Passionate debate between Roma and Egyptian community and the Ministry of Education in Tirana
Segregation of Roma and Egyptian children in Albania must end. The Deputy Minister, the Ombudsperson, the Commissioner and of course the NGO representatives all agreed that Roma and Egyptian children deserve the same chances as any other child during a roundtable discussion organised by the European Roma Rights Centre. But if concrete steps are not taken to desegregate schools, the ERRC is now ready to go to court.
“We are like a tribe here. Roma and Egyptians.” – says a young Roma boy interviewed by the ERRC. Roma and Egyptian children are very often segregated by the Albanian Education system. This hinders their chances on the job market and their chance for earning a decent living.
Does the Albanian education system provide equal opportunities to Roma and Egyptian students? What can the Ombudsman or the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination do in combating segregation? These were the main questions on the panel discussion organised by the European Roma Rights Centre on Tuesday in Tirana. The list of speakers included Ombudsman Igli Totozani Ombudsman, Equality Commissioner Irma Baraku, Chairperson of the Embroidery Association (Korca) Etleva Tare, and Ms Nora Malaj, Deputy Minister of Education and Sport.
The ERRC has been providing support for local NGOs in the fight against segregation. Following ERRC’s recent interventions in two school segregation cases in Albania, Legal Director Adam Weiss made a commitment to keep up this support. “The cases of school segregation in Albania will be a success story for us. I don’t know how far we will have to go to get these schools desegregated but I know we will go to the end” he said in his opening speech at the event.
Segregation of Roma and Egyptian children takes many forms and sadly is present throughout Europe. This discussion has surely contributed to making clear that the goal of ending segregation in Albania is shared and created a platform for debate about possible solutions.
In his closing remarks after the passionate debate between the community and the Ministry representative, Adam Weiss concluded: “There can be no half measures when it comes to school segregation. I’m talking to you as a lawyer who might advise a client and I can see where we are heading. If no real measures are taken I will be back in a few years with a judgment from the European Court about this. And I must make clear here that the state has responsibilities; the people - and particularly Roma and Egyptian children - have rights. Maybe there are some things NGOs can do, maybe there are ways donors can support, but at the end of the day the state has the responsibility.”
The ERRC will publish the documentary screened at the event and the video of the discussion uncut.
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The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organisation working to combat anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma through strategic litigation, research and policy development, advocacy and human rights education.
Since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has endeavoured to provide Roma with the tools necessary to combat discrimination and achieve equal access to justice, education, housing, health care and public services.
The ERRC has consultative status with the Council of Europe, as well as with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The ERRC has been the recipient of numerous awards for its efforts to advance human rights respect of Roma: in 2013, PL Foundation Freedom Prize; in 2012, Stockholm Human Rights Award; in 2010, the Silver Rose Award of SOLIDAR; in 2009, the Justice Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation; in 2007, the Max van der Stoel award given by the High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Dutch Foreign Ministry; and in 2001, the Geuzenpenning award (the Geuzen medal of honour) by Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of Netherlands.