11 November 2008 – “The coalition partners in the war on Kosovo have done woefully little to meet the refugee crisis, and must be encouraged to do more for the several ten thousand Kosovo Roma, whose situation remains precarious,” Romano Them said, paraphrasing a campaign statement of the US President-elect, Barack Obama, which has caused political uproar in Denmark.

The statement, which appeared on Obama’s campaign website, actually referred to the obligations of the warring partners engaged in the war on Iraq, whom Obama criticised for failing to take over  responsibility for the refugee crisis which was caused by the military intervention. Accordingly, Obama would, if elected, call on the coalition partners to expand their refugee quota. In this statement, Denmark is mentioned alongside with other countries such as Great Britain, Italy and Spain. Obama did not spare off the United States from his criticism.

Romano Them welcomed Barack Obama’s idea that the warring countries incur a moral responsibility towards the refugees and saw it as an encouragement to ask for greater support for the Kosovo Roma refugees. The organisation reminded that more than a hundred thousand Roma were driven out of Kosovo in the aftermath of the US-lead military operation, in which Denmark participated along with other European countries.

But in spite sharp domestic criticism, that Denmark failed to prevent the exodus of minorities, the country did hardly anything to accommodate the refugees. From 2001 on, not a single Kosovo Roma, including the victims of the March 2004 riots, has been granted asylum in Denmark. Some 25 families remain under temporary protection; three families and three individuals are under deportation orders and have to report to the police twice a week.

Romano Them asked for a regularisation of this people. It also asked for the regularisation of several ten thousands Kosovo Roma refugees in Germany and other EU countries. The organisation called on the US administration to open up quota for the resettlement of Kosovo Roma in South Eastern Europe, who have been unable to integrate locally and have experienced particularly difficult living conditions. As a particularly urgent case, it mentioned the several hundred internally displaced Roma in Kosovska Mitrovica, who have been left on the lead-poisoned ground of the Trepca mines, with children displaying blood lead levels exceeding several times the acceptable norms.

Romano Them