Second-class minorities: The continued marginalization of RAE
(30/10-07) The human rights situation of the RAE communities in Kosovo is grim. For years, human rights organizations both within and outside of Kosovo have acknowledged that the RAE communities remain the most marginalized and discriminated against of communities in the territory. In June and July 2007 we conducted additional research on the situation of the RAE communities in Kosovo. The results, which are contained in this report, confirmed this conclusion.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has been active in the Western Balkans, including Kosovo since the late 1980s. The committee has repeatedly visited RAE — Roma, Ashkaeli, and Egyptian — communities throughout the Western Balkans, in Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia.
Historically RAE — Roma, Ashkaeli, and Egyptian — communities have been those most marginalizedand discriminated against in Kosovo. While active and passive disdain for their communities is not new, it has clearly been exacerbated by widespread conflict and dramatic displacement, estimated at more than 60% of RAE communities. Decades of experience accepting the harshness of their reality rather than fighting it, has made it convenient for international and local leadership to simply maintain the status quo even in the face of significant international personnel anddevelopment resources.
Field interviews with RAE representatives and individuals as well as with humanitarian and non-governmental organizations and government representatives further suggest that in the current political context there is little chance of reversing this trend. Political will to address the needs of the RAE communities in Kosovo appears weak at best. The strong sentiment on the ground — among RAE and non-RAE interlocutors alike — is that the plight of the RAE communities is worsened by the fact that they sit in the political crossfire between Albanians and Serbs.
This report does not analyze all aspects of the situation of RAE communities in Kosovo, but focuses on three key areas that contribute to the marginalization of these communities, namely
- the lack of civil and political representation and participation;
- high levels of unregistered individuals, preventing regular access to social assistance and
inclusion in all spectrums of civil life; and
- an absence of education that stunts any potential for change.
In a final section, this report highlights returns as an example of where community identification can have dramatic consequences on individuals’ day-to-day lives and future opportunities — and where identification can itself become used as a political tool. The example further illustrates the placement of RAE communities between Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities’ priorities, only heightening their vulnerability to political pressure as the province struggles to increase its level of independence from Serbia proper.