Roma Face Violence and Housing Problems in Kosovo

07 November 2002

On July 4, 2002, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported in its electronic news bulletin that, Ms Claire Doole, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, stated "It is not safe for these people (Kosovo refugees abroad) to go back," in response to a recent claim by the Kosovo assembly president, Mr Nexhat Daci, that "We now have peace in Kosovo […] so Kosovars should come back to rebuild their country using skills and experience gained in the UK." The following are recently reported issues facing Roma in Kosovo. Due to underreporting on issues pertaining to Roma in Kosovo, the ERRC does not believe this to be an exhaustive list.

On the evening of August 11, 2002, a fight broke out between Romani returnees to Kosovo and a group of internally displaced ethnic Serbs in Gračanica, south of Priština, when the Roma requested that the ethnic Serbs, who had settled in their homes, move out, according to a radio B92 broadcast of the same day. B92 reported that only after an intervention by the Kosovo Police Service did the tension ease. According to B92, the ninety-seven Roma who recently returned to Gračanica after leaving Kosovo in 1999 for Italy and other western European countries, are temporarily staying with relatives because the ethnic Serbs have refused to leave.

In other news, according to a UNMIK Press Briefing by Ms Susan Manuel on August 6, 2002, on an unspecified date at the end of July 2002, a house belonging to Romani returnees was burnt by unknown assailants. A Kosovo Albanian man reportedly noticed the fire and called the fire department. According to the UNMIK report, a group of local Kosovo Albanians harassed the fire fighters as they put out the fire at the Romani home. UNMIK also reported that, later the same day, the home of the Kosovo Albanian man who had called the fire department to the Romani home was set on fire by a group of local ethnic Albanians.

Also according to UNMIK, during a July 23, 2002 Press Briefing, Ms Manuel reported that after a rain storm on July 22, 2002, two Egyptian boys, aged 11 and 12 years old, died when the container they were standing under to keep dry turned over in the wind and crushed them. According to the UNMIK Press Briefing, approximately thirty Romani families were left without housing after the storm. UNMIK reported that UNHCR has provided tents, sheeting and blankets for the Romani community, but as of October 24, 2002, the ERRC was unaware of the status of the families and whether they had been provided with accommodation.

Despite the belief of Western European governments now attempting to send Romani refugees back to Kosovo, the climate Roma face in Kosovo is not one of safety or acceptance. In the words of one Kosovo Romani man, 32-year-old Mr H.G., who testified to the ERRC on August 11, 2002, "Discrimination against Roma is still going on. In Priština, I met an Albanian friend of mine. We used to go in school together. I said to him "Hello, how are you doing?' and he answered me, 'You are still in Kosovo? You better go somewhere else. Don't stay in Kosovo; it's not yours anymore. Kosovo is ours.'" Further information on the violence and discrimination against Roma in Kosovo is available on the ERRC's Internet website at:



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