Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interview with Ashkali Member of Kosovo Parliament

I spent an hour with the Ashkali member of Parliament, Etem Arifi yesterday to gain his perspective on the situation in Kosovo as relates to RAE communities. He was accompanied by Qazim Rahmani who serves as a political advisor in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare here in Kosovo.

Their point of view, not surprisingly, is grim. They covered the Action Plan put in place to aid RAE communities integrate into greater Kosovar society ("a civil society creation that didn't go through the Assembly"), the institutions responsible for the deplorable conditions returned RAE are living in, the actual act of returning RAE individuals to Kosovo in the first place, the bureaucracy surrounding assistance due those returned from Germany and from elsewhere, and talked of their dismay over the lack of response and even respect from the Office of the Prime Minister.

They discussed one case where a returned individual submitted their request for social assistance to a municipal office, but those who must decide on this individual's eligibility meet once every three months. Both men expressed outrage at this and said they are trying to address the process by which individuals receive social assistance with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They are recommending that the board that assesses these cases meet once a month in order to deliver much-needed social assistance to returned individuals more urgently.

They also discussed what I have heard here several times now: that Kosovo is accepting forced returns from Germany simply in the interest of Kosovo, for the country wishes to be seen as an equal partner in Europe so it can expedite the recognition process stemming from its 2008 declaration of independance. The problem with that is that Kosovo does not currently have the capacity to handle forced returns, both in financial terms and in governmental structural terms. So returns are left with what I have seen over the past week in the field: lack of sustainable accomodation, lack of food security, lack of employment opportunities, lack of health care, and a lack of equal integration with others. Perhaps the strongest comment he made was that he sees RAE communities in Kosovo as "victims" of Kosovo's state-building initiatives: "They don't give priority to RAE, they want to make the Kosovo state equal to Europe."

With regard to Germany, they said they are trying to arrange a meeting with Angela Merkel in an effort to address the forced returns from that country, both in terms of the actual act of returning people, but also the way in which the act is carried out by the civil police there.

The men cited a recent UNICEF report that states from 2001-2010, 1,483 cases of forced returns have occured, where 85% of the children returned have not been able to attend school here. The obstacles are huge: language barrier, lack of integration in Kosovar society, and the "school ambience" is different in Kosovo versus what the children experienced in Germany. Children also suffer due to lack of available sports activity and culture, features they were able to experience in German society according to Mr. Rahmani.

Both men predicted that "Kosovo will get worse" for RAE communities. Without support, RAE communities will experience difficulties their whole life. "People will suffer always...without education, all doors are closed for that person."

No comments:

Post a Comment