The Constitution of Kosovo provides a comprehensive framework for the protection of human rights for all of Kosovo’s citizens regardless of origin or ethnicity. Specifically, Chapter II provides for every individual’s Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, complete with powerful Articles that include the right to an education, the right to personal integrity, and the right to health and social protection. Chapter III protects the Rights of Communities and Their Members, where Article 57 explicitly states that such members “shall have the right to freely express, foster and develop their identity and community attributes.”

But for members of the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities, these rights exist on paper only. Indeed, in its 2010 Progress Report, the European Commission Liaison Office to Kosovo stressed that “the authorities need to increase their commitment to address urgent issues affecting the lives of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.”

Further to that point, in a Resolution dated July 6, 2011, the Council of Europe underscores the urgency by which Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian returnees are in need of government assistance. “Persons belonging to minority communities who have been forcibly returned are in a particularly vulnerable situation given the difficult socio-economic conditions they live in, often without access to healthcare and social services, employment and education. More resolute measures are needed to address their security concerns and increased efforts must be made.”

Acknowledging the extreme vulnerability surrounding the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities, the government of Kosovo, in cooperation with civil society, drafted the Action Plan of the Republic of Kosovo for the Implementation of the Strategy for the Integration of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities, 2009-2015, a detailed framework designed to alleviate the hardships on these communities with an eye towards integrating them into the public sphere.

An essential component to the implementation of the Action Plan is the needed (re)integration of Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian families and individuals who have been returned to Kosovo either voluntarily or through force by a host country elsewhere in Europe. With an eye towards EU accession, the government of Kosovo continues to sign readmission agreements with other European nations designed to clear the way for visa liberalization, a key element that must be satisfied to achieve membership in the European Union. As this report will highlight, the combination of forced repatriation, weakness in the government’s capacity to manage returns, and an Action Plan struggling to meet its mandate, are resulting in little progress for the affected communities who continue to suffer the very human rights violations the Constitution of Kosovo was created to protect.

Author: Brian J. Stern

Source: RADC

Date: August 2011

The full report is available here.