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Amnesty Says Deported Roma Face Persecution in Kosovo


Roma children play near the lead polluted Trepca industrial complex in the makeshift camp of Zitkovce, near Kosovska Mitrovica, Kosovo (File Photo - 04 Apr 2004)

Roma children play near the lead polluted Trepca industrial complex in the makeshift camp of Zitkovce, near Kosovska Mitrovica, Kosovo (File Photo - 04 Apr 2004)

Amnesty International has criticized European countries for deporting ethnic Roma to Kosovo where they face discrimination and violence. In a new report, the international watchdog says many Roma, who are also known as Gypsies, arrive in Kosovo with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Amnesty International Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia David Diaz-Jogeix says Roma returning to Kosovo often do not have access to basic services.

"Many of the people who are being returned do not have a clear access to their identity and accommodation papers and that further discriminates them in making sure that they have proper access to health and hospitals or access to social housing or access to state employment," he said.

Many Roma left Kosovo when the country was racked by conflict in the 1990s. In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia.

Diaz-Jogeix says since then many European countries have pressured Kosovo to take Roma back. He says about 7,000 people have been deported to Kosovo by European countries, including Germany and Switzerland, despite the fact that they are likely to face persecution there.

Diaz-Jogeix says Roma face persecution across Europe, but in Kosovo the problem is particularly troubling.

"In the context of Kosovo, there is a further discrimination aggravated by the fact that they are perceived as being allies of one part of the conflict, the Serbs, and that further reinforces the discrimination by the Kosovo Albanians," he said.

Around 90 percent of Kosovo's population is ethnic-Albanian.

A spokesman for Britain's right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, Dawain Towler, says European countries cannot be expected to open their borders to Roma from Kosovo.

"The responsibility lies with the Kosovo government to ensure that people are treated properly and effectively at home. And it is not the responsibility of the U.K. or any other government indeed to take up the burden that has been ignored by their own government," said Towler.

Amnesty International says 97 percent of Roma in Kosovo are unemployed. It says Kosovo's government does not have the resources or political will to deal with their plight.

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