been living in Tirana for the past 600 years, and we want problems for Roma families to end,” Xheladin Taco, a representative of the Roma community told the local media during the protest.

Western diplomats have held a series of calls asking that the needs of the vulnerable community be addressed.

UN, EU, U.S. and OSCE representative have all asked that the human rights of the Roma be respected and called on Albanian authorities to provide shelter and care for homeless Roma after their removal from the area where they had squatted for several years.

EU Ambassador to Tirana Ettore Sequi said the situation of the Roma community will be noted in the progress report of the European Commission in October, urging Albanian authorities to be careful as this is one of the 12 priorities Albania must fulfill to receive EU candidate status.

Since 2008, the European Union has given 3 million euros to help Albania’s Roma community, he added, and is committed to “the social including and the respecting of the human rights of the Roma and Egyptian communities.”

Romas face discrimination across Europe, and Albania’s treatment of the community, which has been part of the country’s life for centuries, is similar to those of other Balkan nations.

Roughly 150,000 Roma are thought to live in Albania, but the full numbers are unclear because authorities say the Roma often don’t register their kids with authorities, so they are excluded from food aid and social assistance provided to the country’s poorest families. They also often do not have a permanent address or jobs, and their children are often not enrolled in school to get an education.

In the case the flared up the protests, about 40 Roma families were kicked out of their homes by a development company that owns the lot and is constructing a building in the area.

The first to express concern internationally was human rights watchdog Amnesty International over the legal procedures followed for the eviction without providing alternative housing. Amnesty International says the landowner has not respected procedures set out in law, and the authorities have not taken measures to provide the Roma with any alternative housing.

The Roma families, some of whom have lived for 10 years on the site of the former Center for the Realization of Works of Art in Tirana’s Kavaja street had been told their homes would be demolished on Aug. 7 by Park Construction Albania development company.

Acting OSCE Ambassador to Albania Robert Wilton and Albanian Ombudsman Igli Totozani also spoke about the need to help the community immediately after their eviction.

The Albanian Human Right Group also issued a statement about the eviction, calling on authorities and the media to deal with the matter properly.

“The media should not treat this issue lightly, as it always does, because it is a very important matter,” the group said in a statement.

Ky artikull i Qendres per Eksekence ne Gazetari – Tirane (TCJE.org) eshte pjesë e Projektit për Raportimin e të Drejtave të Njeriut. Për më shumë informacion: http://tcje.org/en/projects/raportimi-i-te-drejtave-te-njeriut/  

Posted in Featured, Human Rights, In-Depth View
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