Monday, July 11, 2011

Interview with Ministry of Internal Affairs

Having the Ministry of Internal Affairs accept an interview request about the plight of the RAE communities, I think, is a big deal. The organization I am working with said they had requested meetings with the MIA numerous times without much luck in securing an interview. I didn't approach the ministry from an NGO angle, however; I went at them as an American graduate student conducting research on RAE in Kosovo. That got me the interview, and today I had about 20 minutes with the director of the Department of Asylum, Citizens and Migration and a member of the Board of Repatriation.

Not surprisingly, the gentleman does not see the same picture as those who are working on it from a civil society level. I felt very fortunate that he was giving me his time, so I did not push the issues that I feel need pushing. I'm a guest here for a very limited time, so I chose to take what he said with a silent grain of salt rather than asking follow up questions to his assertions.

Some of the things he said reveal an indication that the government has its heart in the right place. For example, "we are responsible for the citizens of Kosova. Everyone is treated equally." It's a wonderful thing to say, but of course, this is not what's happening across the country to minorities, especially those in the RAE communities, who suffer discrimination across all facets of daily life on earth.

When I asked what he thought the MIA could do better, he gave what I think is a very honest answer. The weakest link in the process, in his view, is at the municipal level, an area where they would like to intervene and make some improvements. This is consistent with what I've heard elsewhere. Apparently, some municipal officers are not clear on how to prepare a social assistance request that would be sent to the MIA, so the requests do not get sent, or they get sent with incomplete information, dragging the process out even longer.

He also admitted, when I asked if he felt the country has the capacity to handle returns, that there are some problems the government has to face. He admits they can only give so much support, but also said the goal is not to have "a passive population." Meaning, he wants to get the children enrolled in school and the adults employed, rather than having them do what they are doing now, sitting at home all day, waiting for social assistance to sustain them. What is not clear then, is how they plan on doing that, even with their Action Plan.

Discrimination among the majority population remains a major obstacle, not just in Kosovo, but in Europe as a whole. In my view, there needs to be a major campaign put forth to educate the majority population about RAE. And with that, an incentive for hiring and enrolling, and with that, a zero-tolerance policy against anyone who discriminates against RAE in a way where the evidence of discrimination is clear, like school segregation, for instance.

As a whole, he believes the Action Plan is successful so far, another statement that does not reflect what we saw out in the field. Changes for RAE communities is slow, continuing their isolation from the majority population, and continuing their cycle of poverty.

No comments:

Post a Comment