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Basic Facts on Roma - Albania

28 August 2010

Roma in Albania are recognised as an ethnic-linguistic minority.1 Official sources say that there are about 1,300 Roma in Albania, however other sources estimate that there are up to 120,000 Roma in Albania; the population is 3.4 million.2 Official censuses in Albania acknowledge the Roma. Romani communities are found all over the country; the largest are found in central and southeast Albania in regions like Tirana, Durresi, Elbasan, Fieri, Berati, Korca, Pogradeci, Bilishti, Gjirokastra, Delvina, Kruja, Shkodra, etc.3 In Albania, there are many groups referred to as Roma including Kabuzis, Meckars, Kurtofs and Cergars tribes – Shkodrani and Besaqe Roma. Another ethnic group which originates from Egypt is the Jevgs, who are generally perceived to be Romani.4 

Government policies or initiatives on Roma: Albania joined the Decade of Roma Inclusion in 2008; within this framework the Government adopted a National Action Plan which focuses on education, employment and social protection, housing and infrastructure, health, social infrastructure and equal opportunities and cultural heritage.5 In 2006, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports adopted an action plan for Roma in the fields of culture, youth and sports; it aims to raise awareness of Romani traditions and create equal opportunities for the integration of Romani youth in society.6 In September 2003 the Albanian government approved a National Strategy for Improving Roma Living Conditions, which addresses substandard housing conditions, unemployment and low educational attainment.7

Housing: Roma in Albania live in poor conditions in settlements, lacking connections to basic infrastructure like water, electric and public services. There have been cases of forced evictions and instances in which Albanian authorities have discriminated against Roma in the provision of social services, social welfare payments, the provision of municipal infrastructure and health care.8 

Education: In accordance with the Law on Education, school attendance is mandatory for all children in Albania above the age of six. Unfortunately, many Romani children drop out of school before completing the eight years of mandatory schooling. Unofficial estimates indicate that secondary school attendance of Roma in Albania is very low, while 72% of Albanian children attend secondary high school.9 There are no scholarships available to support Roma education in Albania. According to a UNDP survey, about 52% of Roma have no education, 18% attended just a few years of elementary school and only 14% managed to complete elementary school; only 3% of the Romani respondents had graduated secondary school and only 4% graduated from college or university. Romani women generally have a lower level of education than men: 56% have no education while 11% drop out during primary school. Romani parents site discriminatory treatment by teachers and other students and large distances between their homes and schools as reasons for low school attendance. Due to poverty, many Romani children have to work to contribute to the families’ income. About 15% of the Romani children who were surveyed had to leave school in order to work.10 

Health: Romani families have difficulties accessing adequate healthcare. Only 76% of Roma, compared to 93% of non-Roma, have been immunised against polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.11 There are reports that Roma are sometimes forced to pay bribes to receive proper medical treatment. Many children in large Romani families suffer from malnutrition, which affects their overall health and ability to study.

Employment: Many Roma are unable to access employment in Albania due to low educational qualifications and discrimination. Most Roma earn a living from occasional informal work in agriculture, public service and construction with very low wages.12 The average monthly income for a Romani household is 68 EUR while among non-Romani households living in the same vicinity it is 174.50 EUR.13

Political participation: There are no elected Romani officials at the national level in Albania; nor are there any known to have been elected at the local level. Although they do partake in elections, Romani voters constitute a very small portion of the electorate. Political parties generally encourage and mobilise Roma to vote during the campaigning and elections process, but often neglect their concerns after being elected.

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  1. Council of Europe, Second Report submitted by Albanian pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, 18 May 2007, available at: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/minorities/3_FCNMdocs/PDF_2nd_SR_Albania_Annexes_en.pdf.
  2. Maria Koinova, Roma of Albania, August 2000, Albanian Helsinki Committee, (CEDIME-SE), available at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/cedime-se-albania-roma.doc.
  3. National strategy for improving Roma living conditions (18 September 2003) Available at:  http://www.osce.org/item/21138.html 
  4. Maria Koinova, Roma of Albania, August 2000, Albanian Helsinki Committee, (CEDIME-SE), available at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/cedime-se-albania-roma.doc.
  5. Albania, National Action Plan for the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2010-2015, available at: http://www.romadecade.org/files/downloads/Decade%20National%20Action%20Plan_Albania.pdf
  6. Council of Europe, Second Report submitted by Albanian pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, 18 May 2007, available at: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/minorities/3_FCNMdocs/PDF_2nd_SR_Albania_Annexes_en.pdf.
  7. OSCE Presence in Albania, National Strategy for Improving Roma Living Conditions, 18 September 2003, available at:  http://www.osce.org/item/21138.html.
  8. Maria Koinova, Roma of Albania, August 2000, Albanian Helsinki Committee, (CEDIME-SE), available at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/cedime-se-albania-roma.doc.
  9. Maria Koinova, Roma of Albania, August 2000, Albanian Helsinki Committee, (CEDIME-SE), available at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/cedime-se-albania-roma.doc.
  10. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Albania, At Risk: The Social Vulnerability of Roma in Albania, August 2006, available at: http://intra.undp.org.al/ext/elib/download/?id=841&name=National%20Roma%20Report%20english_reduced.pdf.
  11. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Albania, At Risk: The Social Vulnerability of Roma in Albania, August 2006, available at: http://intra.undp.org.al/ext/elib/download/?id=841&name=National%20Roma%20Report%20english_reduced.pdf.
  12. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Albania, At Risk: The Social Vulnerability of Roma in Albania, August 2006, available at: http://intra.undp.org.al/ext/elib/download/?id=841&name=National%20Roma%20Report%20english_reduced.pdf.
  13. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Albania, At Risk: The Social Vulnerability of Roma in Albania, August 2006, available at: http://intra.undp.org.al/ext/elib/download/?id=841&name=National%20Roma%20Report%20english_reduced.pdf.

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