FERYP

 

 “YOUNG ROMA AND ALTERNATIVES TO MIGRATION”

15-17 October 2004,

European Youth Centre Budapest

 

REPORT

 

By Demetrio Gomez AVILA, Valeria BODOCZKY, Ramiza SAKIP and Alexandra RAYKOVA

 

The opinions expressed in this work are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Council of Europe or the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

 

Article 14.

(1)Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

 

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 

LIST OF CONTENTS:


PREFACE
INTRODUCTION:
BACKGROUND OF THE SEMINAR:
SOME ANALYSIS OF THE REALITY:
THE SITUATION OF THE REFUGEES FROM KOSOVO IN “THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA” SINCE 1999:
FORMS, SPECIFICITY AND CONSEQUENCES OF ROMA MIGRATION

Reports from the working groups on consequences from the Roma migration:
INDIVIDUAL/FAMILY
THE ROMA COMMUNITY
SOCIETY
EUROPE
CONCLUSIONS ON THE CONTENT OF THE MEETING
SOME RECOMMENDATIONS
ALTERNATIVES TO ROMA MIGRATION
Working group on alternatives to economic migration
Working group on alternatives to political migration
Working group on youth mobility
Working group on legal instruments
Working group on media
FOLLOW_UP
CONCLUSIONS OF THE TEAM
 

 

PREFACE

During the Norwegian chairmanship of the Council of Europe form May to October 2004 Norway followed up the tradition of arranging an activity concerning the situation of the Roma.

The topic chosen for a seminar was migration as seen by the young Roma. Norway wanted to give the young Roma a voice by having a seminar by and for the young Roma. We therefore asked the Forum of European Roman Young People, FERYP, to be the organiser of a seminar on this topic.

I would like to thank the Migration and Roma Department of the Council of Europe and the FERYP for taking on this task which was carried out in a most satisfactory way. I would also like to thank the Council of Europe Expert Group on Roma Questions, MG-S-ROM and its secretariat as well as the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe for help in the preparatory work.

The Norwegian Deputy Minister on Education, Mr. Helge Ole Bergesen, opened the seminar. He as well as the other Norwegian participants had the pleasure to meet with young Roma - experienced persons in civil society through NGOs or through politics.

The participants addressed a challenging topic and more important – in their own way. Migration has traditionally been part of the Roma culture. In to-day’s Europe migration sometimes represents a solution forced upon Roma for various reasons. There are at the same time structures that hamper the traditional way of travelling practiced by some of parts of the Roma.

This report shows various reflections by the young Roma that will be an important input in the further discussion on migration. “Influence” and “participate” are two key words and guidelines creating a democratic Europe. The seminar and the report I believe will contribute to this process.

Petter J. Drefvelin
Director General
Department of Saami and Minority Affairs 
Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development

 

 

The Council of Europe has almost since its very inception in the aftermath of the Second World War held the issues of migration close to its priorities.

The right to internal freedom of movement and the right to emigrate are enshrined in the 1963 Protocol 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Migrant’s rights are protected in many other instruments of the Council of Europe; these include the European Social Charter of 1961 and its 1996 revised version; the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers of 1977 or the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level of 1992. Obviously these legal texts apply equally to the Roma citizens of our 46 member States.

However, Roma migration is not just an economic migration as for the majority of migrants. It is often a political migration due to  discrimination, exclusion, lack of access to social rights or abuse, which can take many different forms, including trafficking in human beings.  

In addition, migration as a lifestyle is or has been a feature of Roma culture, though most of the Roma have been – often forcibly – sedentarised in European countries over the last century.

Bearing this in mind, is it relevant to speak about Roma migration as a specific phenomenon? And is it necessary to develop a specific legislation at the national or international level to deal with Roma migration?

Human rights and human dignity of the migrant is the special ‘niche” for the Council of Europe in the migration agenda: we claim that in the medium term countries gain economically and culturally from immigration and that migrants contribute to the sustainability of pension system in a greying Europe, in other words, that migrants become an important and positive contribution to European societies and not a threat.

But if migration is such a hot issue in our member States, it is essentially because of irregular migration, and we are aware of the fact that, legislation in member States which regulates the movement of persons across borders makes many Roma fall into an illegal situation.

As a human rights organisation, the Council of Europe claims that a human being cannot be illegal, only the situation he/she faces might be. This is one of the rationales behind our Strategy for an orderly management of migration: to explore and open as many legal channels for migration as possible, thereby preventing migrants from finding themselves in an illegal situation or from falling into the nets of traffickers. A specific request we had for the participants in this seminar was: what can be done to improve the freedom of movement of Roma between member States? What legal channels can be opened to facilitate access to employment for Roma in a foreign country? And last, are there any alternatives to Roma migration?

I believe that a dialogue with young Roma representatives who have a personal experience or expertise on the subject can lead to a constructive and positive approach to the migration issue that would ultimately help the Roma to benefit from the legal framework protecting their basic rights and avoiding exclusion.

This is why the Migration and Roma Department was pleased to organise this Seminar with FERYP and thanks to the initiative and financial support of the Royal Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.

Let me thank the Norwegian authorities, in particular the Deputy Minister of Education and Research, Mr. Helge Ole Bergesen, and Mrs. Tove Skotvedt, the Norwegian member of the Council of Europe Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM) who entrusted us with the responsibility of organising this meeting with FERYP. Let me also express my gratitude to all the participants in the seminar for an enriching dialogue and a fruitful exchange of views as summarized in the report hereafter.

I hope that you will enjoy reading this report and that it will stimulate further debate on this important European and national issue.

 

María Ochoa-Llidó
Head of Migration and Roma Department
DG III-Social Cohesion, Council of Europe

 


 

INTRODUCTION:

While speaking about Roma migration, one should not confuse it with nomadism. At the same time, a parallel between the two can be made, simply because we cannot ignore the history and because such a parallel can help us to clear up any confusion which might occur while reading the following report.

Roma history shows that for centuries nomadism was a lifestyle for us. Contemporary Roma migration, however, is not a lifestyle. It is in most cases a temporary measure, undertaken by Roma individuals or families in order to gain better living conditions, political asylum or both.

From the historical point of view, one can say that the nomadic lifestyle was the result of the oppression, the rejection and even the persecution of the Roma by the majority. This would certainly be a correct statement. At the time, nomadism was the best mechanism for the protection and/or survival of the group/family. This is the only similarity between contemporary Roma migration and the old Roma nomadism. Nowadays, for the Roma from Central and Eastern Europe, migration is sometimes the only protection mechanism or the last resort for individual and family survival.

In the past all Roma and Sinti were nomads. The situation is far more complex today. Most of the Roma from Central and Eastern Europe became sedentary again as a result of oppression and persecution. For them, nomadism is part of their history. However, a significant number of Roma and Sinti found mostly in Western Europe still have mobile lifestyles. For these groups, the mobile lifestyle was yet is no longer a result of oppression and persecution as nomadism was in the past. Above all, nowadays it is a matter of cultural expression and a right to choose one’s lifestyle. However, even though the definition of “nomadism” used to define such a mobile lifestyle remains the same, contemporary nomadism is certainly different from historical nomadism.

While some of the travelling Roma and Sinti want recognition, protection and improvement of their particular travelling lifestyle and use the old concept of nomadism in order to define this particularity, many sedentarised Roma do not remember what the nomadic life means. Moreover, many do not want to be identified with such a lifestyle and with the “nomad” definition.

Contrary to the lack of official historical explanations for the proto-Roma migration from India and further afield, the reasons for the present migration of Roma are quite clear as outlined further in this report.

The issue of Roma migration however seems to be a delicate topic for discussion on various political agendas. The discussion on contemporary nomadism or the mobile lifestyles of Roma and Sinti does not seem to be very popular either and there are probably various reasons for this. One such reason could be the lack of thorough competence in the subjects, due to the fact that they have not been sufficiently explored, perhaps to avoid the risk of possible confusion between Roma migration and the issues related to the Roma and Sinti (travellers and the old Roma nomadism which still creates fear within the majority of societies). Alternatively, this may be due to a lack of thorough political will to deal with the causes and consequences of Roma migration.

In actual fact, Roma migration, as can be seen in the conclusions of this report, is neither as big nor as dangerous as the widespread perceptions of it are. However Roma migration does have a certain specificity. Specific political action is therefore needed in order to support the Roma to avoid them ending up in illegal situations on the one hand, whilst on the other hand to promote real and sustainable development of the Roma communities throughout Europe.

Through this report the new generation of young Roma is also willing to raise the following question: “Why in today’s Europe is Roma migration perceived as a challenge instead of a resource?”

In a continent where globalisation and mobility are the primary objectives in various important political, economic and socio-cultural agendas, Roma migration is unwanted.

 Another question is why the following perceptions of the Roma migration do not exist yet:

  •      as a learning tool – for identifying and improving the gaps in the existing European legal framework, in order to make it more appropriate to globalization demands;

  •      as an opportunity to consider and develop accessible legal channels for temporary and permanent migration, which can be used in the very near future to respond to the needs of Europeans;

  •      to improve the conditions of people who already have mobile lifestyles in order to facilitate larger numbers of such people in the future;

  •      to develop mechanisms for better integration of immigrants in the receiving countries as a solution to demographic challenges;

  •     as a contributor to the formation of a multicultural Europe, free of racism, xenophobia and prejudices towards others;

  •     as an opportunity for the development of an enlarged and more flexible labour market;

  •     as a pre-condition to the creation of sustainable economies, etc.

 

In addition to the lack of strategic thinking at the various levels, one of the unfortunate conditions that Roma immigrants are facing in the receiving countries is an increased hostility in society. The media has made a significant contribution to this phenomenon. Instead of highlighting the real causes for Roma migration, the European media often manipulates public opinion. The results of this are increased prejudice and xenophobic, sometimes racial, attitudes towards Roma. Often instead of seeing the real causes and potential of Roma migration, EU citizens are concerned about the abuse of their well-organized social welfare systems.

 

The question of Roma migration is certainly more complex than this and has various angles to it. It has its complexity in the sending countries and it has another complexity in the receiving countries. In order to understand the real picture, one has to be acquainted not just with the European context and policies. The starting points are with the challenges that the Roma are facing at a local level, with the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the national policies for integration of the Roma (where such policies exist) designed to address these challenges. One also has to be familiar with the perspectives or the lack of any perspectives of the Roma to survive (sometimes also physically) in very particular physical, social and political environments.

 
 

BACKGROUND OF THE SEMINAR

With clear awareness about the complexity of the topic, the Forum of European Roma Young People (FERYP), accepted to undertake the preparation and the implementation of the “Young Roma and Alternatives to Migration” meeting, which was hosted by the European Youth Centre in Budapest, from 15-17 October 2004.

This meeting is an initiative of the Norwegian Government under their Council of Europe Presidency. It was announced for the first time at the 17th Meeting of the Council of Europe Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM) held in Strasbourg in March 2004. This is the only Roma project financed by the Norwegian Government during their Chairmanship and the only project that has taken place outside of Norway.

The political leadership of the FERYP saw a clear link between the mission of the organisation, which is to prepare the new/future generation of Young Roma to act for the improvement of the situation of the Roma communities in Europe, and the aim of the meeting:

 

 

To find various (legal, political, practical, etc.) alternatives to [some forms] of Roma migration in Europe, taking into account the present challenges faced by the Roma communities and the society in general.

 

 

One argument in our favour was that amongst our members we have both individuals and organisations that have direct experience with the topic. We also had the capacity to initiate discussion and facilitate outcome, which can be used at various levels. It was certainly possible to give a voice to the young Roma to express their concerns and their proposals regarding the subject. Last but not least, we saw the existence of a certain demand to work with the issue and we could both raise the awareness and the motivation of the young Roma to work on the theme and for the FERYP potentially to support relevant capacity building among our members.

This activity took the form of a consultative meeting because, in our opinion, the young people that had been invited possessed certain expertise in the subject. The preparation and the implementation of the meeting involved close co-operation between the Forum of European Roma Young People (FERYP) and the Council of Europe Migration and Roma Department.

There was significant interest in participating in the activity. Within the limited application period, we received around 100 applications.

Around 35 Young Roma and Young non-Roma People who had direct personal or organisational experience participated in the meeting. Observers from the UNHCR, the IOM, the OSCE, the Norwegian Youth Council and local Hungarian NGOs joined the meeting.

At the opening of the meeting, the participants were addressed by a delegation of representatives from the Norwegian government. The meeting was opened officially by Mr. Helge Ole Bergesen, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Education and Research, Ms. Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, Deputy Director of the European Youth Centre Budapest, Mr. Michaël Guet, Migration and Roma Department, Council of Europe, and the President of the FERYP, Ms. Alexandra Raykova.

The meeting was designed and implemented along the following objectives:

 

  •      To define and analyse the present challenges faced by the Roma communities and the wider society in Europe today and to underline those challenges that have to be urgently addressed;

  •      To explore Roma migration from the historical, legal, socio-economic and cultural points of view;

  •      To examine different forms of Roma migration in Europe today;

  •      To identify existing grassroots practices, in order to define concrete and applicable working strategies for addressing Roma migration;

  •      To analyse the importance of the role of the various actors involved, such as the media, national authorities, Roma organisations, etc., in addressing Roma migration and proposing alternatives to migration.

  •      To study existing international relevant instruments on migration and the way they are used in practice. Do they offer alternatives to migration?

  •      To draw conclusions and define concrete and applicable alternatives to Roma migration;

  •      To prepare and address to various actors the recommendations related to the topic;

  •      To prepare the meeting report, which will be presented to the Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM) in Slovakia in November 2004;

  •      To discuss any follow-ups of this seminar.

The programme was designed and organised by the FERYP team  composed of  Demetrio Gomez Avila - Spain, Valeria Bodoczky - Hungary, Ramiza Sakip – “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Alexandra Raykova - Bulgaria.

One of the concrete outcomes from the meeting is this report. The Norwegian Government, the Council of Europe and the FERYP will promote its follow-up.

This report is complex of content and reflection outcomes. Its purpose is the following:

To bring to the attention of the relevant decision-makers the perceptions and the recommendations of young Roma on the topic, as well as the results of their discussions and the concrete proposals made. However it is designed to address the wider public as well – Young Roma and NGOs which are working on this topic, together with any other interested individuals, organisations, authorities and institutions.

 

SOME ANALYSIS OF THE REALITY:

As one of the starting points of our work we looked at the reality, which was the subject of our meeting. We formed different working groups where the participants could exchange their experiences and their knowledge about the reality of migration. We proposed the following questions in order to facilitate the group discussions:

1.     What is the situation regarding Roma migration in/from your country?

2.     Are the Roma immigrating ?

3.     Why ?

4.     Where?

5.     How ?

6.     Do you have any personal experience in this?

7.     What relevant work does your organisation do on this topic?

 

In general, we found out that many of the participants were immigrants themselves and as such they had very strong experiences. We also discovered big differences between the experiences of those who emigrated for economic reasons and those who were obliged to immigrate due to political reasons, especially the Roma who were coming from the former Yugoslavia. The debate was of great complexity due to the fact that many participants had extreme experiences, especially those from the latter group.

Most of the organisations present at the meeting also had projects dealing with the theme.

As a result of this group work and the debates afterwards, we formulated quite a detailed, clear and concrete picture regarding the immigration situation of Roma throughout Europe.

We can confirm that Roma immigrants/asylum seekers, who are leaving their countries for political, economic and social reasons, are a particularly vulnerable group due to several reasons:

-         Often they lack all kind of resources;

-         They are subject to discrimination and prejudices as Roma;

-         They have to deal with conditions related to immigration.

We also have to consider the factors generating migration from the countries of origin. These are the spiral or the so-called chain problems, which are making the lives of Roma in the respective countries absolutely impossible.

It is very difficult to make the distinction between «voluntary» and «forced» migration.

If we take as a starting point «voluntary» migration, the first cause for it or phenomenon that we should speak about is «social racism». This type of racism is a subtle phenomenon, which is expressed indirectly or symbolically most of the time. We have identified that the Roma are experiencing it in relations with their neighbours, in public places, with colleagues at work and the media amongst others. This «social racism » is one of the strongest obstacles towards the effective equality of the Roma people.

The principle justification for « social racism » lies in the perception of the majority that the rights granted to the Roma (employment, social assistance, housing, health care) constitute a form of discrimination against the majority. The perception of the latter is that the rights of the Roma are at the detriment of their own resources.

This « social racism » manifests itself clearly through discriminatory practices, such as the refusal to rent apartments, school segregation, the refusal to provide certain services, prohibited entry to certain public places such as bars and discos, the refusal of healthcare treatment and violations of employment rights (low wages, absence of contracts and abusive schedules).

The question of education is vital in combating the exclusion since a vicious circle exists and is difficult to get out of. Roma children do not have access to quality education, therefore they cannot access qualified jobs and afterwards they do not have the socio-economic level which would enable them to provide their own children with quality education. The situation is even more complex!

It is also necessary to mention institutional racism, which is an essential feature in defining the socio-cultural level of the contemporary world. Institutional racism exists in the world’s big cities as places of poverty, marginalisation and ethnic segregation. We are speaking about the ghettos!

Ghettos are the worst form of institutionalised discrimination and this causes many other problems. The ghetto creates for itself an institutional and social abyss and results in an inner social organisation, which has particular life forms. These life forms are noticed from the outside, thereby characterising the group as a whole. The zones of none-rights, poverty, unemployment or the hidden economy, strong birth rates, deficiencies in community infrastructures and the lack of means allocated with public services are common features of all ghettos. The insufficiency or inexistence of services and equipment, of transportation routes and of educational and medical services are current phenomena.

The ghettos are inhabited by a great number of people without employment, with long term unemployment or drug addicts. Important niches of economic activities (legal or illegal) exist however. Another phenomenon, which creates inter-ethnic tensions, is the illegal occupation of empty residences or those in a bad condition. Many apartments are over-populated and the families are often not structured. These examples give an idea of what true institutional, spatial and socio-cultural marginality is. In addition, institutional racism is observable when administrations and their representatives deal with minority groups by violating the legislation in force and opposing unjust difficulties and requirements (for example asking for the same documentation several times, not justifying the rejections of requests, refusing documents which are used to support requests and making administrative formalities last unduly.)

 

Sometimes, these phenomena are worsened by veiled forms of violence on the part of the police forces (routine inspections, arbitrary insults, detentions, etc.). Institutional racism is also characterised by the absence of reaction on behalf of institutions and repression of the abuses and excesses made by their own members.

To speak about the "forced" migration of Roma, we must focus our attention on the case of the wars in the former Yugoslavia or the situations of extreme violence which the Roma have faced during the armed conflicts in the Balkans. 

During the war in the former Yugoslavia, particularly the Kosovo conflict, the Roma were one of the most affected groups of people due to their historical vulnerability, their isolation and the fact, in accordance with their geographical settlements, that they belonged to diverse communities which fought against each other in the course of the conflict. With the war in Bosnia, a large number of Roma from Bosnia migrated mainly towards Germany and France. From 1999 onwards, nearly 150,000 Roma from Kosovo and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” fled both the war and violent attacks carried out by certain Albanian extremists who were in favour of ethnic purging. As a result, a large number of Roma, between 80% and 90% of them, currently still live in a third country, in a precarious legal situation and often under the threat of enforced repatriation. In addition, Roma who took refuge in one the region’s new states or who were repatriated from a European Union country often find themselves existing without nationality and in extremely unstable living conditions.

The following problems can be observed in terms of the receiving countries:

The language question whereby good translation services for helping Roma arriving in the country do not exist and specialist assistance is not provided. Consequently such Roma live in a climate of complete misinformation and are not aware of their rights, thereby being unable to take advantage of the available resources. Suspicion and the fear of being repatriated or seeing their family divided distances them further from the very institutions which can help them.

Laws for foreigners are tougher and tougher and forbid the right to free association for those without identity papers who nevertheless don’t have a legal instrument through which their voices can be heard. On the other hand, it has been observed that Roma associations in receiving countries do not have a particular interest in or furthermore do not wish to be identified with or do not actually identify with these newly-arrived Roma. It seems that these associations are worried about losing their possible “good image”.

These difficult situations in which the Roma population find themselves exist in most European countries: segregation in ghettos is the norm, migration caused by economic reasons and/or violation of basic rights (civil rights, the right to lodging, the right to work, etc.) results in poor treatment, for example, being confined to undesirable places. Roma immigrants often suffer from the same double discrimination with recurrent racism and social discrimination. Numerous recent studies, especially those carried out by international organisations, confirm these worrying tendencies. There are incidents of Roma asylum seekers being humiliated and victims of violence. In certain cases, their identity papers and other documents have even been destroyed by the police during raids in order to prevent them from being able to obtain any type of assistance. Their living conditions in the receiving countries are genuinely difficult and nobody is doing anything to improve their situation: their lodgings/land are unhealthy and often lack the most basic hygiene, their children do not attend school and so on. All Roma migrant groups experience this type of situation.


 

THE SITUATION OF THE REFUGEES FROM KOSOVO IN “THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA” SINCE 1999:

The influx of Roma refugees from Kosovo during and after the March-June 1999 NATO strikes of the FRY, created serious accommodation problems for the Macedonian authorities and international organisations. Unlike the Albanian refugees, some of whom were accommodated in camps and many others among Albanian friends and relatives in Western Macedonia, the experience of the Kosovo Roma differerd considerably. Very few Roma in Macedonia were prepared or even willing to accommodate their Kosovo ethnic brethren in their homes. This unwillingness was mostly due to the poverty of the Roma community in Macedonia.

Initially, some Kosovo Roma were accommodated together with Albanian refugees. However, after a serious incident in June 1999 at the “Stenkovec I” camp, the authorities became more interested in providing separate accommodation for the Roma. Moreover, this trend fitted in with the population transfer developments after the end of the war. Therefore, while Albanians were rapidly brought back to Kosovo and have thus left the camps, Kosovo Roma continued to arrive in Macedonia in the autumn of 1999 and thereafter. They felt endangered in Kosovo, since Kosovo Albanians accused them collectively of collaborating during the ethnic cleansing undertaken by the Serbs. Consequently, Kosovo Roma have since felt intimidated by the Albanians and have tried to flee in fear of their lives. By April 2000, domestic and international sources claimed that since 1999 approximately 5,000 refugees from Kosovo were Roma (MILS News, 11 April 2000), while unofficial estimates suggested that there were 7,000 to 8,000 Roma refugees by March 2000.

Roma were accommodated initially in camps. According to the “Vecher” newspaper citing data of the Party of the Roma, in July 1999, there were around 7,000 refugees accommodated in camps, while in the Shuto Orizari district of Skopje there were 4,500 Roma refugees. At the beginning of 2000, Roma were removed to temporary ‘collective centres’ (mostly places where children used to take their summer holidays). These were called “Strouga I”, “Strouga II”, “Pretor”, “Probistip”, “Saraj” and “Liubantsi”. In March 2000, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs decided to create a more durable camp for Kosovo Roma refugees, based in the Skopje settlement of Shuto Orizari. The aim of this project was to accommodate around 3,000 people from the “Strouga I”, “Pretor” and “Probishtip” centres. The government however encountered fierce resistance from the Roma-government municipality of Shuto Orizari, until it was assured, with the financial support of the UNHCR, that the camp would be built with solid barracks rather than with tents.

The NATO strikes in the FRY from March-June 1999 exacerbated the tensions between the Roma and the Albanians in Macedonia. Albanian and Roma refugees in the “Stenkovac” refugee camp had a fight on June 5th. Four Roma were seriously injured and many more received slight injuries. The reason behind the fight was that an ethnic Albanian claimed to have recognised a Yugoslav Army collaborator among the Roma people. Christopher Hill, the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, together with Macedonian government representatives, promised before 5,000 Albanians who were demanding the lynching of the Roma, that an investigation into the case would be conducted. If the allegations against the Roma turned out to be true after the investigation, the guilty party would then be handed over to the international tribunal.

Relations between Albanians and Roma in Macedonia during and after the 1999 Kosovo crisis did not mirror those in Kosovo. Nevertheless, anti-Romani incidents carried out by ethnic Albanians continued, forcing non-governmental organizations to lobby for the transfer of Roma to third countries since Macedonia was deemed unsafe for them. While in Kosovo the Roma were attributed a collective guilt due to the voluntary or forced participation of some Romani individuals in the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Albanians during the war, Roma refugees in Macedonia received no such accusations. This does not mean that there were no conflicting incidents between the two minority communities. They were, however, less frequent and rarely led to violent action. The aforementioned incident was the most violent instance. Similar incidents occurred also around the Romani settlement of Shuto Orizari in Skopje and in the village of Radusha. From the moment when the Roma refugees were accommodated separately in six “collective centres” however, conflictual and violent incidents between Roma refugees and the local Albanian population decreased significantly. Apart from the violent incidents, discrimination against Roma in terms of aid distribution (which was primarily in the hands of Albanians) remained a huge issue producing tensions and conflicts between the two communities.

The relative peace between Albanians and Roma according to some local observers can be attributed to the understanding of Albanians in Macedonia that the Roma of Kosovo were left by the Serbs with no other choice of action.

In 2000, the Macedonian authorities, together with the UNHCR, placed the Roma, Ashkalies and Egyptian refugees, with the status of temporarily situated persons, at the camp in the municipality of Suto Orizari, Skopje. The humanitarian shelter closed down three years later in March 2003, and the UNHCR, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Ministry of the Interior, closed down the camp. More than 700 refugees demonstrated in front of the embassies and offices of international organisations and institutions such as the EU, the UN and the OSCE Mission to Skopje. 

The refugees from the camp decided to cross the Greek border on May 19 2003 and to apply for asylum in Greece. At the border crossing there were approximately 650- 700 refugees, among whom there were 14 pregnant women and 300 children below the age of 15. They had been staying in the border for three months when the Macedonian Government decided to give them asylum–seeker status and the refugees were settled in host families and collective centres. Up to September 2003, the approximate number of Temporary Humanitarian Assisted Persons (THAPs), as estimated by the UNHCR/Government in Host Families, was 2,046. The total number of THAPs in the Katlanovo Collective Centre was 467 and there were 36 in the Gazi Baba Transit Centre. Up to October 31 2003, the refugees had to request asylum otherwise they would be repatriated to Kosovo.

The approximate number of Cumulative Assisted Repatriations (from1999 to September 2003) from Macedonia to Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo) is 6,653 and from January 2003 to September 2003 is 66. The approximate total number of the IDP Population in Macedonia as estimated by the UNHCR/Government is 2,822. The total number of the IDP Population in Host Families is 1,766 and in Collective Centres is 1,056.

In order to improve the situation of Refugees and IDPs at local and regional levels, the following should be done:

  •       The integration of refugees and IDPs in Macedonian society is an issue of major importance.

  •      This process can be facilitated by providing them with the right of organising their own representation with its own bodies and representatives.

  •      The Macedonian authorities, the NGOs dealing with the Roma, Ashkalie, Egyptians and IDPs and the international organisations (OSCE, UNHCR, EU) should be in contact with each other and cooperate with refugees, IDPs and their representatives.

  •      Only with strong networking between all of the above can effective supporting strategies be developed and the situation improved.


 

FORMS, SPECIFICITY AND CONSEQUENCES OF ROMA MIGRATION:

Regardless of the importance of some Migration aspects such as Mobile Lifestyle, Trafficking in Human Beings, Rural – Urban Migration, Youth Mobility, etc., for practical reasons we had limited analysis of these topics. The two aspects on which we focused our work were the Emigration/Immigration of Roma, its forms, specificity and the consequences arising from it. 

The two forms of migration identified by the participants as relevant to their context were:

-         Political Migration and

-         Economic Migration

Taking into consideration as well that according to Migration theory there are two types of migration, “voluntary” and “forced”, and that Economic migration is often considered as “voluntary” and Political migration as “forced”, we can draw the following conclusions based on the contributions of the participants:

 

Economic Migration:

1.     In the case of the Roma, Economic migration is not always “voluntary”. The Roma do not migrate simply because they see that in certain European countries the demands of the labour markets are higher, as are the salaries offered for the same type of work. They also do not estimate the costs and the risks of migrating.

2.     The Economic migration of Roma is often “forced” and has a number of Political elements to it. Therefore we consider that the specific theoretic form classifying this type of Roma migration does not exist. It should be either specifically formulated by the scholars and the legislators in order to be specifically addressed or it should be considered also as Political.

3.     What has to be understood as further arguments to the previous point is that the causes of this type of migration are very specific to the Roma in Europe and are certainly not purely economic but more complex. Among these causes are:

 

  • The Roma migrant has been long-term unemployed in his/her country of origin and the reasons for that lie not in the particular demands of the labour markets as it is often explained, but instead with discrimination in employment.

  • Another factor is the specificity and the efficiency of temporary employment programmes, which are designed to stop the dependence of certain categories of long-term unemployed individuals on the welfare system.

  • The contracts offered by these programmes are short-term, the jobs do not require any qualifications and are often the most unattractive ones.

  • Payment provided is often the minimum possible.

  • Bilateral governmental agreements, which are designed to provide opportunities for legal economic migrations, are often inaccessible to Roma for various reasons.

  • The situation is often more complex, as Roma families also face other human rights violations, a hostile social environment, etc.

  • Poverty.

  • In particular, the lack of opportunities for better income generation in order to achieve a more acceptable life are among the major driving factors in the decision for immigration.

4.     Nevertheless, the participants found a number of alternatives to this form of Roma migration, which can be found later in the report.

 

Political Migration of Roma

The resultant effect mainly from the wars in the former Yugoslavia was clearly defined by the participants as “forced” migration. The discussion around the specificity of this form of Roma migration was focused more around the questions related to:

 

  • The particular situations that the Roma were facing during the wars. They were often perceived as enemies by both sides involved in the conflicts, either because they were fighting on the side of one of the ethnic groups, or because they did not want to be part of it and therefore were perceived as traitors.

  • In all cases, the Roma presence is not wanted and the Roma immigrants are not wanted back.

  • Another question is who decides when the political situation in a given country has changed and improved and if there are real conditions for the return of the Roma?

  • What is happening with the Roma families/individuals who have spent a certain amount of time in a given country and have integrated in their societies?

  • The adequacy of the bilateral agreements and the efficiency of the reintegration programmes.

  • The remaining challenges that the Roma refugees from Kosovo face and what has to be done.

  • The adequacy of the reactions of the international community and the civil society to that.

 

Other

5.   One of the main conclusions from the discussions on the forms and specificity of Roma migration was that specific meetings should be implemented addressing other forms of Roma migration which were not discussed, such as Migration as a Lifestyle, Trafficking in Human Beings, Rural – Urban Migration and Youth Mobility. The need for a specific meeting on Trafficking in Human Beings was underlined.

 

 

Reports from the working groups on consequences from the Roma migration:

The questions for these working groups had two aspects:

-         The negative consequences from the Roma migration?

-         The positive consequences from the Roma migration?

 

Each of the groups discussed and prepared a report on one meaning of this question for:

  • The Roma immigrants themselves or for their family (INDIVIDUAL/FAMILY);

  • The Roma community;

  • Society;

  • Europe.

 

INDIVIDUAL/FAMILY

Positive consequences:

Improvement of the socio-economic position of the Roma family in terms of:

-         Better respect of their human rights;

-         Employment possibilities;

-         The potential in the receiving countries for children to have more access to quality education than in their respective countries of origin.

 

Negative consequences:

Difficulties of integration in terms of:

-         Discrimination;

-         Lack of knowledge of the legislation of the receiving country regarding their rights;

-         Separation of the family;

-         Losing Roma traditions;

-         Very long adaptation period;

-         Language/communication problems;

-         Psychological difficulties;

-         Problems with registration (the legal aspects as well as the fact that sometimes Roma immigrants are in illegal situations).

 

THE ROMA COMMUNITY

The working group on the “Consequences of migration on Roma community” focused on the Romanian Roma. Through their presentation, we learned more about two groups of Roma, “Home” and “Gabor”, and their very different attitudes to migration. The members of the working group wished to underline that the effects of migration should be regarded from two points of view, namely those of the sending and the receiving communities. We also learned about the cross-border marriage practices of the Romanian and Serbian Roma communities and about the slave-like lives of some Romanian Roma wives who work in Western countries.

 

SOCIETY

The working group on the “Consequences on society” focused on the changing housing conditions and living standards of the Roma emigrants. The media presence of the Roma emigrants was also the focus of attention within the working group discussion. We observed how media exaggeration of Roma migration generated negative public sentiments in Western societies. Roma migration is considered as a potential threat to the Western welfare system.

As it is not reality that makes the media, but rather the media that makes the reality, we should underline the important role of the media regarding the consequences of Roma migration.

The irresponsible and superficial coverage by the media, mainly the tabloid newspapers, raised huge negative public sentiments and false and unnecessary public fears in the native populations of the host countries. Moreover, it provoked restrictive measures both in the host and originating countries, as the following concrete examples demonstrate:

In 1998, under pressure from tabloid newspapers, the United Kingdom re-imposed visa restrictions on Slovakia to prevent Roma asylum seekers from having their case heard in the United Kingdom. In the summer of 2001, the British government established a so-called pre-clearance at Prague Airport in the Czech Republic, where people were prohibited from boarding on the basis of their Roma-like appearance. Also in 2001, the UK government adopted a “special” border policy singling out seven named groups for “special” measures. One of the seven named groups was the Roma. We can see the powerful consequences of phrases like “Tidal wave of Roma ”, “Invasion of Roma “, Mass exodus of Roma”, or “Deluge of Roma”.

As mentioned above, one of the consequences of the exaggerated biased news on Roma is the raising of false fears in the native populations of the host countries. The problem is that there is no correct, prompt media follow-up on these articles through TV, Radio or Internet news, which would explain to the native population that the majority of Roma migrants are from the Roma middle class. The most impoverished, illiterate and poorly-educated Roma do not have the means to leave their countries. Moreover, no one explains or gives correct background information to the native population on the most common driving forces of migration of Roma: lack of employment, lack of access to quality education, lack of protection against extreme right aggression, and public discrimination, including harassment by local police and other public officials.

How could/should these negative consequences be changed?

It would be highly desirable to train journalists throughout Europe on how to cover Roma-related news and to make them aware about the responsibility and the impact of their words. Those words can create a domino effect of negative chain reactions, not only among the majority populations, but also among Roma communities and individuals. With correct, prompt media follow-up, the journalists should highlight the necessary policy reforms and refinements for the decision-makers. This way they would be powerful actors in catalysing positive social change regarding Roma migration.

 

EUROPE

The working group of the “Consequences on Europe” raised awareness of the necessity for unity of Roma in Europe and that Roma must accept each other as we are. If we continue to discriminate against each other, we give the green light to the policy makers of EU countries to take advantage of this confusing situation of Roma groups in Europe. We can make the conclusion that, without tolerance among the different Roma groups, effective political representation is not possible.

Whilst on the subject of Europe, amongst the negative consequences of Roma migration are the fears of mass exodus of Roma to Western countries and the fears about the abuse of Western welfare systems.

As positive consequences, the following were pointed out:

-         The European institutions have started treating the Roma question seriously, especially with regard to the EU enlargement question;

-         A number of instruments are used in order to influence governments to improve the situations of the Roma community.

 

CONCLUSIONS ON THE CONTENT OF THE MEETING:

 

Throughout the seminar, we had the opportunity to reflect on various aspects of the Roma migration issue and to make conclusions on it. Below are the main conclusions that we reached:

1. The first conclusion that we made is regarding the size of the Roma migration. We concluded that the numbers of Roma who are immigrating are not as large as they are perceived to be. The statistics that exist consider migration in general and show that a very small percentage of the world population is migrating. Besides there being no specific data available, it is clear that Roma migration is a very small part of it.

However, we concluded that it is not the size that is creating the image of the Roma migration, but rather other factors such as:

  • the visibility of the Roma migration;

  • the media.

 

2. Regarding the forms of Roma migration, In Western Europe many Roma aNd Sinti have mobile lifestyles. This form has different causes, specificity, challenges and needs and it should be regarded separately.

The main forms that were the subject of our meeting and that we concluded as well to be of greatest concern, are Political and Economic Migration. We have underlined some specific conclusions regarding these (please see pages 13 and 14).

We have to underline that some participants reported from their group work on Trafficking in Human Beings (especially the trafficking of Roma women and children from countries such as Albania, Romania and Bulgaria). Another reported trend was the increasing Internal migration of Roma or the rural-urban migration. The perception of the participants is that these are relatively new trends in the Roma communities and should also be analysed separately. Urgent emphasis should be placed on the Trafficking of Roma women and children. We also discussed another form of migration, not that present yet among the Roma, but which has the potential to contribute to the development of the Roma communities and therefore should be encouraged and further developed – the trend of Youth Mobility.

3. Another conclusion that we made is that, in the case of Roma migration, it is very difficult to make a distinction between “voluntary” and “forced” migration. We consider that, in most cases, Roma migration is in reality “forced” despite being considered “voluntary”.

4. On the channels of Roma immigration, we concluded that the Roma are immigrating legally and illegally. Further to this, we concluded that the only legal channel for migration available presently, asylum seeking, is insufficient for the needs of the Roma community. There is a clear need for introducing other channels for legal immigration of Roma, which take into consideration the complex situations and challenges that the Roma are facing in their countries of origin. Furthermore, we concluded that there is a fundamental mistake in the interpretation of illegality in migration in the receiving countries. We concluded that where Roma are immigrating illegally, they should not be considered as illegal persons, but only the situations that they are facing can be considered as illegal.

We also concluded that in recent years, some of the EU member states and Norway, instead of elaborating alternative legal migration channels, have restricted their migration policies in order to limit the immigration flux. 

5. On the destinations of the Roma immigration, we concluded that:

  • the sending countries are mainly the countries where the Roma people are experiencing discrimination in all spheres of their life, where the national strategies on the integration of Roma communities exist still on paper only or the results from their implementation are not yet felt at grassroots level, where the Roma are confronted not just with numerous problems in their daily lives, but also the lack of any opportunities for improvement of their present situations or for a better future. These countries are mainly the countries from Central and Eastern Europe such as Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Albania, etc. It should be underlined as well that an interesting case of Roma immigrants from Greece to the UK was also reported.

  • The issue of the transit countries was not discussed as it was not considered that the so-called transit countries are becoming or will become destination countries for Roma immigrants.

  • The destination countries for the Roma migration are still mainly: Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, the UK, Canada and some of the Northern European countries.

6.  We had specific discussions as well on the fact that Roma in Western European countries, including some EU member states, are also often victims of human rights violations. However there are no legal provisions which can grant asylum of such Roma in another EU member state for example. 

7.   Regarding future tendencies for Roma immigration, we concluded that so far there are no real perspectives for the increase of the Roma immigration flux and movements within the EU member states after EU enlargement. What should be considered is that the so-called migration costs and the risks are much higher for the Roma immigrant than for any other regular immigrant, therefore the above is unlikely to change.

8.  On the specificity of Roma migration, the conclusion is that the specificity lies not in the forms, channels or destinations of Roma migration, but instead in its causes and on the specific challenges that the Roma immigrants are facing in the receiving countries.

9.   We concluded as well that there is a difference between the challenges faced by the economic and the political immigrant, but that both are in particularly vulnerable situations due to some common challenges that they are facing in the receiving countries such as:

  • Lack of all kind of resources

  • Psychological problems

  • Adaptation problems

  • Lack of knowledge about their rights

  • Communication problems

  • Stronger prejudices and discrimination due to the multiple Roma-Immigrant identity

  • Lack of support structures

  • Lack of empathy or solidarity from the local Roma communities

  • Lack of legal provisions which allow them to work until the asylum application is processed

10. One of the main conclusions of the meeting was that the media is one of the most powerful players which often manipulates public opinion and misinforms their audience on the issue of Roma migration. We also concluded that the media has one of the major responsibilities for the creation of the image of Roma migration and on the formation of prejudices and attitudes of the majority population towards Roma immigrants respectively. 

11.  In terms of action needed to improve the present situation related to the Roma immigration, we concluded that there are several fields and types of actions that are needed:

  • Related to the sending countries;

  • Related to the receiving countries and

  • Related to the international context – legislation, policies and actions.

The proposals of the participants are mentioned below in the form of concrete and practical recommendations.


 

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS:

 

To the sending countries:

  • Reinforce the implementation of national strategies on the integration of the Roma communities;

  • Facilitate access to education for Roma children, taking into consideration the parental and the overall community stabilization;

  • Include Roma history and culture in the educational curricula for all students;

  • Provide accurate and accessible information on the consequences of illegal immigration;

  • Provide training for Public administration on working with the Roma community;

  • Prepare a manual for Public administrators.

  • Promote the access of Roma to employment;

  • Promote the access of Roma to temporary labour migration through bilateral governmental agreements.

 

 

To the receiving countries:

  • Consider the right to work while waiting for asylum;

  • Ensure the right of Roma immigrants to have an interpreter in the Romani language available during asylum-seeking lawsuits;

  • Train mediators who can accompany Roma immigrants when necessary, to inform them about their rights in the receiving country and to help them to exercise them;

  • Regulate the status of Roma immigrants who are already long-term workers or residents in the countries;

  • Initiate and support activities to promote intercultural dialogue between Roma immigrants, the majority communities and the local Roma.

 

 

To the international community:

To the EU:

  • Develop directives and more resolutions on the immigration of Roma, which will be applied in all EU member states;

  • Introduce monitoring instruments for the implementation of the above;

  • Decide on quotas with flexible criteria as a legal channel for Roma immigrants, taking into account the socio-economic and the political situation in their country of origin;

  • Introduce possibilities for temporary labour migration, in particular for seasonal workers and trans-frontier workers;

  • Introduce sanctions against states which do not have anti-discrimination policies and actions.

  • Strictly monitor the implementation of the application criteria from countries who are in accession to the EU;

  • Review the situation in relation to anti-discrimination in countries which are already members of EU;

 

To the Council of Europe:

  • Put political pressure on states regarding the Roma migration issue;

  • Propose the establishment of Ministries on Human Rights in all CoE member states;

  • Promote the recognition of the Roma as national minorities in all member states;

  • Introduce a European Convention for Protection of the Roma;

  • Introduce measures towards countries which have not signed the Framework Convention for Protection of the National Minorities;

  • Encourage networking and facilitate collaboration between the sending, the transition and the destination countries on the issue of Roma migration;

  • Promote the harmonization of national legislation in accordance with existing international legal instruments;

  • Develop and propose for the attention of member states specific recommendations and specific legal instruments on the migration of the Roma;

  • Initiate and support activities to promote intercultural dialogue between the Roma immigrants, the majority communities and the local Roma;

  • Organise a meeting to review what has effectively been done so far in the field of Roma migration;

  • Support the follow-up of the meeting;

  • Ensure the follow-up of the conclusions and the recommendations of the report.  

 

To the UNHCR:

  • Monitor the full respect of the Geneva Convention 1948/1951.

  • Ensure more efficiency in monitoring at a national level.

 

To Civil Society:

  • In the receiving countries, the Roma NGOs should advocate and lobby at a political level for the application of Roma migrant rights;

  • Provide free legal assistance;

  • Inform the Roma immigrants about their rights;

  • Develop a system of mediation between Roma immigrants and the public services and administration in the receiving countries;

  • Develop networking on the issue between NGOs in the sending and in the receiving countries.

12.  On the questions related to alternatives to Roma migration, we reached the following general     conclusions:

  • There are no alternatives to Roma migration whilst the real causes for this remain ineffectively addressed;

  • The alternative to illegal migration of Roma is legal migration;

  • Alternatives can be identified to certain forms of Roma migration, while there are no alternatives to others;

  • The work on alternatives requires several pre-conditions which should exist at the same time. These are political will, resources and competences.


 

ALTERNATIVES TO ROMA MIGRATION:

Below are the concrete alternatives proposed by the participants in the meeting. We have defined topics for five working groups on alternatives to:

 

-         Economic migration

-         Political migration

-         Youth mobility

-         Legal provisions and

-         Media

 

The work of the participants in the first three groups was facilitated by the following questions:

1. Are there any alternatives to this form of Roma migration?

2. What are the conditions that have to be improved in the countries of origin to limit illegal migration of Roma?

3. What are the conditions that should be improved for the Roma immigrants in the receiving countries?

4. What is the role of the civil society?

 

 

Working group on alternatives to economic migration:

1. Are there any alternatives to this form of Roma migration?

Yes

Quotas with flexible criteria as a legal channel for Roma immigrants, taking in account the socio-economic and the political situation in their country of origin.

-         Possibilities for temporary labour migration, in particular for seasonal workers and trans-frontier workers;

-         Effective employment programmes for Roma in their countries of origin;

-         Capacity building for increasing the probability of employment in the countries of origin;

-         Training in entrepreneurship;

-         Credit and other support for Roma business. 

2. What are the conditions that have to be improved in the countries of origin to limit illegal migration of Roma?

-         Real implementation of anti-discrimination policies, especially in the fields of employment and education;

-         Integrated education;

-         Increased mutual respect and tolerance through education;

-         Teacher training and awareness raising;

-         Including Roma history and culture in the curricula for all students;

-         Providing access to education in the Roma language for at least part of the time;

-         Vocational training for adult Roma;

-         Awareness raising of society on the benefit of improving the situation of the Roma community;

-         Strengthening the social skills of the Roma, especially the Young Roma people.

3. What are the conditions that should be improved for the Roma immigrants in the receiving countries?

Contrary to the expectations of the immigrants in the receiving countries, they can be confronted with some of the challenges that presumably were “left behind” in the countries of origin. These again include discrimination and limited living conditions. It can be even harder for the Roma families to send/keep their children in school in the receiving countries.

(See recommendations for the sending countries and for civil society).

 

 

Working group on alternatives to political migration:

1. Are there any alternatives to this form of Roma migration?

Political migration is the last resort and is a legal right. There is no alternative to this form of Roma migration as long as:

The Roma communities are not recognised as minorities;

-         The human rights of the Roma are violated;

-         The Roma situation is not effectively improved;

-         There is fear of the political system.

 

2. What are the conditions that have to be improved in the countries of origin to limit illegal migration of Roma?

-         Recognition of the Roma communities as minorities;

-         Respect of human rights, democratic and international principles;

-         Implementation of current legislation;

-         Legal assistance in public institutions;

-         Information about legal assistance;

-         Conflict prevention within the State; 

-         Having a manual for public services specifically about Roma migrants and free distribution of it wherever necessary (detainees, prison collective centres, border points, etc.).

 

3. What are the conditions that should be improved for the Roma immigrants in the receiving countries?

-         No kin state (no support from state);

-         Negative image of Roma (stereotypes, discrimination);

-         Lack of access to information;

-         Language (difficulties with second/local language);     

-         Improving access to information concerning immigration procedures and integration process;

-         Providing Romani interpretation/translation;

-         Reinforce monitoring by implementation of international legislation and guidelines;

-         Harmonisation of treatment on the basis of best practice at national level;

Train public institutions about Roma;

-         Respect the official status of asylum seekers;

-         Inform public services about the lifestyle, culture and tradition of the Roma migrant and distinguish between local Roma and Roma migrants (when necessary);

-         Improve the quality and attitude of public service (training, media campaigns etc.).

4. What is the role of the civil society?

-         Providing legal assistance (for free)

-         Improve channels of communication and dissemination of information including the Romani language and in particular about local assisting organisations and other available resources. 

-         Developing the system of mediation between the asylum seekers and social-public services.

-         Monitor media coverage of Roma immigration and react to any misinformation.

-         Organising inter-cultural dialogue activities between Roma migrants and local population from the majority and local Roma.

-         Propose public debates (TV) with Roma participants.

 

Working group on youth mobility:

1. Are there any alternatives to this form of Roma migration?

There is no need for alternatives to this form of Roma migration. It should be encouraged as it has many positive aspects for the personal development of young Roma and respectively for the development of the Roma community.

Among other things, it enables the Young Roma to get to know other cultures and to widen their horizons. It also provides young Roma people with living opportunities which they do not have in their country of origin. 

2. What are the conditions that have to be improved in the countries of origin to limit illegal migration of Roma?

However in order to prevent the illegal migration of the Young Roma from their countries of origin, the following conditions should be improved:

-          In the countries of origin, Roma youth should have equal opportunities for participating in all spheres of public life especially in education and employment, as well as participation in the relevant decision-making.

-          Education in the mother tongue is one of the prerequisites for full personal development and for strengthening the identity and self-esteem of young people.

-          Presenting the concept of multiculturalism is not possible without introducing Romani culture and history, not only in formal education but also as non-formal education and through all possible means of conveying cultural/intercultural  messages i.e. media and art, including movies, TV, games, etc.

-          Moreover, affirmative action as well as access to scholarships and other forms of financial support for education must be reinforced.

-         Countries in transition must adopt and implement the principles of the Bologna declaration as soon as possible for the benefit of all. Integration of Roma youth is not possible without creating the opportunity for them to interact with public administration in their own language.

-         Furthermore, applying this principle means creating more employment opportunities for Roma youth. On the other hand, the market economy requires more flexible educational programmes which will respond to market trends;

-         Special forms of skills training and secondary education also need to be developed, in order to offer opportunities to the Roma youth who have not attended existing primary and secondary education;

-          Stabilization of the overall economic situation in the country of origin should also be perceived as a preventive measure for the illegal migration of Young Roma;

-          Small credit packages for Young Roma with marketing and business skills. Education is sometimes less important than the starting capital;

A programme of micro-credits to carefully support screened entrepreneurs could therefore provide economic stimulation to the young Roma. On the other hand, if successful, they can employ other Roma.

-         Whilst various donors have implemented micro-credit schemes in “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” with various degrees of success, none have focused on the Roma as a particularly disadvantaged group. (1)

 

3. What are the conditions that should be improved for the Roma immigrants in the receiving countries?

In the receiving countries, Roma migrants face the language problem. Furthermore, when they are applying for asylum and are explaining the reasons for it, they do not have the opportunity to do it in their mother tongue, because they are assigned interpreters for the majority language of their country of origin.

A different and positive example is the practice that was introduced two years ago in France. Asylum seekers can avail of Romani language interpreters during their hearings with the Refugee and Asylum Commission. They can now prove that they were discriminated against on the grounds of their ethnicity and better describe the situation in their country of origin. In addition, the cultural barrier between interpreters of the majority language and Roma no longer exist.

The receiving countries should respect the legal procedures for asylum seekers and other migrants, especially the deadlines related to these legal procedures.

 

4. What is the role of civil society?

-          Civil society in both the sending and receiving countries has an important role to play in advocating for the creation of alternatives to migration, especially for Roma youth.

-          In the countries of origin, civil society has to advocate for the inclusion of Roma youth needs in the national Youth Action Plans.

-          Civil society should organise information campaigns about the living conditions in the receiving countries, so that Roma youth can make an informed decision about migrating.

-          Furthermore, the Roma NGOs have to be involved in capacity building among the Young Roma, enabling them to have full access to the different youth mobility schemes provided by the EU.

-          On the other hand, the criteria for youth mobility have to be more flexible, acknowledging the specific position of Roma, especially Roma youth.

-          Under the present conditions, Roma youth have very limited access to EU youth mobility funding.

 

 

Working group on legal instruments:

Questions:

 

1. Does the existing international and national legislation take into consideration the specificity of the Roma migration? Why?

2. Do you consider that specific legal provisions need to be included in this legislation?

3. What kind of legal provisions?

 

First of all the Council of Europe should request that all its member states who have Roma communities within their populations recognise them as national minorities and sign and ratify the Framework Convention for Protection of the National Minorities. Once this has been achieved, we can discuss other necessary legal instruments.

 

1. Does the existing international and national legislation take into consideration the specificity of the Roma migration? Why?

-         The existing legislation is very general and doesn’t apply to minorities;

-         It exists only on paper and not in practice;

-         The existing legal instruments are not compulsory;

-         The existing legal instruments do not take into consideration the specificity of Roma migration;

-         We must take into account the fact that the Roma are migrating because they are forced to due to the poor economical situation and their national status in their countries of origin;

-         We won’t need specific legislation for Roma but legislation for national minorities;

 

2. Do you consider that specific legal provisions need to be included in this legislation?

 The answer is YES, but this is not enough. We need compulsory instruments.

 

3. What kind of legal provisions?

(See recommendations at various levels).

 

Conclusion of this working group:

  • Help the Council of Europe member states to develop national legislation regarding the Roma migration, based on common sense and harmonised with the relevant international legal instruments. In addition, consider mechanisms which will allow the Roma immigrants, who are currently in illegal situations, to regularise their current status.

 

Working group on media:

Questions :

1. What is the main, current impact of the media on public opinion regarding Roma migration?

2. How can we combat the disinformation, the hate speech or the negative images of Roma migration?

3. How can real information about the causes of Roma migration be spread?

4. Code of ethics?

 

What is the main current impact of the media on the public opinion regarding the Roma migration?

 

  • Negative attitudes to Roma

  • Enforcing negative stereotypes

  • Misleading people with superficial information

  • Creation of negative image

  • Fear and hatred among the majority population regarding Roma

  • Diluting of the issue

 

2.    How we can combat the misinformation, hate speech or the negative images of Roma migration?

  • Objective information

  • Media training - preparing Roma journalists

  • Professionalism of Roma journalists, activists

  • Diplomacy

  • Creation of personal relations between Roma and non-Roma journalists

  • Respond to misinformation in media

  • Be well prepared and informed and take direct action

  • Try to employ more Roma or provide more Roma internships in the mainstream media

  • Create conditions for interaction between Roma and non-Roma

  • Media monitoring made by Roma NGOs and taking appropriate action on the results of it.

 

3.    How can real information be spread about the causes of Roma migration?

  • Preparing professional Roma journalists

  • Through Roma media

  • Articles written by Roma and published in mainstream media

  • Press conferences in order to present actual facts (after mainstream monitoring and research).

  • Co-operation with mainstream media

  • Using public relations tools

 

4.    Code of ethics

 

  • Consideration of Roma culture, history, traditions and so on.

Recommendations to the FERYP:

1. We propose to the FERYP, in co-operation with the ERIO, Roma Press Agencies (i.e. Roma Press Centre, Budapest), to consider the possibility of preparing media officers or spokesmen who can provide objective information to the media i.e. through internships and training in the aformentioned organisation.

2. The importance of establishing European Roma Radio was also discussed.


 

FOLLOW_UP:

From the Council of Europe perspective:

Presentation of the Seminar report by Ms. Alexandra Raykova (President of the FERYP) and Ms. Tove Skotvedt (Member of the MG-S-ROM from Norway) at the next meeting of the Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM) in Presov, Slovakia, on 21-24 November 2004. The Group will discuss the matter and make follow-up proposals. The MG-S-ROM meeting’s conclusions and proposals will then be forwarded to the European Committee on Migration (CDMG) of the Council of Europe for consideration.

A joint activity between the CoE and the UNHCR will take place in Skopje between mid-November and mid-December (dates to be fixed) to analyse inter alia the present situation of Roma refugees, IDPs and returnees in the Balkans, the various issues and options such as the perspective of requests by Roma for refugee status being accepted or rejected. Again this will be an opportunity to present the conclusions and recommendations of this meeting.

Migration could be a topic addressed at the Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Governments taking place in Warsaw next spring (16-17 May 2005). If so, this will be a possibility to mainstream Roma migration issues at the highest level.

One current proposal under discussion is to have a joint OSCE-ODIHR/Council of Europe Conference on Roma issues in 2005. Since the Slovenian presidency of the OSCE (from early 2005) identified migration and integration as priorities, this may be a topic on the agenda.

There will also be follow-up of the OSCE side event on Roma and the media that took place in Brussels last September. Young Roma and Traveller participants are invited to read the conclusions of this meeting and to consider and work out concrete proposals (for instance the idea of a European Roma Radio) and submit these proposals to the OSCE-ODIHR (Nicolae Gheorghe) or to the Council of Europe.

From the FERYP:

Preparation and publication of the final report – December 2004.

Presentation of the draft report at the MG-S-ROM meeting, 22-24 November 2004.

Decide on follow-up priorities and project development accordingly – December 2004.

Partnership on the preparation of a Round Table on the Economic Situation of the Roma in Buzau, Romania 2005.

Study session of the FERYP, “Situation and perspectives of the Young Roma people in Europe – ten years after the RAXI campaign”, 5-12 June 2005, EYC Strasbourg.

The project for the WEBSITE of the FERYP together with relevant information for Roma immigrants or potential immigrants and networking between Roma NGOs from the sending and the receiving countries.

Presenting the report and the outcomes from the meeting to the European Roma and Travellers Forum in order to co-operate on how to advocate the necessary follow-up.
 

CONCLUSIONS OF THE TEAM :

 

The meeting itself:

1)    The participants, the team and the observers evaluated the meeting as being very necessary. Some of the participants mentioned that there are not many international organisations that are organising meetings on the topic, as it is perceived to be particularly difficult. Therefore some of the participants expressed that the involvement of the FERYP in the preparation of the meeting on this subject should be congratulated.

2)    Among the main conclusions of the team was that the duration of the meeting was insufficient. A longer meeting would allow the planning of a less intense programme and deeper discussions, as well as adding content elements to it.

3)    It was clear during the meeting that within the topic of Roma migration, there are a number of challenges that have to be analysed, as well as that the required action to address those challenges requires deeper discussion and elaboration. In other words, the perception of the team is that this meeting was the starting point and further work on the topic is needed.

4)    Technically speaking, the team considers that the European Youth Centre in Budapest was a very good venue for the implementation of such a meeting and that the staff of the EYCB were co-operative in the preparation and implementation of the meeting. 

The group composition:

5)    The composition of the group of participants was evaluated as being one of the successful contributing factors to the meeting. We had a mix of young Roma who have direct, personal experience on the topic, participants who work in organisations working directly in this area, as well as participants who are motivated to work on the topic as a follow-up to the seminar. A number of non-Roma participants coming from grassroots organisations dealing with the topic as well as some young Roma journalists were invited to the meeting. Despite the very intense programme, the participants were actively taking part and were motivated to contribute to the outcomes of the meeting. The atmosphere during informal times in the meeting was also very good.

The participation of the observers:

6)    This meeting is the first time that the FERYP has invited observers to oversee its activity. The participation of the observers is also noted positively. On the one hand, the observers contributed to the reflections of the participants. On the other hand, we believe that we raised further awareness among the observers and their organisations respectively and that the outcomes from the meeting will be taken into consideration in their future work on the topic. We also believe that there are possibilities for future co-operation between the FERYP, the Council of Europe, the IOM, the OSCE and the UNHCR on the subject.

The experts:

7)    The team however evaluated the contribution of the experts as being one of the weakest points of the meeting, due to the fact that some of the contributions were not always in line with initial expectations. This input could therefore not always contribute to a full extent to achieving the objectives set for them. As a possible explanation for that, we consider the fact that some of the experts that we were planning to invite initially were not available and therefore were replaced at a very late stage. In addition, in its evaluation, the team sensed that there is a need to train experts who are both Roma themselves and have grassroots experience in working with the issue, whilst at the same time having knowledge about the theoretical and policy framework of the topic. 

The co-operation between the FERYP, the Council of Europe and the Norwegian Government:

8)    The co-operation between the FERYP, the Council of Europe and the Norwegian Government was evaluated as satisfactory from the team.

 

The outcomes of the meeting:

9)    Our perception is that the outcomes of the meeting are relevant to the work of the various authorities, organisations and institutions at all levels. We also note that if the outcomes are taken into consideration, there will be both short-term and long-term improvements of the situation of the Roma immigrants.      

10)           The meeting raised some of the big problems and issues related to Roma migration in Europe, however we consider that specific meetings dealing with the organisation of the following topics should be organised:

-          Trafficking in Human Beings,

-          Present Challenges faced by the Roma Refugees,

-          Rural-Urban Migration of Roma,

-          Youth Mobility,

-          Migration as a Lifestyle.

11) We consider that the FERYP, the Council of Europe and the Norwegian Government should encourage the follow-up of the meeting at various levels.


 


[1] Quote from ECMI RO Skopje - Report of the project “Towards Regional Guidelines

for Integration of the Roma”.