Decent Housing for Kolonia Settlers

One of the most significant achievements for Civil Rights Defenders in 2009 is our contribution to resolving the housing situation for one of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in the region of Gjakova, Kosovo. Together with our partner Civil Rights Programme Kosovo and other NGO actors, we conducted a strong advocacy campaign which resulted in the Municipality of Gjakova deciding to grant 3.8 hectare land where private houses could be built for the community members.

The settlement Kolonia was informal and situated at a garbage dump. The inhabitants were subjected to a constant risk of remaining without residence since the land was state owned and there is a privatization process going on in Kosovo. The first decision of the Municipal authorities was to build a settlement of apartment buildings. But the decision was not accepted by the community members. They wished to have their parcels of land and private houses. After long-term negotiations the municipality finally accepted to grant land for this purpose, while Swiss Caritas and a few other donors promised to invest in house constructions.

In co-operation with Civil Rights Programme Kosovo we assist individuals, particularly belonging to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, to obtain personal documents which will make possible their access to civil, political, economic and social rights. In 2008 and 2009 our joint efforts resulted in the registration of 4.341 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, internally displaced persons, returnees and persons belonging to other vulnerable groups.

A special focus of our co-operation was established in 2008 and 2009 to provide legal assistance to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community living in Kolonia, where one of the most significant problems was the lack of personal documentation. In 2008, all inhabitants of Kolonia were interviewed and most of their needs related to legal assistance were identified. As a direct result of this targeted part of the project 223 requests for civil registration were completed; 223 persons in Kolonia were legally registered in Kosovo.

The second focus of the project in 2009 was to assist in improving the right to education to this group. So far 1.817 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian families have been interviewed, which will result in an initial report on the situation in Kosovo. The project was initiated by Civil Rights Defenders after a workshop with all heads of offices of CRP/K in 2008, where the lack of education for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children was identified as one of the gravest concerns. CRP/K has been granted funds by the European Commission for a project based on the conclusions from the workshop. Civil Rights Defenders will co-finance the activities in 2010.