We are writing to express our concern about the situation of Roma (Gypsies) in Kosovo. You are no doubt aware that Roma have been subjected to harassment and threat to life from both sides in the conflict. Approximately 20.000 Roma have been expelled from Kosovo into Serbia, and subsequently have been forced back by the Serbs into northern Kosovo.
The Roma people remain citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and therefore still retain rights within Kosovo and other parts of the FR Yugoslavia. The Roma people have been subjected to ethnic cleansing by the Serbian paramilitary troops and now they are suffering expulsion and grave physical assault by the Kosovo Albanians.
As in most European countries they are marginalised and denied rights from majority communities. Roma people have testified to gross violations of human rights, mass suffering and humiliation during the war and, as throughout
history, the international community is oblivious to their fate.
Roma from Kosovo have been used as forced labour by Serbian authorities to support the Serbian army, a fact which has triggered anti-Roma feelings among the Albanian Kosovars. The presence of Kosovar Roma has not, in many instances, been officially acknowledged in refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia.
On the way to the camps many Roma refugees have experienced discriminatory and prejudicial treatment. As a result they fear both the camp authorities and their fellow inmates, and as a rule have chosen to hide their identity. We believe that the international community has a responsibility to protect all groups within Kosovo and that this protection must be fully extended to the Roma population.
Given that the moral and political objectives of the international community in Kosovo are to prevent ethnic cleansing and the forced expulsion of people from their homes we believe this places a duty on the international community to act to prevent the threat to life which the Roma people are currently experiencing.
We request that the international community should guarantee the safe return of Romany refugees to Kosovo; however, Roma who have a well-founded fear of persecution in their homeland should be given the opportunity to seek asylum outside the FRY. Roma should be included without discrimination in the action plans for reconstruction of democratic institutions in Yugoslavia. Romani organisations should be actively involved in the implementation of policies and programmes affecting their communities.
The Roma people have no effective political representation at both national and international levels and are being scapegoated by both Serbian and Kosovo Albanian communities.
The Roma people have been, and continue to be, subjected to discrimination in most European states. This history and experience of Roma indicates that the international community should accept that they have a greater responsibility for the Roma as they do not have adequate representation of their interests within the current political framework.
Roma have centuries-long experience of living in multi-ethnic, multi-confessional, multi-linguistic local communities. We hope that in the resolution of this tragic conflict, the international community will acknowledge the unique role that Roma could play in the reconstruction of a genuinely multi-ethnic and democratic society throughout the Balkan region.
Petr Uhl, Mustafa Hezolet, Karel Holomek, Jiøina Siklová, Václav Trojan, Nicolae Gheorghe, Jeanette Buirski, Ladislav Goral, Zeman
Eva Sotolová, Jana Chárová, Hilda Pásová, Pergler, Laura Laubeová, Emil Szirmai, Viktor Sekyt