International Conference of the Roma in Europe|
"The Kosovo Conflict and Subsequent Fall-out Brought Upon
the Roma in Kosovo"
Edited by Joe Benham
June 16 - 18, 2000, Skopje, Macedonia
In response to the humanitarian catastrophe suffered by the Roma in Kosovo, the Roma International Center in Macedonia put forth great efforts to organize the International Conference of Roma in Europe. They gained the support of more than thirty Roma non-governmental organizations from Macedonia and three Roma political parties, as well as the only Roma deputy in the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Amdi Bajram.
At the beginning of the conference, the intention was to have the active participation of those many effectual persons who were, and continue to be, actively involved in the everyday hosting of Roma refugees. Some of them, for their own reasons, however, were present only as observers. Some of them, whose presence was very important, had withdrawn from attendance at the conference.
Even though more than 20 countries with over 150 representatives were registered for participation at the conference (as well as participants from different foreign and domestic governmental and non-governmental organizations, political parties and representatives), there were present only 13 countries. Counted among these were 64 NGO's and 3 Roma political parties (such as the Party For the Full Emancipation of Roma in Macedonia, Unity of Roma in Macedonia, Party for Unity of Roma and the United Party of Roma from Macedonia) present as observers. There were also some representatives of the Macedonian government, including Mr. Amdi Bajram, the only Roma delegate in the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia; Dr. Bajram Berat, a member of the Council for Interethnic Relations in the Macedonian Parliament; and Mr. Boge Cadinovski, a representative from the Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs. The remainder were representatives from among the Kosovo Roma refugees, themselves. Total participants at the conference was about 140. These figures show that the conference has provoked great interest. They also represent very tangible contributions of successful work.
The conference itself was held in several plenary sessions during the two working days:
- The human rights of Roma in the Balkan region and Europe, with attention to the human rights of Kosovo Roma.
- The human rights of Kosovo Roma before and after the Kosovo conflict.
In these two sessions, these representatives gave speeches:
- Dr. Bajram Berat, member of the Council for Interethnic Relations in the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia.
- Martin Demirovski, representative of the European Roma Rights Center, ERRC.
- Paul Polanski, the independent researcher and representative of the "Society for Threatened People", Germany
- Sani Rifati, Voice of Roma, USA
- Beba Kron, the Institute for Criminology and Social Research, Yugoslavia
- Shaban Saliu, lawyer, Macedonia
- Tahir Baba, SPOLU, Slovakia
Greatest attention was given to the presentation of Mr. Paul Polanski, who spoke on the present situation of Roma in Kosovo, and facilitated much discussion and question answering following that. In addition, it should be mentioned that the other speakers also had very interesting speeches.
During the afternoon the IRU declaration from Oslo (May 9, 2000), referring to the situation in Kosovo, was read, after which the Roma NGO's presented their work. The representative of "DAJA", from Kumanovo Dilbera Kamberovska, spoke for all of the women NGO's about the status and needs of Roma women refugees from Kosovo. The representative of "Mesecina", Gostivar (a delegate of the Roma NGO's who works in the western part of Macedonia), was speaking about the Activities of the Roma NGO's in Macedonia. Branko Dimov, from HSKA Roma, gave a report about the activities of the Roma NGO's in the area surrounding Skopje.
After their speeches, there was a presentation by the representative of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Boge Cadinovski, and after that the Representative of the Swedish Red Cross, Mrs. Ingrid Schiööler, who presented the situation of the Kosovo Roma refugees in Sweden.
Following that, a representative from among those refugees who had been accommodated by families in Tetovo had his opportunity to speak about the problems they have in Macedonia. It is important to mention the active participation of those Roma political parties who helped in writing this declaration. These were the Party for full Emancipation of Roma in Macedonia, United party of Roma and the newly formed Party for Unity of Roma in Macedonia, whose representatives, Jusuf Sulejman and Fadil Ajvaz, were very active on the discussions during the Conference.
The second working day was dedicated to the activities of the International NGO's and the better co-ordination of the Roma NGO's. During this session the International medical Corps, AAR (from Japan), and InterSOS had their presentations.
Experiences were shared to bring about better co-ordination of Roma NGO's. During the Conference, as observers, there were representatives from the UNHCR, Macedonian Red Cross, Amnesty International and others.
At the end of this conference, the declaration, which was made by the working group of the conference and chosen by the participants, was accepted with acclamation.
After the working portion of the conference was finished, a delegation of participants was welcomed into the office of the only Roma deputy in the Macedonian Parliament, where the president of the Roma International Center of Macedonia, in the name of all the participants, was handed the declaration.
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