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Month-long protest continues in Skopje as Macedonian elections approach

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  • ustiben.4 by way of Panayote Dimitras
    ROMA REFUGEES DEMONSTRATE AT UNHCR * * * * Month-long protest continues in Skopje as Macedonian elections approach Ustiben reports: (Photographs on request)
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26 5:59 AM
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      ROMA REFUGEES DEMONSTRATE AT UNHCR

      * * * *

      Month-long protest continues in Skopje
      as Macedonian elections approach

      Ustiben reports:

      (Photographs on request)


      They have stood through the hottest summer month outside the
      offices
      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
      Kosovo, these
      refugees have lived in deteriorating camps and private homes, sustained
      only by
      unkept promises. With their patience exhausted, they have turned finally to
      protest
      action.

      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
      September,
      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
      refugees
      desire most of all to return collectively to rebuilt homes in Kosovo.

      But like the other 100,000 Kosovo Roma refugees scattered
      throughout
      Europe, a safe and supported return is unlikely to be offered them in the
      near future.
      Hostility against Roma is still rampant in the Albanian-dominated province.
      Witness
      the attempted return of some 100 Roma to the village of Gracanica recently.
      They
      found their houses occupied and were beaten when asking to re-settle in the
      area.

      "Because of this enmity," says local mediator Gasnjani Muharem,
      "safe
      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
      protesters,
      has refused to make any commitment; it is pressing refugees to apply for
      permanent
      asylum in Macedonia. Against this official wall the refugees are pitting
      their determination,
      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
      coming,"she say
      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
      Katlanovo and
      conditions at both refugee centres are worse then they have ever been.Everyone
      hopes that
      the UNHCR will at least respond to their minum request - for a substantial
      improvement to
      the refugee camps before they have to face their fourth winter in
      "temporary" accommodation.

      + 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
      by >DROM<
      from Kumanovo, which is urging Roma voters to turn out in greater numbers
      for the
      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
      programme to
      improve education, housing, employment and medical care, as well as political
      representation, under the Stability Plan for Macedonia. Unfortunately, the
      country's
      economy is in such poor shape that little progress can be expected under
      any party.
      However, faced with discrimination and racism, Roma will continue to press for
      more
      say in decision making and a fair share of the whatever is going. Much
      could depend
      on the outcome of a new population census due next year, which is expected
      to reveal
      that the number of Roma has been systematically underestimated for decades
      As for the refugees, reports DROM activist Asmet Elezovski, a
      temporary
      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
      September.
      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
      everywhere.

      It will be discussing plans for co-ordinated action, in
      partnership with
      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
      have
      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
      help promote
      the holding of the 6th World Romani Congress, due to take place in 2004.
      The Gypsy
      Council offered to host the 5th Congress in London and a similar plan for the
      6th. Congress
      could be drawn up. By proposing such an option l8 months in advance, it is
      intended to
      contribute to both unity and the democratic process, allowing maximum
      preparation.
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