The OSCE, US and EU ambassadors in Tirana have called for an investigation after a Roma camp on the outskirts of Tirana was burned down three weeks ago by perpetrators who have not yet been found.
“We strongly urge the responsible authorities to take the appropriate action by investigating the disturbing February events in order to ensure that such acts are not repeated,” the three ambassadors said in a statement. “We also encourage the authorities to take the appropriate action to provide necessary social assistance, including housing, to those people who have now found themselves homeless,” the statement added. Some dwellers in the camp, which was home to roughly 40 families, told local media the attackers arrived at night and beat them with sticks while setting fire to their barracks over several days, pressuring them to relocate. The residents of the camps say the police failed to prevent the attacks and provide protection for the families, who now have moved to live in settlements in Tirana and other cities. Police denied on Friday that they had disregarded the laws against discrimination of minorities and the protection of children while dealing with the case. According to the police statement, the Roma “initiated the conflict” with their neighbors, which then escalated. “We have questioned the Roma about the fire that swept their dwelling but they have refused to testify,” read the statement.
According to the Union for Albanian Roma, a Tirana-based NGO, up to 150,000 Roma people live in Albania, part of a community that struggles with discrimination, poor literacy rates and massive unemployment. The ambassadors reminded the Albanian government that it committed itself to the objectives of the Declaration of the Decade of Roma Inclusion and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. The statement also underlined that the fight against discrimination and the protection of the rights of Roma is one the twelve key priority areas needing particular attention, set forth by the European Commission as precondition for Albania to be granted EU candidate status.