Two of Myzejen Alushi’s five children are growing up in state care institutions in Tirana, over 100 kilometres from their family home in Fier in south-western Albania. Myzejen is half Egyptian and her husband Lulush is Roma; their children were taken away and placed in separate institutions without any court decision; and the Alushis are still the legal guardians of eleven-year-old M.D. and five-year-old Sh.A. This is the story of their struggle to get their children back home.
Back in 2005, at the launch of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, World Bank President, James D. Wolfensohn, described the plight of the Roma as ‘one of the great moral issues facing Europe’, and the Decade an opportunity ‘to turn the tide of history’; for Open Society Chairman George Soros, the Decade signaled ‘a sea change’ in Roma policy.
I have been working on supporting the rights of Roma and promoting Roma inclusion pretty steadily since 1999. Without a doubt, the Decade of Roma Inclusion has been one of the most frustrating tasks I have worked on. When I put together health service delivery projects for Roma in Kosovo right after the war ended, it was instant gratification: in a relatively short time frame, we could identify a need (TB screening and treatment; maternal health education for Romani women) and take care of it.