Month-long protest continues in Skopje as Macedonian elections approach
- ROMA REFUGEES DEMONSTRATE AT UNHCR
* * * *
Month-long protest continues in Skopje
as Macedonian elections approach
(Photographs on request)
They have stood through the hottest summer month outside the
of the United National High Commission for Refugees in Skopje, hundreds of
Roma refugees - desperate for a better deal.
For three years, since fleeing war and ethnic-cleansing in
refugees have lived in deteriorating camps and private homes, sustained
unkept promises. With their patience exhausted, they have turned finally to
Day after day, the protesters have come on buses and foot from the
distant camps in Katlanovo and the Romani township of Suto Orizari. Between
them they have already covered 340,000 km to make their voices heard - but so
far few have listened.
Now, with a Macedonian general election scheduled for l5
the issue of the 3,000 Roma from Kosovo may receive some attention. The fact
is many do not want to stay in Macedonia, where unemployment is high and
security uncertain. Ideally, according to spokesman Zenelj Berisa, the
desire most of all to return collectively to rebuilt homes in Kosovo.
But like the other 100,000 Kosovo Roma refugees scattered
Europe, a safe and supported return is unlikely to be offered them in the
Hostility against Roma is still rampant in the Albanian-dominated province.
the attempted return of some 100 Roma to the village of Gracanica recently.
found their houses occupied and were beaten when asking to re-settle in the
"Because of this enmity," says local mediator Gasnjani Muharem,
return is imposible. So many pin their hopes on acceptance by a third country,
preferably the US or Canada."
Until now the UNHCR, though its officials talk daily with the
has refused to make any commitment; it is pressing refugees to apply for
asylum in Macedonia. Against this official wall the refugees are pitting
frustration and anger.
Typical among them is Vahide Aljija, a mother of seven children,
who last week
was punched and knocked unconcious by an ethnic-Albanian policeman
whilestanding at the
front of the demonstration. "Perhaps the end of our suffering is in
optiminstically. "Or else we'll have to stay and die here looking for the
rights of our children."
Adding to their misery, floodwaters have swamped the camp at
conditions at both refugee centres are worse then they have ever been.Everyone
the UNHCR will at least respond to their minum request - for a substantial
the refugee camps before they have to face their fourth winter in
+ Donations to support the protest can be sent to:
+ Stopanska Banka, Skopje, Macedonia
+ Account number: 70808613-2432-63
>TUMARO AVUTNIPE SI AN TUMARE VASTA<Your Future is in Your Hands
Meanwhile, a voter registration campaign is being vigorously pursed
from Kumanovo, which is urging Roma voters to turn out in greater numbers
general election on l5 September.
Three Romani parties, known by their acronyms OPRM, PCERM and SRM, are
seeking parliamentary seats. The main issue for Roma is fulfilment of a
improve education, housing, employment and medical care, as well as political
representation, under the Stability Plan for Macedonia. Unfortunately, the
economy is in such poor shape that little progress can be expected under
However, faced with discrimination and racism, Roma will continue to press for
say in decision making and a fair share of the whatever is going. Much
on the outcome of a new population census due next year, which is expected
that the number of Roma has been systematically underestimated for decades
As for the refugees, reports DROM activist Asmet Elezovski, a
protection status will be offered them by legislation due to come into effect
on 29 Sept.
>TRANS -EUROPEAN FEDERATION<* * * *
Annual General Meeting in London
>6th WORLD ROMAN CONGRESS<will be on the agenda
Fostering unity and common purpose among Roma in all countries
will be a keynote of speeches at the TERF conference in London on 21
The newly-formed federation has pledged to work for recognition of the Romani
nation, fulfilment of civil rights and an end to human rights abuses
It will be discussing plans for co-ordinated action, in
the Roma National Congress, to mark UN Human Rights Day, on 10 December.
A resolution supporting the RNC call for an amnesty for asylum-seekers who
been in a "host" country for three years or more is being tabled.
There will also be debate on ways and means that TERF could
the holding of the 6th World Romani Congress, due to take place in 2004.
Council offered to host the 5th Congress in London and a similar plan for the
could be drawn up. By proposing such an option l8 months in advance, it is
contribute to both unity and the democratic process, allowing maximum