"Helsinki Commission" urges to protect Kosovar Roma


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Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 18:06:35 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: "Helsinki Commission" urges to protect Kosovar Roma

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Greek Helsinki Monitor <balkanHR@greekhelsinki.gr>

"Helsinki Commission" urges to protect Kosovar Roma


CSCE NEWS RELEASE
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
234 Ford House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6460
(202) 225-1901
www.house.gov/csce/
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
 
Commission Leadership Asks Albright: "What are you doing to protect
Kosovar Roma?"
 
For Immediate Release
July 15, 1999
Contact :Chadwick R. Gore
(202) 225-1901

Washington, DC - In a July 14th letter signed by the full leadership
of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Secretary of
State Madeleine K. Albright was asked, "what measures  [are] the
Department taking to ensure the safety [of Roma] in Kosovo, in refugee
camps, and in so-called third countries.  In addition, we would like
to know if any provisions have been made to bring Roma to the United
States under the special provisions established to accept Kosovar
refugees who are currently in Macedonia." This letter was prompted by
reports that Kosovar Roma are being turned away from refugee camps run
by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees because aid
officials "say the Roma can not be protected from possible revenge
attacks from ethnic Albanians from Kosovo."
 
The letter was signed by Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith
(R-NJ), Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), and Ranking
Members Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer
(D-MD).
 
The full text of the letter follows:


Dear Secretary Albright:
 
We write today to share our concern regarding the vulnerable Romani
minority of Kosovo, and to ask what measures the Department is seeking
to ensure their safety during this period of refugee resettlement.
 
In the last census taken in Kosovo (1981), there were 34,000 people
(out of approximately 2 million) who identified themselves as Roma,
although the actual number of Roma was probably higher.  By April 16
of this year, Sonja Licht of the Fund for an Open Society-Yugoslavia
had stated that 20,000 Roma from Kosovo had already fled their homes.
 
Since then, the plight of the Kosovar Roma has worsened.  Roma who
have arrived in Macedonia have been turned away from camps run by the
UNHCR because aid officials say the Roma can not be protected from
possible revenge attacks from ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.  The June
6 attack in the Stenkovec refugee camp illustrates how very real and
legitimate this concern is; we commend Ambassador Chris Hill for his
courage in helping to defuse that crisis.
 
There are also reports that Serbian officials have separated Roma from
Serbs fleeing Kosovo and forced the Roma to return.  Disturbing press
reports over the past few weeks suggest that revenge attacks against
Roma, as well as Serbs, have increased in Kosovo.  While we oppose
violent acts of revenge even against Roma who may have collaborated
with Serbian forces, we are appalled at the apparent casting of
collective guilt on the entire Romani population by returning Kosovar
Albanians.
 
Some Roma have made it into nearby countries that would be normally
considered "safe," such as Hungary.  But during calendar year 1998,
146 Hungarian Roma had been granted refugee status in Canada, with 711
cases still pending at the end of the year.  If Hungary cannot protect
its own Romani minority, how much protection can the new arrivals of
Roma from Kosovo reasonably expect in Budapest?  The situation for
Roma in Hungary is, of course, a pattern throughout most of Europe. 
On June 21, for example, The London Independent reported that an angry
mob attacked a camp of 1,000 Roma in Naples, torching their caravans
in an act of revenge against an alleged infraction by a Rom from
Serbia.
 
Madam Secretary, in light of the particularly vulnerable position of
Romani refugees from Kosovo, we would like to know what measures the
Department is taking to ensure their safety in Kosovo, in refugee
camps, and in so-called "third" countries.  In addition, we would like
to know if any provisions have been made to bring Roma to the United
States under the special provisions established to accept Kosovar
refugees who are currently in Macedonia.
 
Sincerely,
 
BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, U.S.S        CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, M.C.
Co-Chairman                           Chairman
 
FRANK LAUTENBERG, U.S.S.              STENY H. HOYER, M.C.
Ranking Member                        Ranking Member
 
-30-
Chadwick R. Gore
Communications Director
U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
234 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6064
Chadwick.Gore@mail.house.gov
www.house.gov/csce/
(202) 225-1901; fax (202) 225-4394
 
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