Pristina, 7 April 2008 – The OSCE Mission called today for full integration of the Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians into the Kosovo society.The statement was made on the occasion of International Roma Day, which is marked on 8 April.

“The Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities continue to face marginalisation and discrimination in the region. The OSCE Mission is committed to support these communities in solving the remaining challenges: access to basic human rights and services, integration and effective participation in political life,” said Ambassador Tim Guldimann, the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

The OSCE Mission is helping the Kosovo authorities draft a Strategy for the Integration of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians which would focus on key issues such as education, employment, return, housing, anti-discrimination and political participation. The Mission also continues to monitor the compliance of Kosovo institutions with human rights standards and minority rights, particularly in respect of the most vulnerable minority communities.

Lack of civil registration and documentation is widespread among the Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. This impedes their access to basic human rights. The lack of document registration has a particularly negative effect on the displaced as it hinders their return and the property restitution process.

Tens of thousands of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians are still displaced within the region or have temporary residence status in Western Europe. Germany hosts around 35,000 Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians under “toleration status”. The OSCE Mission in Kosovo monitors the return process and supports it through awareness-raising campaigns and specific local returns projects.

On occasion of the International Roma Day, the OSCE Mission’s Regional Centres will organize different events. The Centre in Peje/Pec will hold an art contest for Roma children. Photographs from this occasion will be available on later today. The Centres in Mitrovica/Mitrovice and Prishtine/Pristina will organize football tournaments and the Centre in Gjilan/Gnjilane will support a Roma Day celebration in Kamenice/Kamenica and in Ferizaj/Urosevac. The Centre in Prizren will organize a workshop, The Rights of Roma – Challenges and Recommendations, for Roma community leaders, local politicians and civil society representatives.

Source: OSCE