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Planned EU ban on Balkan aylum-seekers alarms Roma there

24.10.2015 8:47
The flag of Macedonia.
The flag of Macedonia.

Balkan Insight reported last month that Macedonian Roma associations have objected to EU plans to ban Balkan nationals from claiming asylum as part of its response to the refugee crisis. The groups say the plans are unfair to their own persecuted communities.

The Romani groups say the measures are not fair toward thousands of migrant Roma from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia who are fleeing absolute marginalization in the Balkan countries. “The Roma have always been persecuted, and if anyone deserves asylum, they do,” Samka Ibraimovski, the head of Macedonia's Party for Complete Emancipation of Roma (PCER) said.

“My information says that some 30 000 people [from Macedonia] are applying for asylum in the EU," she said. The Romani nationality of many of those asylum-seekers is not being captured by the immigration process.

EU Commissioner on Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos said last month that he strongly supported plans to agree a list of "safe countries" from which people may not apply for asylum, and called for the speedy repatriation of asylum-seekers from the Western Balkans. “This [safe country] list will allow Member States to devote greater resources to protecting those in need and to return swiftly those applicants with no rightful claim to asylum,” Avramopoulos said.

The Commissioner said that last year Western Balkan nationals “submitted more than 100 000 asylum requests in EU countries - almost 20 % of all the applications filed in the European Union – while only a few were recognized.” Ferdi Ismaili of the Roma Democratic Development Association in Macedonia (Sonce), says the country must prepare for the readmission of these people.

"These people and especially their children will have huge problems once they return. They will have lost their social benefits, classes in school and other things,” Ismaili said.

"That is why we plan to work together with the authorities on reintegration of these returnees,” she said. Following the lifting of visa restrictions on Macedonian and Serbian citizens, EU countries saw a surge of migration from both countries.

In 2010, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro also joined the list of countries whose passport holders did not need visas to enter the Schengen zone. Concern about Balkan migration rates has grown as Europe struggles to absorb unprecedented numbers of newcomers fleeing war in the Middle East.

All Western Balkan countries have been affected to various degrees by the Middle Eastern refugees' mass flight to Germany, which has become a major topic in relations between Balkan countries and the German government. Authorities in the Western Balkans are actively trying to convince people not to emigrate, but their attempts have reportedly failed.

ERTF publishes fact sheet on Roma in Macedonia

The European Roma and Travellers Forum in Strasbourg has published a fact sheet on the situation of Roma in Macedonia. The fact sheet states that despite some improvements, poverty is still widespread among Roma in Macedonia.

Roma are excluded from different aspects of social and economic life, including employment, housing and education. Most continue to live in settlements isolated from the rest of society in conditions well below the minimum standard of living.

There are either inadequate or non-existent public utilities available to them and a lack of access to a safe water supply in or near some settlements. Hate speech and racism towards Roma are common problems.

One of the main issues of Roma in Macedonia regards their relations with the police. The ERTF reports that last year's revelation that police had tortured two Romani minors in front of their families confirmed that law enforcement specifically targets Roma for ill-treatment.

Discrimination perpetrated by state agents against Roma is also said to be widespread in Macedonia: Roma undergo ethnic profiling, have their passports confiscated when they try to leave the country (as a result of attempts to keep them from traveling to Western Europe), and crimes against them are left unpunished. Two other areas of concern are education (with Roma overrepresernted in schools for pupils with mental disability), and healthcare, particularly regarding the health of pregnant Roma women.

Ethnic tensions seem to be deteriorating in Macedonia, according to the ERTF. Many international organizations and NGOs also deplore the lack of concrete information available on the situation of Roma in Macedonia.

Discrimination against Roma there is still underreported and very often left uninvestigated. A detailed study on the Roma situation in Macedonia is said to be highly necessary.

The ERTF fact sheet highlights challenges for Roma in access to education, healthcare services, housing and public participation, as well as the proliferation of hate speech against them. The full report is available here.

agw, Balkan Insight, ERTF
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antigypsyism, Asylum, Balkan, Civil society, ERTF, EU, Germany, Immigrants, Immigration, Macedonia, Roma



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