Romani children from Kosovo turned away from Bosnian school

Six hundred and twenty Romani refugees from Kosovo accommodated in the Smrekovica refugee center in the Breza municipality, central Bosnia, launched a strike on August 29, 2000, to protest the decision of local authorities that Romani children from the camp could not attend the local primary school, according to the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje of September 6. The headmaster of the school, the Sarajevo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Ministry for Refugees and Human Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina had arranged for sixty Romani children from the camp to enroll at the Enver Čolaković primary school. However, the local mayor reportedly intervened to prevent the children from enrolling on the grounds of a lack of space at the school. The article quoted the president of the refugee association in the Smrekovica camp, Mr Senad Džemaili, who accused the mayor of stating that he would not allow the Romani pupils to mix with non-Roma. Mr Džemaili also noted that any local mishap was blamed on the Roma from the camp, and that in his opinion the Roma were unwanted by the locals. During the strike the refugees refused to accept food deliveries and banned access to the camp. All of the involved parties met on September 5, and decided that two rooms within the camp facilities would be adequately refurbished and equipped for classes for the Romani children, taught by two non-Romani teachers. Some Romani parents reportedly welcomed this solution as it saved the children a several kilometres walk to the local school. However, Oslobodjenje quoted others who found this solution unacceptable and demanded their children be treated equally and allowed to attend the local school. Despite some opposition, as of December 13, according to the UNHCR, the Romani children were still attending the provisory camp school. The daily also noted that five security employees had been dismissed from their work in the Smrekovica camp at the request of the camp manager, after they were reported to have physically attacked and insulted the refugees.

(ERRC, Oslobodjenje, UNHCR)

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