Albania President Pressed Over Roma Property Rights

2 June 2014

Rights groups have called on President Bujar Nishani to veto amendments to a property legalization law which does not recognize shacks in which many Roma live as ‘proper’ constructions. Gjergj Erebara BIRN TiranaA group of Roma and human rights organizations gathered on Monday in front of the president’s office and presented a petition with 6,000 signatories, calling on the head of state to return the legislative amendments to parliament. “The law doesn’t provide legal protection for homes that are shacks or little more than shacks, where more than 1,500 families from the Roma and Egyptian communities live,” said Xhekson Cela, a Roma activist. The fight against discrimination and the protection of Roma rights is one of 12 key priority areas for Albania set by the European Commission as preconditions for it to obtain candidate-country status. Despite that obligation, activists say the authorities have done little to protect Roma communities from forced evictions, particularly in urban areas targeted for development. According to Albania’s constitution, the president can veto a bill and return it to parliament to be redrafted. The law on the legalization and urbanization of illegal constructions that originally came into force in 2007 aimed to give legal status to more than 270,000 illicit buildings, but did not recognize shacks as ‘proper’ constructions. Parliament two weeks ago approved several amendments to the law, but failed to heed calls from rights groups and the Roma community to offer special legal protection to their informal dwellings.

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