From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
International Roma Day, Yet Discrimination Remains Unresolved in Albania

Today, 8 April is International Roma Day- a day to celebrate Romani culture as well as to raise awareness of the significant issues faced by their community.

Despite national and international laws in place to protect them and their rights, the treatment of Roma individuals and communities remains a big human rights issue in Europe. Roma men, women, and children face high levels of discrimination and poverty, as well as unparalleled social exclusion across the region.

A number of reports conducted by various national and international human rights bodies have found that fundamental rights such as health, housing, employment, and education are still not guaranteed. Roma are also routinely and systematically discriminated against by governments and the authorities.

A statement from Timo Soini, President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, called on member states to “recall our obligations in the protection of human rights and reaffirm our commitment to promoting equality and nondiscrimination to all Roma communities in Europe.”

He added that special consideration needed to be given to Roma women and girls who are amongst the most disadvantaged groups in Europe today.

Albania faces significant problems in protecting the human rights of its Roma community. A recent World Bank Report noted that the community is significantly marginalised and that integration and progress has actually gotten worse, rather than better.

A gap in income between Roma and non-Roma individuals is also the widest in the Balkans at 45.5%.

The Council of Europe has previously called on the country to strengthen the protection of minorities’ rights, noting that there were “regrettable issues” in a number of areas.

Problems with lack of education, healthcare, benefits, and ignorance of teaching of the Romani language were all highlighted. The report also stated that record keeping relating to national minorities were not kept and that individuals were prevented by law from self-identifying (without providing supporting documents) as Roma or another national minority.

Describing the problem as “unresolved and urgent” it was noted that whilst money was designated to help the issue, the authorities demonstrated unwillingness to resolve matters.

In late 2018, a Roma community in Fushë-Kruja won a landmark case against the Municipality for discrimination. The court found that the Municipality had failed to provide them with clean drinking water and sanitation, based on their ethnicity.