This 2008 Status Report on fulfilling the commitments made in the Action Plan is published by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

From the report:

“A number of challenges and concerns regarding RAE in Kosovo persist, including security and freedom of movement for minorities, discrimination in obtaining identification documents, and denial of access to remedies for violent crimes committed against RAE communities.

Furthermore, RAE face racially motivated violence and threats of further violence and systemic and pervasive racial discrimination. RAE communities in Kosovo live in substandard conditions. IDPs and refugees, especially the elderly, women, and children, are particularly vulnerable in Serbia, as well as in other countries such as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, and they continue to experience severe problems linked to their unclear civil status, as well as the lack of adequate housing, education, and employment. International organizations play an important role in providing support and protection, as well as in raising awareness of the issues faced by these communities.

Kosovo’s political, social, and economic stability has not yet improved, and limited results can be expected in the short and medium term. The economy is growing at a rate of 2 per cent per year, while its population is growing by an estimated 3.5 per cent annually. There has also been a decrease in available employment opportunities, with far more job-seekers entering the employment market every year compared to the number of jobs created. Political instability is also preventing private investment from taking place in the foreseeable future.

About 15 per cent of the population of Kosovo is estimated to be extremely poor, defined as individuals who have difficulty meeting their basic nutritional needs (with daily incomes under $1). About 45 per cent report a consumption level below the poverty line (under $2 a day). These poverty rates are very high compared to neighbouring countries, and, unlike many countries in the region, they have not improved over time (in fact, poverty rates have gotten worse since the last measurement, which indicates that about 12 per cent of the population are extremely poor). Given these conditions, the prospect for improving the situation of RAE communities is precarious.

The Roma communities living in enclaves rely principally on parallel administrative structures for public services in the areas of health, education, and social assistance. These structures are funded by the Serbian government in municipalities where there is a significant Serb presence. School attendance by Roma children continues to be poor A majority of the RAE have been residing in informal settlements. Problems relating to the restoration of property rights are particularly acute for the RAE community, as many of the deeds to the properties where they lived prior to the conflict were not formalized.

In Kosovo, the RAE IDP community, as with other ethnic minorities, continues to feel insecure. Confidence in law-enforcement authorities, both international and local, remains low. As described in the last UNHCR position paper on the protection needs of people from Kosovo, the RAE, and especially those of Roma ethnic origin, continue to fear discrimination and revenge, as well as limitations on freedom of movement, including access to economic and social services.

The pace of returning property to RAE and rebuilding their mahalas has been slow and is being carried out on a small scale. The voluntary return of Roma to Kosovo is closely related to the resolution of property disputes.  The relocation of several hundred RAE IDPs to the Osterode camp (from lead-contaminated camps in northern Mitrovica) remains unresolved after more that seven years of living in camp conditions.

The difficult issues of the return of RAE refugees or forced returnees from Western countries remain unresolved. Many RAE from Kosovo, who have temporary protection status in other states, live in anxiety because of their uncertain future. Overall, the return process stagnated in 2007, with roughly the same number of returnees as in 2006.

Spontaneous returns decreased slightly, while organized returns saw a rise. The return trend in the first quarter of 2008 was below expectations (28 Roma and 55 Ashkali and Egyptians).”

24 September 2008

The full report is available here.