By Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Roma Community Wins Discrimination Case against Albanian Gov’t

A Romani community in Fushë-Kruja has won a landmark case against the Municipality, before the Commissioner for the Protection of Discrimination.

The Municipality were accused of failing to provide them with clean drinking water and sanitation, based on their ethnicity. The Commissioner found in favor of the Roma community that live in the “Kastriot” area, stating that they had been unfairly treated as a result of their ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The Municipality have been ordered to take immediate measures to correct the situation within 30 days, or else face a fine and further legal action.

The case was taken before the Commissioner by the Albanian Helsinki Committee with the support of the European Roma Rights Center who were able to provide substantial evidence of systematic discrimination in providing ethnic minorities with clean water in Albania.

“Lack of clean drinking water and sanitation is an issue that plagues Roma throughout Europe. It is one of the most severe, and most dangerous manifestations of antigypsyism,” said Nicole Garbin ERRC’s Lawyer.

Kastriot is home to around 1200 Romani individuals and it has existed as such since the 1990s. A project led by a local Roma organisation in 2005 resulted in a water supply being delivered to the area but it was cut off by the local council within days. Residents of the area have since had no choice but to create their own private wells in order to access ground water. The problem is that the local river is so polluted with urban waste that it poses a significant risk to health if ingested, as well as resulting in a Hepatitis A outbreak that occurred in 2014. Though this news and the epidemic made the headlines, no effort whatsoever was made by the authorities to help the affected in any way.

“The supply of drinking water is a human right, and in Albania it is a public service” said Rovena Vuksani from the Albanian Helsinki Committee. “The water company is charged by law to carry out this service and cannot arbitrarily refuse to supply water to an entire neighborhood. This decision is an important step towards recognizing and overcoming the institutional discrimination Roma face in Albania. We will be monitoring the actions of the municipality carefully in the next 30 days to ensure they carry out the urgent measures to restore clean water.”

Now there has been a clear legal decision as well as substantial proof that the Roma are being discriminated against in clear violation of their basic human rights, it is hoped that more will come forward and commence legal action against the authorities.