Letter to Macedonian Interior Minister

23 September 1999

On September 23, 1999, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, sent a letter to Mr Pavle Trajanov, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia, expressing alarm at the refusal by Macedonian authorities to allow entry to Roma fleeing ethnic persecution in Kosovo. The text of the letter follows:

Honourable Minister Trajanov,

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is alarmed at reports that Macedonian authorities are refusing entry to Roma fleeing Kosovo.

According to a report on Radio Bosnia-Hercegovina on September 22, at least 1500 Roma had left the Romani refugee camp at Obilic, Kosovo, near the capital Pristina, travelling on foot in the direction of Macedonia. UNHCR officials had reportedly refused them transport. The same broadcast stated that 450 Roma had arrived at the Kosovo-Macedonian border, where Macedonian officials refused to allow them entry. The report quoted Macedonian officials as stating that they believed that the Roma were coming to Macedonia to take advantage of generous welfare benefits in Macedonia. The Macedonian television stations A1and Sitel additionally reported on September 22 that for the past two days, 1800 Roma have been on the Kosovo side of the Macedonian-Kosovo border crossing at Blace and that Macedonian authorities refused to let them in. Members of the Kumanovo-based non-governmental organisation Drom visited the border crossing on September 22 and confirmed the reports.

Honorable Minister Trajanov, in light of reports that Macedonian officials intended to cease providing Romani refugees from Kosovo safe haven in Macedonia, the ERRC appealed to your office to reaffirm its commitment to abiding by international law in a letter sent on August 31, 1999; we provided your office with significant documentation indicating that Roma from Kosovo can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution and are therefore refugees under the 1951 Convention Pertaining to the Status of Refugees. To date, the ERRC has received no response from your office. Reports that Macedonian officials are now refusing entry to Roma fleeing Kosovo are extremely worrying. We urge your office to take all measures necessary to ensure that persons fleeing ethnic persecution in Kosovo be given protection until such a time as it is safe to return to their homes.

Respectfully,

Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director

Persons wishing to express similar concern are urged to contact the offices of Minister Trajanov at:
Fax: (389 91) 112 468

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