27 October 2010 – Several Roma and refugee rights organizations have written to the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström asking her to recall the content of two letters, she addressed, a week ago, to the Serbian and Macedonian ministers of Interior. In these letters, which were quoted by several European media, the Commissioner asked the governments of the two countries to take immediate actions in order to prevent a further outflow of asylum seekers, which would endanger the liberalization of the visa regime.

In their letter to the EU Commission, the NGOs remind of the fact that the European Commission has already made the granting of visa waivers conditional on the countries signing readmission agreements with the European Union. They point out to the fact that these agreements mainly affect Roma and members of ethnic minorities, who are also the bulk of those, currently seeking asylum in the EU.

Quoting the latest progress reports by the European Commission, the NGOs  point out to the fact that ethnic minorities, in particular, the Roma continue to be severely discriminated in Serbia and Macedonia. Underlining the fact, that discrimination may well have an impact on a person’s capacity to earn his or her livelihood, which is recognized by the UNHCR as a constitutive element of persecution, they reject the statements of the Commissioner’s spokesperson, according to whom, the asylum seekers are essentially driven by economic motives.

The NGOs say that the Commission’s demand to the two countries to prevent their citizens from seeking asylum abroad is actually in breach with two fundamental principles of human rights, the freedom of movement and the right to asylum. They point out to the fact that the implementation of the readmission agreements has already given rise to serious human rights concerns, and express their concerns that the “special control measures”, which have been announced by the Serbian authorities, in reaction to the Commissioner’s letter, may lead to further human rights violations.

“According to the media, the Serbian Minister of Interior announced ‘thorough controls of suspect travelers and tours organized from areas producing most asylum seekers’. We believe that this will open the door to the ethnic profiling of travellers,” the NGOs say. They remind of the fact, that already in 2001, British border officials tried to prevent Roma from boarding flights to the UK, at the Prague airport, in reaction to Czech Roma requesting asylum of the UK.

The NGOs asked Commissioner Malmström to immediately recall her letters to the Serbian and Macedonian authorities and to instead ask them to spur their efforts in the field of human and minority rights. Pointing out at the precarious status of Roma refugees and IDPs, they also asked for their integration.

Chachipe a.s.b.l.