Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Forced Repatriation of RAE Communities

In Kosovo today, the Kosovo Center for Gender Studies hosted a conference on the forced repatriation of women Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. Forced returns, many of which are occuring from Germany recently, creates difficulties that are nearly unparalleled. Most RAE leave Kosovo for better opportunities elsewhere, selling their belongings to finance the move, only to find themselves forcefully moved later on. What's more, a UNICEF representative highlighted a very powerful point: those RAE children who were born in a place like Germany and spend some 12 years there only know Germany. They speak German, they think German, et al. To be forced to move to Kosovo, without any recourse, creates such hardship that the cycle of poverty becomes impossible to break.

The UNICEF gentleman also talked about the "revolving door" phenomenon, which is where a family will be forcefully moved to Kosovo, will find no opportunities to build a life because the government has failed to account for their arrival; the family will then move again to places like Serbia, Romania, or to another western European country to find opportunity only to find themselves in an endless cycle of forced relocation and perpetual poverty.

Many of those in attendance were from civil society and understandably were passionate about the topic. When s rep from the Ministry of Education presented, the discussion period took on a tone of heavy-handedness, as many in civil society expressed frustration over the ministry's policies and inability to meet the needs of Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian individuals, both those that live here and those that are forcefully returned. The ministry is taking steps to introduce Roma language teachers in an effort to integrate Roma children better into the education system. The UNICEF rep complemented Kosovo on those efforts, but warned that that will not solve the issues experienced by the RAE community in gaining an even-handed education in Kosovo, one that will propel young Roma to university levels and to a place where the cycle of poverty can cease.

On a related topic, it was a pleasure listening to people passionate about a topic that is about real life issues. The discussions were not based in theory - they were based in on-the-ground facts, backed up with data and anecdotes. To see these civil society workers express their outrage at the difficulties they experience everyday in their efforts to help these minority groups was wonderful. It was very different from sitting in a marketing conference, or, in my even younger days, sitting in music industry conferences, where the issues at hand were and are meaningless, and tend to be grounded in theory. It's refreshing to experience people discussing the welfare of other people, especially those who come from a different place.

No comments:

Post a Comment