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Discrimination Against Roma in Albanian Children’s Home

7 July 2016

Budapest, Tirana, 7th July 2016: If you are one of the children institutionalised in the care home for children in Shkodra, you are probably Roma or Egyptian. More than half the children there belong to these minority groups, which make up only a fraction of Albania’s overall population. To be a Romani or Egyptian child in state care means a childhood apart from your family with little to no chance of returning home. It also means being exposed to a higher risk of abuse.

The ERRC, along with the Centre for Legal Civic Initiatives, the Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania, and Tirana Legal Aid Society, submitted a complaint to the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination on 7th July detailing how the overrepresentation of these groups of children constituted indirect discrimination against them. This comes after a draft report from the Ombudsman released on the 30th June which found serious violations and abuses committed by those running the School Children’s Home, Shkodra. Among many other failings, they are treating the Romani and Egyptian children living there in a discriminatory way.

The system which is meant to care for these children and provide for their families has instead led to the institutionalisation of children, too many of whom are Roma and Egyptian. There are more than one and a half times as many Romani and Egyptian children in this institution as there should be, based on the total population of Roma and Egyptians in Shkodra, and in the other regions where children in this institution come from. Official data shows over representation in the institution of Roma and Egyptians at 58.8%.  Yet these groups make up officially less than 1% of Albania’s overall population.

Romani and Egyptian children in this institution also have worse outcomes. In 2015, there were five non-Romani and non-Egyptian children returned to their biological families from the home. No Romani or Egyptian children have been returned from the home in the years 2014 or 2015. Roma and Egyptians are disproportionately poor in Albania, because of centuries of discrimination and exclusion. Human rights law says clearly that families which are too poor to look after their children should get support from the State. Yet Romani and Egyptian children are very often moved from their families to the children’s home and vice versa with no attempt to solve the underlying financial problems that lead them into the system. There are no cases of Romani or Egyptian Children being offered such alternative care in 2013, 2014 or 2015.

The ERRC and our partner NGOs know that this discriminatory overrepresentation is no mere question of poverty alone. No effective measures have been taken to prevent such a percentage of Romani and Egyptian children being accommodated in social care institutions. This is a racially discriminatory human rights violation and represents an acute symptom of the wider, systemic discrimination which Roma and Egyptians face in Albania through legislative gaps and continued lack of access to housing, to welfare and to social services.

“As long as our children are kept in these institutions, we will never realise our full potential.  You cannot put Romani and Egyptian children in places like this and then expect to see any change for Roma and Egyptians in society.  These children will grow up with the psychological damage of having their identity created by a majority society that abuses and excludes them and their culture. This must stop” says ERRC President Ðorđe Jovanović.

The press conference factsheet detailing the complaint to the Commissioner can be found here.

An Albanian translation of this factsheet can be found here.

For more information contact:

Jonathan Lee
Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
Tel: 0036 14132243
jonathan.lee@errc.org

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