Do not designate the Western Balkans as "safe countries of origin"!

Appeal of the Society for Threatened Peoples International (STP) to the European Commission (Press Release)

© Chris Barnes via Flickr

The Society for Threatened Peoples International (STP) urges the European Commission not to designate Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro "safe countries of origin" because this general situation does not include the Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians. Many members of these minority communities have been forced to leave their countries of origin as a result of severe ethnic discrimination, excluding them from or limiting their access to housing and employment, stopping their children attending school and making it impossible for them to make a decent life for themselves.

Given the intolerable situation that faces the Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians in Kosovo and elsewhere in the Western Balkans, and mindful of how the Sinti and Roma suffered persecution and extermination under Nazi regimes in various European countries, the European Commission, acting in close cooperation with the EU Member States, should:

  • acknowledge that the extent of the discrimination experienced by the Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians in their own countries may make their lives unbearable and force them to emigrate;
  • insist that asylum applications by Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians are dealt with on an individual basis, because it cannot be right for the EU to deny members of an entire ethnic group their individual right to seek asylum;
  • recognise the vulnerable situation of Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians already living in European Union Member States and seek to ensure that as victims of racial discrimination, war and persecution they are guaranteed the right of residence;
  • make financial resources available to support the integration of Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians seeking asylum in Western Europe;
  • at the same time seek to persuade the Government of Kosovo to end its policies that marginalise the Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians and instead work to bring about their effective integration and implement appropriate laws and policies;
  • provide the government of Kosovo with financial support and expert advice needed to ensure the integration of the three ethnic communities, particularly in the areas of housing, education, employment and non-discrimination.

Header photo: Chris Barnes