IBNA Special Report
Skopje, November 12, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Naser Pajaziti
Members of the Roma community in FYROM continue to react about the fact that they are not allowed to cross border points and travel abroad. In the recent months, hundreds of Roma community members have been stopped in border crossing points.
According to the Ministry of Interior, this measure is being taken to prevent the large numbers of people who go to EU countries and seek asylum.
Border police doesn’t allow members of this community to leave abroad, while exceptions are made in particular cases or for those who meet the conditions to travel to EU member countries.
Associations of the Roma community say that Macedonian authorities are restricting free movement of their citizens. Tefik Mahmut from the European Center for the rights of Roma community, says that something must be done against this kind of behavior by state authorities.
We have continued to complain, but nothing. In case there isn’t a solution within a short period of time, then we’re obliged to burn our passports, because we will no longer need them”, said Mahmut.
According to him, the Roma community is victim of a violated democracy and politically influenced institutions, while according to him, politicians or Roma officials who are part of institutions in Skopje, are being discreet on this issue.
Ministry of Interior said that this measure is following complaints by the European Union about the large number of asylum seekers from FYROM, but the ministry’s decision is also based on the legal framework according to which the country must preserve its image and prevent abuses with the asylum status in EU member countries.
Spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Ivo Kotevski says that there are no problems of ethnic discrimination on the border, but mere compliance with the laws and rules. “We don’t have problems of this nature. For us, all citizens are equal, in spite of their ethnic group. Laws and rules apply the same way for everyone. But if they’re not respected, then there will be problems on the border”, says Kotevski.
Roma associations have sent to the Constitutional Court their plaint for discrimination and it has been granted by the court, demanding the institutions of the country to offer equal chances of movements for all the citizens.
Samka Ibraimovski from the Party for the Emancipation of the Roma warned that he will send this issue to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in a meeting which will be held at the end of this month. “Situation is worsening on a daily basis and the Ministry of Interior is not respecting the ruling of the Supreme Court. Why aren’t the institutions of the country not wondering as to why the Roma community is going abroad and what is being done to respect their rights? It’s not a surprise that they are starting to burn their passports and to react in more radical forms”, says Ibraimovski.
According to the European Center for the rights of the Roma community, in 90% of the cases where citizens have been stopped on the border, documents have been requested for their travel abroad. In 30% of the cases, citizens on the border have been told that they cannot cross due to their ethnic group.
Aksim Ahmedovski who is a lawyer, says that citizens so far have filed 10 lawsuits against the Ministry of Interior for preventing them to cross the border and travel abroad. Roma community associations say that problems of this nature continue and the government is not doing anything to improve the living conditions of the Roma community, which is one of the poorest and marginalized communities in the country. /ibna/