Hundreds of Roma families in Albania will not be eligible to have a decent home or benefit from social services and other initiatives provided by the government because they are unable to complete all the paperwork required nor follow up on their individual needs with the Albanian Ministry of Social Services, Welfare and Labor. Meanwhile discrimination against Roma communities across Albania persists. Roma continue to live marginalized by the general population in precarious shelters made out of cardboard, broken shingles, wood panels, and twisted and rusty sheet metal.
According to the Minority Rights Group International, “The Roma communities are among the most politically, economically and socially neglected groups in the country. In addition to widespread societal discrimination, these groups generally suffered from high illiteracy, particularly among children; poor health conditions; lack of education; and marked economic disadvantages. The government has not implemented its national strategy for the improvement of living conditions of the Roma minority. There are no official figures for the size of the community, but estimates range from 80,000 to 150,000.”
Over 95 percent of Albanians support their country’s admittance to the European Union. However, one of the challenges faced by the current government and Prime Minister Edi Rama is in providing better living conditions, education, free health care so as to allow the Roma community members to leave behind a precarious living based on recycling metal from landfills and rubbish heaps outside of the capital and other Albanian cities.
According to Eglantina Gjermeni, Minister of Urban Development and Tourism, “To solve this problem, we are taking certain legislative and executive actions. Currently we are drafting the national housing strategy, in which the situation of the Roma Community will be addressed extensively at the national level. I know that we may be exhausted by strategic masterplans, but in Albania, until today we have not had a real action plan in relation to community housing projects, and in particular towards providing reliable housing options to the Roma community.”
A few working groups are identifying the regions where the Roma neighborhoods are located now, so that running water, sewage systems and other basic amenities would be available in them as well as improve their housing conditions.
It is only in the city of Lushnje where the current government is building and restoring twenty homes for members of the Roma community. However living conditions of this community remain a burden on the the current government, which has been in office for only for six months and aspires to have Albania become an EU candidate member country next June. On the other hand, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is reducing the red tape in order to make social welfare coverage more inclusive and easily accessible by the Roma community.
According to the Deputy Minister of Labor, Bardhylka Kospiri, “the reforms that are related to the modernization of economic assistance is a pivotal instrument of social policies that plans to help the poor by making them eligible to receive social and economic assistance without going through the bureaucratic procedures. Every family can declare its level of poverty and this will make them eligible to receive government’s assistance, in this group are included the Roma and Gypsy communities.”
For many years, many projects that were intended to improve the living conditions of the Roma Community were attempted. Unfortunately, millions of euros were spent and the lives of the Roma community hardly improved.