MINELRES: Violence Against Kosovo Roma in Macedonia

European Roma Rights Center minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Thu May 22 19:50:21 2003


ERRC Letter to European Commissioner Romano Prodi Concerning Human
Rights Emergency in Macedonia
May 22, 2003

Today at approximately 8:30 AM, special Macedonian security forces used
violence against a large group of Roma on Macedonian side of the
Greek-Macedonian border. The event marks a watershed in the failure by
Macedonian authorities to uphold their international law obligations
with respect to several thousands of Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and
Egyptian refugees seeking international surrogate protection from
persecution in Macedonia since 1999. In the context of the Macedonia
refugee crisis, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) has today written
a letter to European Commission President Romano Prodi, urging him to
act to bring Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees in Macedonia
to European Union countries and provide them with surrogate
international protection in EU Member States. The text of the May 22
ERRC letter follows:

Honourable President Prodi,

Today at approximately 8:30 AM, special Macedonian security forces used
violence against a large group of Roma on Macedonian side of the
Greek-Macedonian border. The event -- unfolding as I write these words
-- marks a watershed in the failure by Macedonian authorities to uphold
their international law obligations with respect to several thousands of
Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees seeking international
protection from persecution in Macedonia since 1999.

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest
law organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and
provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is alarmed at the
situation of the several thousands of Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and
Egyptian refugees in the Republic of Macedonia and in particular at the
situation of approximately seven hundred Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and
Egyptian refugees -- including around three hundred and fifty children
-- who were as of May 21, 2003 on the Macedonian side of the
Macedonian-Greek border, and being prevented from leaving Macedonia by
Macedonian border officials.

Most if not all of the Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees
currently at the Macedonian-Greek border have been living in a
"collective centre" in the ?uto Orizari municipality of the Macedonian
capital Skopje, sheltered under short-term, temporary protection
mechanisms since being ethnically cleansed from Kosovo in 1999. Despite
the fact that Macedonia is a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to
the Status of Refugees (hereinafter "1951 Geneva Convention"), and not
withstanding the fact that they have been ethnically cleansed from
Kosovo, Kosovo Pariah Minority Refugees in Macedonia -- including the
approximately seven hundred persons at issue and the several thousands
of other Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees in Macedonia
have never been formally recognised as refugees by the Macedonian
authorities.

Indeed, Macedonian authorities have, in the close to four years since
Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptians were ethnically cleansed from Kosovo,
demonstrably failed to uphold Macedonia's obligations under the 1951
Geneva Convention and other relevant international laws to which
Macedonia is a party, inter alia:

- by arbitrarily limiting the freedom of movement of the Kosovo Romani,
Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees;

- by failing to guarantee even minimum standards of living necessary for
basic dignity; and

- by abusively failing to recognise their status as refugees, preferring
instead to provide a temporary status which in general has only been
renewed in the days previous to its expiry, causing undue anxiety and
stress to persons already traumatised by the experience of racially
motivated expulsion and extreme human rights abuse.

Macedonian police have also allegedly physically abused Kosovo Romani,
Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees on at least two occasions.

According to ERRC field research, the ?uto Orizari collective centre --
the last refugee camp to remain open in Macedonia from the numerous such
centres established in the context of the 1999 NATO action in Yugoslavia
and the flight of tens of thousands of persons from Kosovo to Macedonia
-- was overcrowded, with highly substandard conditions. Accommodation
provided to the refugees consisted of mere makeshift shacks. There were
reportedly no doors on the entrances to some of the shacks and there
were holes in the walls. Waste removal services were inadequate.
Unsatisfactory conditions in the camps gave rise outbreaks of infectious
disease.

In the early months of 2003, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR), which administered the camp in ?uto Orizari, had
progressively withdrawn a number of basic services from the camp
including schooling, medical provision and food aid. UNHCR officials
also reportedly advised Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees
to seek alternate accommodation, as their temporary status would not be
renewed without provision of a (non-camp) address in Macedonia. Without
such status, those persons were told they would be considered to be
illegally in Macedonia.

According to ERRC field research, at around 6:30 AM on May 19, 2003,
approximately seven hundred Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian
refugees arrived at the Macedonian border town of Medzitlija near
Bitola. Macedonian border officials have not permitted the Kosovo
Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees to cross the Macedonian border,
in violation of the Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the European
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
and Article 12(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, which state, “Everyone shall be free to leave any country,
including his own.”

Honourable President Prodi, the situation in Kosovo today remains
extremely unsafe for Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians. In its “Position on
the Continued Protection Needs of Individuals from Kosovo” of January
2003, the UNHCR reported that “Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian communities
[…] continue to face serious protection problems. […] The problems
include grenade attacks and physical harassment, in addition to acute
discrimination and marginalisation.” The European Union has a special
role in the affairs of the Republic of Macedonia, as expressed inter
alia by the April 9, 2001 Stabilisation and Association Agreement
between the European Union and Macedonia. Moreover, the entry into force
of the Treaty of Amsterdam has placed asylum and refugee issues within
the competence of Justice and Home Affairs. In light of the evident
failure by the Macedonian government to uphold its commitments under
international law with respect to the Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and
Egyptian refugees -- indeed even to provide the modicum of dignity
afforded by refugee status -- we urge you to undertake whatever measures
are within your power to facilitate bringing all Kosovo Romani,
Ashkaelia and Egyptian refugees in Macedonia to European Union countries
and providing them with international protection in EU Member States. We
note that to our knowledge, the only government to date to have pursued
such a policy with respect to Kosovo Romani, Ashkaelia and Egyptian
refugees is the government of the United States. We respectfully request
to be informed of any actions taken by your office with respect to the
concerns raised above.


			Sincerely,
			Dimitrina Petrova
			Executive Director


Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:
Mr. Romano Prodi
European Commission President
European Commission
Rue de Geneva
B-1049 Brussels
Belgium
Fax: +32 2 295 8532

_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence
in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European
Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Center
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P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary


Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201

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