Version endorsed by the CAHROM at its 6th meeting
Strasbourg, 29 October 2013
AD HOC COMMITTEE OF EXPERTS ON ROMA ISSUES (CAHROM)
THEMATIC REPORT ON SOCIAL HOUSING FOR ROMA AND
LEGALISATION OF ROMA SETTLEMENTS AND HOUSES
(further to the CAHROM thematic visit to Tirana, Albania, from 15 to 17 April 2013)
Experts from ALBANIA, requesting country:
Ms Blerina Zoto Tepelena, Technical Secretariat on Roma, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (CAHROM member)
Mr Gentian Kaprata, Director, Ministry of Public Works and Transport
Ms Manjola Veizi, Roma expert, Roma Women Rights Centre
Experts from BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA and “THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA”, partner countries:
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mr Milan Jovanović, Head of Minority Department, Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ms Ljiljana Šantić, Expert Advisor and Coordinator for Roma Housing in the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees (CAHROM member)
Ms Hedina Sijercić, Roma expert, Coordinator for Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina
“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: Ms Mabera Kamberi, Head of the Sector for Coordination and Technical Assistance, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (CAHROM member)
Ms Sara Shabani, Coordinator of ZELS (Association of Local Self-Government Units)
Mr Neizir Huseini, Roma expert, Programme Manager at Roma Democratic Development Association SONCE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION page 3
1.1 Background of the thematic report and visit page 3
1.2 Composition of the thematic group of experts page 3
1.3 Agenda of the thematic visit page 4
II. CONTEXT AND EXPECTATIONS page 4
2.1 Context and purpose of the thematic report and visit page 4
2.2 Expectations and items for discussion page 5
2.3 Size and composition of the Roma groups in the participating countries page 5
2.3.1 Albania page 5
2.3.2 Bosnia and Herzegovina page 6
2.3.3 “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” page 7
2.4 Housing situation of Roma and main problems encountered page 7
2.4.1 Albania page 7
2.4.2 Bosnia and Herzegovina page 9
2.4.3 “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” page 9
III. RELEVANT EUROPEAN AND INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS AND
REFERENCE TEXTS page 10
IV. LEGISLATION, POLICIES, STRUCTURES AND SPECIFIC MEASURES page 11
4.1 Albania page 11
4.1.1 Roma and housing policies page 11
4.1.2 Social housing (for Roma) page 12
4.1.3 Partnership between the public and private sectors page 12
4.1.4 Role of international actors and national NGOs in Roma housing page 12
4.1.5 Other housing projects page 13
4.2 Bosnia and Herzegovina page 14
4.2.1 Roma and housing policies page 14
4.2.2 Social housing (for Roma) page 15
4.2.3 Role of international actors and national NGOs in Roma housing page 17
4.3 “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” page 19
4.3.1 Roma and housing policies page 19
4.3.2 Social housing (for Roma) page 20
4.3.3 Legalisation of (Roma) informal houses and settlements page 21
4.3.4 Role of international actors and national NGOs in Roma housing page 22
V. CONCLUSIONS, LESSONS LEARNT AND GOOD PRACTICES IDENTIFIED page 24
5.1 General conclusions and lessons learnt page 24
5.2 Specific conclusions and recommendations page 25
5.3 Follow-up and proposals for future thematic groups/visits page 29
5.4 Good practices identified page 30
APPENDICES: page 31
Appendix 1: Formal invitation received from Albania page 31
Appendix 2: Agenda of the thematic visit page 31
Appendix 3: List of experts and participants of the thematic visit page 31
Appendix 4: European and international standards and reference texts page 31
Note: AnADDENDUM TO THE THEMATIC REPORT including all presentations
collected during the CAHROM thematic visit is available to the Secretariat upon request.
1.1 Background of the thematic report and visit
A thematic group on the legalisation of Roma houses/settlements was set up at the request of the Albanian CAHROM member at the 4th CAHROM meeting (Strasbourg, 28-30 November 2012). A letter from the Albanian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy confirming the invitation sent to the CAHROM’s group of experts to visit Tirana on 15-17 April 2013 was received by the Secretariat on 4 April 2013 (see Appendix 1).
The CAHROM members of Bosnia and Herzegovina and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, which had participated in a previous CAHROM thematic group on “Social housing for Roma”, expressed an interest in joining this group as partner countries. Both countries have a common history as countries from ex-Yugoslavia. They also have a similar agenda and policy approach in the field of Roma housing: i.e. to develop a legal basis for the legalisation of Roma settlements and to develop social housing programmes that will include a large number of Roma families. It was therefore useful to compare the different measures which had been undertaken by these two countries with the policy and measures undertaken in the requesting country, Albania.
During the 5th CAHROM meeting (Strasbourg, 14-16 May 2013), following a preliminary discussion about the main outcomes of the thematic visit to Tirana which reflected the fact that discussions went beyond the topic of legalisation, the Committee agreed to rename this report as follows: “social housing for Roma and legalisation of Roma settlements and houses”.
The present thematic report should therefore be read alongside the thematic report on “Social housing for Roma” (with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” as a requesting country, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Spain as partner countries) endorsed by the CAHROM at its 4th meeting.
With a view to preparing the thematic report and visit, each expert of the thematic group was asked to provide background information about the situation of Roma, the legislative framework and measures pertinent to the legalisation of Roma settlements/houses and social housing for Roma. The documents submitted by the requesting and partner countries, as well as presentations made during the visit, appear in an Addendum to this report available from the CAHROM Secretariat.
In the two partner countries covered by this report, Roma are considered as a national minority under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and benefit from targeted and positive discrimination measures in the context of respective national Roma strategies. In Albania, Roma are considered as an ethno-linguistic minority which is covered by the Framework Convention.
The three countries also participate in the Decade for Roma Inclusion (2005-2015) and have developed Decade Action Plans, including in the area of housing. The present report takes into consideration some of the findings of the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan on 2012 in Albania and in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
1.2 Composition of the thematic group of experts
The thematic group of experts was composed of experts from the respective ministries in charge of Roma and/or housing policies:
· For Albania, the Technical Secretariat on Roma within the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in Albania;
· For “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy”, the Ministry of Transport, as well as the Association of Local Self-Government Units;
· For Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees.
The OSCE-ODIHR through its project “Best Practices for Roma Integration (BPRI)” funded by the EU and participating States, has ensured the participation in this thematic group of an additional expert of Roma origin from each of the three participating countries. The list of experts and participants appears in Appendix 2.
1.3 Agenda of the thematic visit
The agenda of the thematic visit, which appears in Appendix 3, was organised by the Technical Secretariat on Roma within the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. It included a round table and bilateral meetings which involved the People’s Advocate, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Municipality of Tirana, the UNDP, UNICEF and Council of Europe Offices in Tirana, as well as representatives from civil society. In addition, the group of experts visited two informal Roma settlements in Tirana, Shkoza and Bregu I Lumit. The morning of the 3rd day was devoted to a debriefing meeting between experts of the thematic group and the Secretariat and to which a representative of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport was associated.
II. CONTEXT AND EXPECTATIONS
2.1 Context and purpose of the thematic report and visit
The thematic exchange on social housing for Roma and legalisation of Roma settlements and houses was timely for the three countries concerned by this report.
Amendments to the national social housing policy (Law no. 9232) were approved by the Albanian Government in May 2012. The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities which is in charge of monitoring national inclusion strategies and is currently revising its national Action Plans for the Decade of Roma Inclusion, including the housing Action Plan, was interested in hearing about the experience of countries of the Balkan region engaged in a similar process such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
There was also a particular interest among the group of experts for collecting information regarding legislation on legalisation of settlements, social housing-related legislation and methodology used to select beneficiaries for social housing programmes. Albania is also involved in the decentralisation of powers to local and regional authorities and was therefore interested to know more about the degree of involvement of local and regional actors in the implementation of housing-related policies.
The thematic visit to Tirana was itself timely since the municipality is engaged in a process of providing 385 social housing units for vulnerable categories of the population, including Roma families. The People’s Advocate also considered the CAHROM visit as being timely as ECRI had just published recommendations to Albania. Following the CAHROM group of experts’ visit to Tirana, the People’s Advocate provided the group of experts with the Executive Summary of his Recommendations to state institutions of Albania with regard to minority rights, pre-university educational system; protection from discrimination and living conditions of the Roma minority in Albania.
It was however mentioned during the visit that elections in June 2013 did not constitute the ideal moment for engaging in any immediate reform. The Albanian interlocutors were nevertheless confident that by the time of the endorsement by the CAHROM of the thematic report, i.e. in late October 2013, national and local authorities would be more receptive and could use the results of this thematic exercise as a valuable source of inspiration for their housing policy.
2.2 Expectations and items for discussion
Albania, as a requesting country was interested in tackling two aspects: 1) social housing programmes, in particular selection criteria for beneficiaries; and 2) models of partnerships between the public and the private sector. The Albanian CAHROM member had provided the group of experts with the following two items for discussion prior to the thematic visit.
1) Social housing programmes: Is there any intervention in partner countries that could be done in determining the criteria for Roma, including interventions in the legislative field and/or initiatives that could ensure a sustainable development of the process of completing the documentation for housing of the Roma community?
2) Successful models of partnership between the public and private sectors: How can this type of cooperation solve the problems faced by the Roma community? Are there any concrete models of public and private partnership? If not, what are the difficulties faced in the development of this process?
Other questions identified by the group of experts prior to the thematic visit are listed below:
- Have any steps been taken under the Decade Action Plan to broaden the scope of housing interventions, urban planning and rural development and make them part of a comprehensive cross-sectorial approach?
- Which process of legalisation of illegally constructed buildings has been followed?
- Are there any negotiations with authorities in order to legalize settlements?
- Are there any quantifiable indications as to the number of people, including Roma, affected by such measures?
- Are there any concrete measures to improve the availability, affordability and quality of social housing with access to affordable services?
- Are there any baseline data available on the number and proportion of Roma living without any access to public utilities and social service infrastructure?
- How many illegal settlements are there?
- Is there a quantifiable indication as to the change in the number of Roma with improved access to public utilities and social services infrastructure?
- Are there any contradictions between mainstream housing/regional policies and housing priorities set up in the national Roma inclusion strategy or Roma Decade action plan?
- Identify which measures have been adopted to promote the legalisation of Roma settlements.
2.3 Size and composition of the Roma groups in the participating countries
In Albania there are two different groups: Roma and Egyptians. Currently Roma and Egyptians in Albania differ from each other having completely different identities.
According to the population census from 2011, 8,301 persons declared themselves as Roma (0.30% of the total population). Estimates of the size of the Roma population in Albania range from 40,000 to 120,000. Roma live all over the country, although the biggest communities are concentrated in and around Tirana, the towns of Fier, Gjirokaster and Berat, and around the town of Korce. A great majority of them are living in deplorable conditions and face extreme poverty and social marginalization. A regional study of the UNDP published in 2006 reported that the rates of poverty and extreme poverty of Roma in Albania are particularly high (78% and 39%). The fact that a Roma woman in Albania earns 36% of the average wage of an Albanian woman is another example of the socio-economic situation of the Roma minority in Albania.
Unlike Roma, Egyptians do not speak the Romani language. Their distinctive features include particular activities such as blacksmiths, musicians, etc. They have a syncretic religion (which combines different parts of Islam, Orthodox religion and Animism). Unlike the Roma, Egyptians have been sedentary, usually living in “separate neighbourhoods” near the centre of cities or large villages which often even took their name. Compared to the Roma, they are more integrated into Albanian society. Women’s clothing, oral tradition, social organisation and the lifestyle as a whole are completely different between Roma and Egyptians. Both groups used to have little social contact and marriages between them used to be rare. This has changed in the last ten years with increasing interactions and intermarriages between the two communities.
Referring back to the conclusions of the World Bank qualitative needs assessment study carried out by a World Bank team from January 2002 to June 2003, “in comparison with the majority of the population, the percentage of the "very poor" group of households among Roma and Egyptians is apparently much higher: respectively 75 percent and 70 percent, while for the majority population, it is 28.8 percent. These communities are distinguished by two extremes, the 80 percent defined as the "very poor" and "poor" households, and a 5 percent minority in relatively good financial shape”.
See the table below for a distribution of identified poverty categories among Roma, Egyptians, and Albanians:
Source: 2002 World Bank qualitative needs assessment study on poverty in Albania.
As regards the housing situation, the same report concluded that “more than 40 percent of Roma and 30 percent of Egyptian families do not have running water in their homes because water connections have not been installed. The majority of these families live in makeshift or dilapidated housing with surface areas much lower than the national average. They also face difficulties obtaining state assistance and other forms of social assistance”. Though some progress has been made over the last ten years in several Roma policy areas, the above description regarding the housing situation of Roma remains globally relevant.
2.3.2 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Between 25,000 and 30,000 Roma are estimated to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina according to recent research. 19,500 persons or 4,500 households require some type of assistance as described in the Strategy and Action Plan. Other estimates consider that the Roma population in Bosnia and Herzegovina could total around 76,000 persons or 2% of the total population.
2.3.3 “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
According to the 2002 population census, the official number of Roma is 53,000, i.e. 2.6% of the total population, although estimated figures suggest that the total number could be over 150,000, reaching above 9% of the total population.
Roma are recognised as a distinct ethnicity in the preamble of the Constitution. The Skopje neighbourhood of Shuto Orizari is Europe's first Roma municipality (led by a Roma mayor) and the only one in the world where the Romani language has been granted an official status.
Roma do not concentrate in a particular region of the country, but are instead spread all over the territory. According to the 2002 population census, twenty-seven municipalities have a share of Roma exceeding 1%; ten of them have a share of Roma exceeding 4%. Ethnic differences are less relevant than the way of life, costume and appearance that the members of this group share. Most of them still speak their own language, Romani, together with the language that dominates in the regions where they are located, i.e. Macedonian and/or Albanian. A number of Roma in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” are Muslim, although some of them practise other religions too.
2.4 Housing situation of Roma and main problems encountered
The right to adequate and secure housing is a key human right and is enshrined in international human rights law. The UNDP/WB/EC regional Roma survey from 2011 provides information regarding the percentage of households facing multiple deprivations (see table below).
Following his visit to Albania in June 2008, the former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Mr Thomas Hammarberg, concluded that the situation of the Roma community, including the issues of housing and property documents concerning them, deserves special attention.
Taking into account the UNDP-commissioned “Needs Assessment Study on Roma and Egyptian communities in Albania” carried out by the Tirana-based Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) in February 2012, Roma have lived for many years in the same settlements thus taking it for granted that they own their homes, whereas in reality the state owns the land. This may explain the very high percentage of respondents claiming to “own” their home – 80.6%.The main constraints in terms of dwellings for the Roma community appear to be the lack of drinking water, toilets and sewage facilities inside the household, followed by means of communication such as the possibility to install a telephone line. In addition, community infrastructure in general seems to be lacking as a large percentage of the community’s members report living in neighbourhoods with either unpaved roads or roads in a bad condition.
Almost 1/4 of interviewees live in shacks, tents or other non-brick housing units. This is a very high percentage compared to the rest of the population and directly affects the socio-economic conditions of the Roma. The remaining interviewees - 38.4% - declare that they live mainly in old houses.
The legalisation process directly affects Roma and Egyptian households through the improvement of their quality of living and better access to communal resources, as well as through the freeing up of equity for any further investment intended by the real estate owner - hence the importance of public information policies regarding applications and legal aid for legalisation procedures. Roma interviewees show a peri-urban profile, illustrated by the fact that only 12.5% report owning agricultural land. 49.4% of those who own land cultivate grain, 19.1% do not grow anything and 20.2% rent out the agricultural land.
In addition to the dwelling conditions, the majority of the Roma report living in areas that have unpaved roads (52.2%) or have roads which are in a bad condition (22.5%). The high frequency of internal migration makes their dwelling conditions precarious. In many of the new settlements, the Roma live in camps consisting of tents or huts located mainly on the rivers banks. The size of the camp varies according to the area. In Tirana (Shkoza, Farka, etc.) and Shkodra, camps are large and consist of 20 to 50 tents/huts. In Kukës, Peshkopi, Shupenza, Beltoja, Vrion, etc. they consist of 10 to 20 tents/huts, while in Fushë Ali, Qafë e Vishës, Ersekë, etc from 2 to 5 tents. In some other settlements, such as Saranda and Milot, the Roma have put up their tents in abandoned warehouses, paying rent to their owners. In small settlements the Roma are often members of the same family, while in the big settlements the Roma families come from different areas of Albania.
According to the Civil Society Monitoring report on the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in Albania “housing is the second highest priority concern of the Roma community in Albania (see graphic below and also Chapter 4.1). “Homelessness, rehabilitation of houses, legalisation and property title issues, and poor infrastructure are considered by the Roma community as some of the most pressing problems to be resolved”.
“Roma families are almost always excluded from the social housing programs. Few of them can benefit from low-cost social housing because the majority of Roma are unemployed and/or do not have regular monthly income, which is a precondition of Banks for financing. Similarly, Roma are not considered a specific target group in the social housing rental program and Roma housing conditions are not properly quantified – families living in slums are not included in housing statistics, families without income are not included in the economic status and Roma families in general are excluded in statistics about social conditions. As a result, it is obvious that social housing programs only address housing problems of specific families in need and these programs are not dedicated to Roma families”.
In April 2013, thePeople’s Advocate in Albania made public his recommendations to state institutions regarding minority rights, the pre-university educational system, protection from discrimination and the living conditions of the Roma ethno-linguistic minority. Three of these recommendations are of particular relevance for Roma:
2.4.2 Bosnia and Herzegovina
In 2004 ERRC reported that several years after the warring parties had ratified the Dayton Peace Agreement (Nov. 1995) that provided for the return of refugees into the country, many Roma families who had returned to Bosnia from Western Europe still did not have access to their pre-war homes which were either occupied or had been destroyed. Many of these families were temporarily placed in unauthorised and substandard locations or settlements with no water supply or sanitary infrastructure.
It was repeatedly said that the substandard housing conditions of Roma negatively affect their access to education and employment, as well as access to healthcare institutions, and generally prompt deterioration in the health of people living in these settlements, hence the priority given to housing by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Remaining challenges identified during the implementation of Roma housing projects include:
During the conflict each of the ethnic groups established their own administrations that, among other things, administered 'abandoned' property. Legislation was enacted in all areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina that deprived individuals of their property and allocated such property to other individuals on either a temporary or permanent basis. Property was supposed to be allocated to individuals with humanitarian needs, but often was not done so.
In 2009, Hilfswerk International Austria (HWA) performed the Study “Assessment of needs for social housing in Bosnia and Herzegovina” under a contract with the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees. The purpose of the research was to obtain information on total social housing needs in Bosnia and Herzegovina covering the 12 most vulnerable categories by gender and age.
The research includedfamilies with unresolved housing problems and excluded persons with the temporary right to stay in the municipalities (displaced persons and refugees).
A total of 119 municipalities (84.4%) answered the survey. Analysis of the results showed that 28,322 households were in need of social housing, i.e. more than 53,000 persons; 77% of these households were living in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), whilst 23% were living in Republika Srpska (RS).
2.4.3 “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
In the area of housing for Roma, the Government is confronted with four main problems:
a) The Roma population are not sufficiently aware of the regulations and administrative procedures in the field of property and do not have enough support for accessing information;
b) Despite (social) housing policies and programmes in force for vulnerable population categories, Roma, especially young married couples, do not have sufficient access to housing;
c) The housing situation of the Roma population needs to be scanned from all aspects (there is a need for concrete statistical data). Local scanning is very important because of the competencies of the Units of Local Self-Governments (ULSG) in the area of housing and in order to make needs and impact assessments;
d) Temporary accommodation is not adequate (the same problem applies to everyone, but it especially affects the Roma population). There are no regulated procedures for leaving temporary accommodation or for granting durable housing.
About 80,000 households lack long-term housing solutions and 12% of the housing stock is sub-standard. The average age of buildings in the country is 30 years, and, a result of poor maintenance, most are in need of immediate replacement or renovation.
Living conditions of rural, poor, Roma are particularly bad. The primary need is access to water and proper sewerage. Housing conditions are particularly bad for Roma households. About 320,000 people, almost 15% of the country’s population, live in illegally constructed buildings. The capital city, Skopje, hosts squatter settlements of about 120,000 people. It has the largest Roma community in Europe which lives in a ghetto-like environment.
According to “Habitat for Humanity-Macedonia”, many Roma live in illegal houses, with less than 5 sq. meters per person; they have limited access to finances, are not represented enough in state institutions, lack education and have sub-standard living conditions with little access to basic infrastructure.
According to the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012, “there are no data available on the number of Roma living in segregated environments in Macedonia and there have been no measures to promote residential desegregation. As a result, there are also no quantifiable indications as to any change in the number of Roma living in segregated environments in 2012. On the other hand, there are no contradictions between mainstream housing policies and the goal of desegregation, with the country’s flagship social housing project allotting housing to Romani families in ethnically mixed apartment buildings throughout the country”.
III. RELEVANT EUROPEAN AND INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS AND REFERENCE TEXTS
Roma and housing issues such as the legalisation of Roma settlements and houses, as well as the inclusion of Roma beneficiaries in social housing policies, have been extensively addressed and documented by European and international governmental and non-governmental organisations through conventions, recommendations, case-law, reports and projects. Particularly relevant are reports covering the countries from the present thematic group from UNDP, World Bank, OSCE, from the Civil Society Monitoring of Roma National Strategies and Decade Action Plans and from ECRI.
According to Paragraph 24 on the legalisation of Roma settlements of the Recommendation Rec(2005)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on improving the housing conditions of Roma and Travellers in Europe, “the public authorities should make every effort to resolve the undefined legal status of Roma settlements as a precondition for further improvements. Where Roma camp illegally, public authorities should use a proportionate response. This may be through negotiation or the use of legal action. However, they should seek, where possible, solutions, which are acceptable for all parties in order to avoid Roma from being excluded from access to services and amenities to which they are entitled as citizens of the state where they live”.
Paragraph 31 of the same CM Recommendation states the following: “Bearing in mind the diversity of national, regional and local situations, member states should provide for adequate housing models, through national legislations, policies or strategies. Provision should also be made for Roma to be able to acquire their own accommodation by different means, forms and methods of access to housing, such as social housing, cooperatives, do-it-yourself housing, public housing, caravans and other innovative forms of housing. All the relevant elements to the housing models mentioned (financial, social and other) should be carefully defined”.
Both the CoE and the EU prioritise the implementation of integrated approaches on Roma housing to promote desegregation, to facilitate public utility and social service infrastructures and to improve the availability, affordability and quality of social housing with access to affordable services.
IV. LEGISLATION, POLICIES, STRUCTURES AND SPECIFIC MEASURES
4.1.1 Roma and housing policies
In Albania, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport is responsible for housing issues in general, whilst the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy has responsibility to coordinate and monitor implementation of both the National Strategy on Improving the Living Conditions of the Roma minority (adopted in 2003) and the Roma Decade Action Plans.
In 2003 the Albanian Government adopted the “National Strategy for Improving the Living Conditions of the Roma Minority” (hereafter the Strategy”). It was drafted by the representatives of all relevant Ministries of the Albanian Government in consultation with the representatives of the Roma NGOs. The Strategy covers a period of 15 years and comprises five important and broad fields: special education and training; cultural heritage and family; economy, employment, decrease of poverty and social protection; health and infrastructure; and, public order, justice and civil administration.
The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities is monitoring the implementation of the Strategy and has established a special section to this end called the Technical Secretariat on Roma.
According to international stakeholders (including the Council of Europe, European Union and UNDP) and civil society representatives represented in the Roma Decade, the implementation of the Strategy has been slow and ineffective and the Strategy has not been supported by sufficient resources. There has also been a lack of periodic implementation assessments, which are vital to ensure that the Strategy is updated and really addresses the acute problems.
The former Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe believed that the monitoring mechanism of this Strategy should be strengthened and clear evaluation mechanisms should be established, with clear deadlines when appropriate. He also recommended an effective use of limited financial resources and an active involvement of the Roma community in all phases of the process.
On 24 July 2008, Albania joined the Decade for Roma Inclusion (2005-2015) and developed a National Action Plan for the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2010-2015 which includes “Housing and Infrastructure” under its main priorities. In this area, the strategic goal of the Albanian Government was sustainable improvement of housing conditions for the Roma population, and the main objective was to provide opportunities for Roma to access housing and infrastructure services in compliance with the state standards.
The main activities envisaged under the Housing and Infrastructure Chapter of the National Decade Action Plan are the following:
4.1.2 Social housing (for Roma)
Amendments to the National Social Housing Policy (Law no. 9232) were approved by the Albanian Government in May 2012.
The Social Housing Programme of the Municipality of Tirana aims to facilitate access to housing for vulnerable groups according to criteria established by legal acts which provide social housing and low interest loans. This programme facilitates in particular the procedures for completing all relevant documents required by applicants to become included in the list of homeless citizens. However, members of the Roma community are faced with difficulties in fulfilling the criterion of “regular income” needed to become beneficiaries of this scheme, especially if they are unemployed, since they are not registered as unemployed job-seekers or cannot prove their income resulting from informal activities. Often they cannot envisage paying the rent and credit repayments even if they benefitted from a facilitated loan. Local interlocutors have also complained about delays in implementing this programme.
In the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in Albania, a whole chapter is dedicated to social housing programmes, explaining how the distribution of social housing is carried out in Albania and how Roma are not specifically targeted for these housing programmes. There is a points system in place according to the situation of the family, whereby Roma families get 5 points out of 100 (for example in the municipality of Elbasan).
4.1.3 Partnership between the public and the private sectors
The Municipality of Tirana aims to create successful models of partnership between the public sector (represented by the local or public administration) and private sector (local economic representation, business associations, and private financial institutions).
4.1.4 Role of international actors and national NGOs in the field of Roma and housing
An agreement was signed in November 2007 between the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the support of the National Strategy for Improving the Living Conditions of the Roma Minority and Decade Action Plans and the monitoring of their implementation.
In Tirana, the group of experts visited the offices of UNDP to deepen discussions about projects carried out by UNDP for Roma and Egyptian communities. UNDP considers the housing of Roma to be very important although it is costly and long-term.
From 2010 to 2012, UNDP provided legal aid for civil registration, covering births, transfer of residence, child custody, the unemployed job-seeking, application for healthcare and social welfare and various types of pensions. It also provided assistance to some 100 Roma families for preparing their application/documentation for social housing in Tirana (37 to 40 of these Roma families could be eligible for receiving social housing by the Municipality of Tirana).
UNDP Projects on Roma/Egyptian communities are implemented in 7 out of the 12 Albanian regions and are aimed at supporting participatory planning, facilitating access to rights, as well as promoting institutional strengthening for social inclusion. The major activities that have been focused on are mobilizing communities for identifying local development priorities, co-financing with local governments infrastructure projects identified by Roma/Egyptian communities (i.e. kindergarten, health centres, internal roads, sewage, community centres etc.), training and provision of micro-grants for Roma/Egyptian civil society organisations, vocational trainings and employability assistance for Roma/Egyptian job-seekers, legal aid for civil registration, assisting the Technical Secretariat on Roma to monitor the National Decade Action Plan for Roma, as well as promoting intercultural exchange and social inclusion.
Additionally, UNDP has been providing advice to the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and to the Peoples’ Advocate and local institutions in relation to various legal amendments on social housing, social welfare, transfer of residence, civil registration, as well as on other public and social rights with a view to responding to the needs of Roma and Egyptian communities. UNDP has also advised the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities for setting-up a National Reception Centre which should provide immediate and transitory shelter to those families ( including Roma) who do not meet yet criteria for standard social housing programmes and/or have applied and waiting for an answer.
Currently, UNDP is supporting the Municipality of Tirana in the drafting of a local action plan for Roma in which housing policies would also be addressed. Yet, it is to be highlighted that within the housing concept there are various alternatives (immediate shelter and humanitarian assistance, rent bonus, provision of land served with infrastructure, credits with low or zero interest, social apartments, etc.). When choosing among them, one should consider the current profile of the families in need (i.e. long-term unemployed and homeless, no employment skills, surviving in informality via individual scrap collection, running a big family, often developing a forced primitive living style, etc.).
Partner countries’ experts were also interested by the promotion of Roma handicraft in Albania, supported by UNDP and the EU Delegation.
The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) has funded a Rental Social Housing Programme. This programme is implemented in 8 municipalities and started with house construction in 2008. It aims to accommodate 1,138 families in total. In early 2011, the first families were sheltered in the Municipality of Berat (48 families from which 12 families belong to the Egyptian community), and in 2012 the Municipality of Elbasan accommodated 90 families from 96 apartments in total (from which 10 families belong to the Roma community). Other municipalities are in the process of selecting beneficiaries.
4.1.5 Other housing projects
The Albanian expert from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport provided the following additional information:
The group of experts was informed that there is no available disaggregated information about Roma families who have applied or benefited from the two above programmes, since neither application forms nor the identification documents of applicants provide information on ethnicity “to avoid discrimination”. This makes it difficult for the authorities to indicate the number of possible Roma beneficiaries.
This programme envisages a list of priority beneficiaries, including:
- Persons with orphan status;
- Persons with disabilities;
- Families of policemen killed on duty;
- Returned migrants;
- Employed migrants;
- Roma families;
- Employees of the State Police.
The group of experts was informed that Roma can profit from a rent subsidy, not only as “Roma families” but also as applicants under other above-mentioned priority categories. As an example, a Roma family having persons with disabilities can cumulate points from both “the Roma families” and “the persons with disabilities” categories.
4.2 Bosnia and Herzegovina
4.2.1 Roma and housing policies
Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Decade of Roma Inclusion on 4 September 2008. In 2009 the implementation of the Action Plan on Roma Housing adopted in July 2008 started.
The Roma Decade Housing Action Plan includes the following three main objectives:
The main measures carried out include:
4.2.2 Social housing (for Roma)
In order to implement the Action Plan on Housing, the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereafter “the MHRR”) decided in 2009 to plan in the state budget 1,500,000 Euros each year during the Roma Decade period. Out of this amount, 1,000,000 Euros were allocated for Roma housing, the main priority of the Bosnian policy for Roma.
Based on the planned financial means, the MHRR announced a public call for submitting Roma housing projects in June 2009. The public call lasted for a month. All municipalities, cities, cantons, entities, local and international organisations and institutions and NGOs had the right to propose projects.
The Commission in charge of the selection of the projects received 34 project proposals and nine projects were funded by the state budget. The Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) decided to provide funds for eight additional Roma housing projects that met all requested criteria. The state Roma housing projects are intended for the most vulnerable Roma families. Priority was given to construction of Roma houses, as well as reconstruction and improvement of living conditions and infrastructure of existing houses.
On top of the state budget and SIDA funds, municipalities and local and international NGOs, as implementers of the projects, participated with their own means. Co-financing was crucial in the decision taken by the Commission in charge of the selection of the projects. Taking into consideration all invested funds in Roma housing in 2009, a total of 2,900,000 Euros was spent.
Attention was paid to the number of housing units and cost per Roma housing unit in the projects. Infrastructure connections were obligatory. Roma representatives participated in the selection process and independent monitoring.
Once a project was approved, a Commission in charge of the selection of beneficiaries was set up. It consisted of: a municipal representative, social welfare centres representatives, implementing partners and two local Roma representatives. This Commission selected the most vulnerable Roma families as beneficiaries of the project. Representatives of the MHRR were observers of the selection process.
The Roma housing projects that were approved in 2009 were carried out in 2010, taking into consideration that the implementers had to respect all legal procedures for the selection of the construction companies, public procurement procedures, etc.
The construction/reconstruction of Roma housing units was done in accordance with the regulations on unified housing standards and conditions for reconstruction (minimum living conditions as per legislation). In the regulations, all construction conditions are prescribed (inner walls, roof, isolation, bathroom equipment, infrastructure connections, etc.).
The results of the 2009 Roma Housing Projects are as follows:
In 2010 the MHRR planned in the state budget the same amount for Roma housing (i.e. €. 1,000,000). The Federation Ministry for Spatial Planning contributed €150,000.
In order to receive more Roma housing project applications that would meet all specified criteria, the MHRR organised regional workshops and trained local authorities and NGOs in how to prepare the projects.
The public call for Roma housing projects for 2010 was announced in June 2010 and lasted for a month.
The Commission in charge of the selection of the projects received 41 project proposals, 34 of which met all requested criteria. The Commission visited all Roma locations proposed in the submitted projects and decided to provide funds for 13 Roma housing projects.
The realisation of the Roma housing projects from 2010 was continued in 2011. The MHRR contributed financially together with the Ministry for Spatial Planning of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2011 and decided to finance three projects.
The 2010 and 2011 projects were continued in the next years with the cycle repeated. The budgetary means were allocated for 2012 and 2013 as well. The cycle of selection of Roma housing projects and planning of funds will be continued each year in the same way.
Achieved results up to the beginning of 2013:
- 360 Roma housing units were constructed or reconstructed;
- 270 Roma families were beneficiaries of infrastructure projects;
- In total, about 6 million Euros were spent on Roma housing in 3.5 years;
- Housing projects were implemented in 55 municipalities;
- The construction/reconstruction for an additional 100 housing units is expected in 2013 based on budget funds allocated in 2012.
The categories of beneficiaries included in the survey and the number of households concerned were the following:
1,256 households in the whole country were considered as most vulnerable as they belonged to two or more of the abovementioned categories.
1,391 households were Roma families (i.e. 5.968 persons). This included 1,079 Roma families in 31 municipalities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and 312 Roma families in eight municipalities of Republika Srpska (RS).
As regards the housing project for Roma for 2009, the total project costs – for a duration of 18 months - amounted to 2,336,300 KM. The Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees covered 1,553,000 KM (66% of total costs), whilst Hilfswerk International Austria (HWA), the municipality and other ministries jointly covered 783,700 KM (34% of total costs).
Direct beneficiaries included Roma families who were residents in targeted municipalities and who had unresolved housing problems and/or lived in inhabitable housing units. The total number of Roma beneficiaries was 70 families (about 400 persons) from the municipalities of Zenica (16 families), Kiseljak (15 families), Jajce (19 families) and Bijeljina (20 families).
Example of the project in Zenica: the 16 Roma families (75 persons) who benefited from the project were living in collective centres and used to live – before the war –in now fully damaged barracks belonging to Željezara (Kasine and Blatuši). They were granted to right to use the flats for a period of five years. Families must pay the rent, maintenance and utilities and are obliged to send their children to school regularly. Every five years their status and right for social housing will be re-examined.
As regards the housing project for Roma for 2010, the total project costs for a duration of 12 months and for two municipalities (Tuzla and Banovići) amounted to 752,000 KM (600.000 KM covered by MHRR and 152,000 KM covered by HWA/municipality/other ministries).
Direct beneficiaries were Roma families residing in the two targeted municipalities and with unresolved housing issues and/or living in inhabitable housing units. The total number of Roma beneficiaries was 28 families (about 100 persons), i.e. 15 families in Tuzla and 13 families in Banovići.
In all key phases (beneficiaries’ selection, best contractor, technical inspection, over-handing and technical acceptance of works) all relevant actors were involved, i.e.:
Tender procedures were prepared in accordance with the Law on Public Procurement of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The selection of beneficiaries was done on the basis of a public call in accordance to pre-established criteria by the Committee for the Selection of Beneficiaries (CSB).
Consideration was given to the use of alternative methodology in case of possible non-cooperation and/or avoidance of fulfilment of obligation by other project stakeholders;
4.2.3 Role of international actors and national NGOs in the field of Roma and housing
See under 4.2.2 above the contribution of the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) and Hilfswerk International Austria (HWA) to the Roma housing projects.
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) decided to provide funds for eight additional Roma housing projects that met all the requested criteria (five in FbiH and three in RS/Brcko district). The contract was signed with the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees in November 2009 for a planned funding of 2,175,800 KM.
Since a lot of other projects meeting the prescribed criteria could not be funded due to lack of funds, SIDA decided to finance other projects that met the criteria for an amount of SEK 10,500,000 / 2,015.000 KM. In this way it was possible to finance additional projects in Banja Luka, Kladanj, Vitez, Travnik and Bihac.
Results of the housing projects for Roma in 2009/2010 as provided by HWA:
Planned number of housing units
Kiseljak, settlement Hrastovi
Jajce, settlement Skela, Kuprešani
Zenica, settlement Brist - social housing
76 housing units and 5 septic tanks (out of 70 planned) were totally built or reconstructed. The building/reconstruction of 28 housing units inTuzla and Banovići is under progress.
Problems identified during this project during the selection process of beneficiaries:
Problems identified during this project as regards standards and project knowledge:
UNDP supported the Bosnian authorities in both the revision of the housing programme and the Action Plan to optimise the central database of all users and beneficiaries of the Roma housing projects.
A request was made in 2011 to IPA for an amount of five million Euros, 80% of which was for housing, which was subsequently approved. The first phase, amounting to 2.5 million Euros, has started in 2013 and will be implemented by Hilfswerk organisation.
4.3 “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
4.3.1 Roma and housing policies
The domestic legal framework covering the issue of Roma housing includes the following:
Co-ordination is ensured with other national strategies and plans, such as:
In 2005, the Government of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was one of the ten countries which initiated the Decade for Roma Inclusion (2005-2015). Within that framework, the Government developed a housing-related Decade Action Plan, which has been revised in the meantime.
The general objective of the revised National Action Plan on Housing for the period 2009-2011 foresaw that at least 400 Roma households would be housed according to the minimal housing standards by the end of 2011, through social housing and renewal or reconstruction of homes, as well as the urbanisation and improvement of the infrastructure of settlements mostly inhabited by Roma.
The revised National Action Plan on Housing also set out the following five specific objectives:
1) At least 60 Roma families should be accommodated through social housing and conditions for additional housing created through the granting of 3% of the construction parcels planned for sale, if the preconditions for undertaking measures are fulfilled;
2) 300 Roma families should be completely accommodated according to the minimal standards of housing through urbanisation of settlements mostly inhabited by Roma. It includes the provision of administrative support to Roma to acquire identity documents;
3) At least 20 Roma households annually obtain minimum housing standards through the renewal or reconstruction of their homes;
4) Improved infrastructure (streets, waterworks, sewerage) in 13 settlements mostly inhabited by Roma;
5) Needs assessment of the housing conditions and capacity-building for the Roma population on housing-related issues for the Roma population, through estimation of the needs and strengthening capacities.
Both state and non-governmental institutions are involved in the field of housing. The main responsible public structure is the Ministry of Transport and Communication. Other public partners include the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (for vulnerable groups, including Roma), enterprises that manage the state-owned residential or business premises, the Fund for National Roads, the Units of Local Self-Governments, and the Agency for Spatial Planning.
Due to the recent decentralisation process, the distribution of responsibilities has been redefined: the Ministry plans, the Government approves and the municipalities co-fund. The citizens are supposed to find housing by themselves. There is, however, some support provided by the state for certain categories of citizens, as well as free accommodation in daily centres.
4.3.2 Housing projects (for Roma)
According to the data provided by the Ministry of Transport and Communication, in terms of activities of the National Action Plan for Housing, during the period of 2008-2010, the Ministry of Transport and Communication in co-operation with the municipalities that are predominantly inhabited by Roma implemented the following:
Sanitary and storm sewer,
reconstruction of the sewerage network
Prilep, Stip, Karpos, Kicevo, Topaana, Gazi Baba, Kumanovo
Installation of water supply systems, reconstruction of the water supply network,
reconstruction of streets
Stip, Bitola, Delcevo, Veles, Vinica
Underground installations and asphalt paving
Bitola, Kocani, Vinica
Construction of supporting structures
Housing projects for socially vulnerable groups: the Government decision states that 10% of planned social housing is to be allocated to Roma. In compliance with this Governmental decision, the following has been undertaken:
Construction of social housings allocated to Roma families
Skopje / Gorce Petrov
With the start of the project under IPA Component I 2008 dating from 17 January 2011, international experts have been engaged continually for the purpose of conducting analyses and determining the need for training, and determining the need to prepare local action plans, in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.
According to the data collected by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, local action plans for housing exist in the following municipalities:
Revision in progress
Revision in progress
Revision of the LAP
Revision of the LAP
New LAP needed
LAP for Housing exists
New LAP needed
Preparation of new LAP in progress
Preparation of new LAP in progress
Expressed interest regarding the preparation of a new LAP
In 2010, 10,894,000 MKD were allocated from the state budget for the realisation of sewerage infrastructure projects for 13 municipalities that are predominantly inhabited by Roma. The funds were used by 11 municipalities.
In 2011, 10,986,000.00 MKD were allocated from the state budget by the Ministry of Transport and Communications for the realisation of projects to implement the Roma Decade Action Plan for housing, the housing chapter of the Roma Strategy and the National Action Plan for Housing. Sewerage infrastructure projects were carried out in the following municipalities: Bitola, Cair, Stip, Gazi Baba, Kocani, Kicevo, Prilep, Delcevo, and Gorce Petrov. The following projects have been implemented:
1. Municipality Bitola: 2,086,000 MKD for the reconstruction of the pavement of Ljubljana Street, parts 1,2,3 in the Bair settlement;
2. Municipality Chair: 1,700,000 MKD for reconstruction of streets 376/1 and 376/2 in the Stare Topanga settlement;
3. Municipality Gaza Baba: 1,500,000 MKD for the construction of faecal sewerage on Street no. 12 in Jugular settlement;
4. Municipality Kowhai: 1,000,000 MKD for the construction of a support wall on Stamen Manor Street - part 2;
5. Municipality KOCEV: 1,000,000 MKD for the reconstruction of the river bed and streets;
6. Municipality Pileup: 900,000 MKD for the construction of sewerage on part of Petrovska Street;
7. Municipality Deceive: 800,000 MKD for the reconstruction of part of the supply network, zone circle pipeline KRAK 2.
In 2011, a total of 30 apartments were awarded to members of the Roma community based on the announcement released in 2009 for the allocation of housing flats built during the Housing Project for socially vulnerable groups - F / P 1674. This is partly financed by a loan amounting to 25,350,000 Euros from the Council of Europe Development Bank in accordance with Loan Agreement F / P 1674 (2009), as well as with 25,350,000 Euros from the state budget.
This project, which defines Roma as one of the groups eligible to receive subsidised apartments in ethnically mixed buildings, is an example of effective measures through the specific targeting of Roma in housing. According to the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, “overall, the introduction of targeting by ethnicity has served to complement mainstream policies, with targeting bringing increased attention to the particularly disadvantaged situation of the Romani population” .
4.3.3 Legalisation of (Roma) informal houses and settlements
The Law on handling illegally constructed buildings which entered into force on March 3rd 2011, supported by the Ministry of Transport and Communications and Local Self-Government Units, is valid for six years. It concerns the buildings constructed in protected areas (culture, environment, road and airport protection zones, etc.) and the illegal buildings constructed on land with undetermined rights (the land has not been displayed. The main steps for the process of legalisation are:
Concerning the legalisation of settlements, the Government is taking measures to resolve the issue of illegal houses such as:
- amending detailed urban plans in Roma settlements;
- amending the Master Plan for Roma settlements;
- planning and building collective and individual social flats;
- granting land for the construction of collective social flats for Roma.
The illegal constructions that do not meet the conditions for establishing legal status shall be removed in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Construction.
For a more detailed description of the procedure for legalisation (application requirements, legislation, etc.), one might refer to the chapter dedicated to the legalisation of Roma settlements of the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. This report includes a description of the number of demands and current status: “fewer than 13% of the total of 354,169 applications for legalisation submitted under the Law on Procedure for Illegally Built Structures had been resolved as of February 2013, with 42,997 applications approved and 497 rejected. While around 19% of submitted applications (67,172) were in process, in nearly two thirds of all cases (66.1% or 234,132) processing had been suspended pending completion of application packages, with a deadline of June 2014 imposed for the submission of geodetic reports.”
4.3.4 Role of international actors and national NGOs in the field of Roma and housing
Several non-state actors are involved in the field of Roma and housing. Examples of projects implemented by NGOs and/or international partners are listed below:
A contract for the legalisation of housing of Roma people was signed with Open Society Foundations, the civil organisation Roma National Centre (RNC) from Kumanovo and the association for humanitarian housing Habitat Macedonia on 18 January 2012. The project provides financial, administrative and technical support for the legalisation of the houses of the Roma population. It has a four year duration (2012-2015).The total budget for the project amounts to 905,208 US dollars. Each local partner has been given certain responsibilities:
Roma National Centre’s President, Mr Ashmet Elezovski, is in charge under this project of informing Roma people about possibilities to legalise their homes and then to fully help them in the process of legalisation. For that purpose, the Roma National Centre has already opened a Resource Centre in Kumanovo where all interested Roma people can obtain technical legal assistance.
Habitat-Macedonia, part of Habitat for Humanity, a US-based non-profit Christian organisation that provides housing to low-income families, has been given responsibility to develop a series of measures related to Roma social housing.
In co-operation with the Microcredit Foundation Horizonti, an organisation specified in providing micro-credits for housing purposes (for reconstruction/renovation/repair), micro-loans for Roma families have been provided. Horizonti provides financial services to low-income populations through business loans for microenterprises and small housing repair loans.
The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) has provided a donation (through the Norway Trust Fund) to “Housing Microfinance for Roma and Marginalised Groups”, mainly for the development and the testing of this micro-credit project.
The first micro-loans were developed in Shuto Orizari I municipality and then extended to other cities with a significant Roma population. Open Society Foundations (OSF) and Roma National Centre (RNC) are associated with this programme.
In line with the basic principles of Habitat for Humanity, other ethnic groups from the same municipality should not be excluded, as long as they comply with the loan conditions. The specific objectives of the project are the development of credit lines which should:
The Roma Housing Fund is implemented through a credit line that offers loans ranging from 500 to 1,700 Euros with a maximum repayment period of 30 months. The families that are eligible for this phase must already be Horizonti customers. Micro-loans are given to Roma women in particular.
About 300 requests for loans were received.
It was decided that loans could also be disbursed to help Roma people in preparing the documentation and covering the fees for the legalisation of their home.
This disbursement of loans was organised so as to ensure the sustainability of the assistance programme so that more Roma families can benefit from it in the long term.
This project is part of the Housing programme for Roma financed by the UNDHP programme. Four action plans were developed to lobby and inform Roma about their housing rights:
a) To support people who wanted to benefit from the Law on Legalisation;
b) To increase the number of houses legally-owned by Roma;
c) To conduct awareness-raising campaigns;
d) To provide legal aid, monitoring and advocacy. A support resource centre for legal aid prepared a legal database of loan applicants.
In 2009, a €25.3 million loan was approved in favour of the Government of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, for the partial financing of the construction of 37 buildings in 19 towns of the country. The project will benefit 1,708 families, approximately 6,000 persons on low-incomes, such as residents of areas affected by natural disasters, Roma and people with disabilities.
V. CONCLUSIONS, LESSONS LEARNT AND GOOD PRACTICES IDENTIFIED
5.1 General conclusions and lessons learnt
As the result of the visit, during the last day, in the presence of the experts from the partner countries and the requesting country, including a representative of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the following conclusions were drawn up:
The general understanding of partner countries’ experts was that several Albanian interlocutors had not been properly informed prior to the visit of the group of experts about the purpose of the visit of the CAHROM group of experts. They felt that the Technical Secretariat on Roma, despite starting with good intentions to put the legalisation of Roma settlements on the agenda of the Government with a view to advancing the implementation of the Roma Decade Action Plan on housing and relevant chapter of the National Strategy for Roma integration, had omitted to engage other institutional partners in that process. The visit was therefore perceived as a sort of monitoring exercise “imposed” by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. The debriefing meeting managed to clarify that this was not the case. Both this Ministry and our interlocutors in the Municipality of Tirana did not show much curiosity about the experience of social housing and legalisation of Roma houses in partner countries, which is the basic understanding for initiating thematic groups and visits. During the first day’s round table, experts from the partner countries indicated that there was not enough time for presentations of their relevant policies and measures. However, partner countries’ experts actively participated in the discussion and did generally manage to express their views.
The experts of partner countries indicated that the meetings and the field visits to the illegal Roma settlements of Bregu I Lumit and Shkoza in Tirana allowed them to understand the harsh reality of Roma living in these settlements, highlighting some of the problems faced by these Roma families as regards their housing conditions, in particular the registration process and the eligibility criteria for social housing which prevent most vulnerable Roma families from accessing it.
Other areas of concern included the lack of a minority law, the use of official census data as opposed to estimates to draw up policies for Roma and a lack of projects, measures and budget allocation specifically designed for Roma on behalf of line ministries. This makes it difficult for the authorities to implement the Roma national strategy and Roma Decade action plans.
Whilst there was evidence of close cooperation with international actors such as UNDP, the need for stronger cooperation between authorities and civil society was highlighted. Among the positive elements, the experts mentioned the recruitment of a young Roma woman in the Municipality of Tirana and the current setting up of an online registration and statistical database by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities with the support of the UNDP Programme “Empowering Vulnerable Local Communities”. This monitoring and reporting system of the National Action Plan Indicators for the Roma Decade “ROMALB” provides an online system established in 12 regions in Albania and is administered centrally by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Local government staff are expected to feed/provide data according to detailed indicators as stipulated in the National Action Plan 2010-2015 and translate this data into tailored policies and actions.
5.2 Specific conclusions and recommendations
During the visit, bilateral meetings and round table, important questions and obstacles concerning the process of both the legalisation of Roma houses/settlements and the provision for social housing to Roma were underlined by the experts:
The experts identified a lack of projects and measures specifically designed for Roma and a lack of specific annual budgetary allocations within line ministries to implement measures foreseen under the Roma Decade Action Plans and national Roma strategy. Despite the fact that Albania has committed itself under the Decade for Roma Inclusion to adopt specific action plans for Roma and allocate state funding specifically to Roma, in practice line ministries do not have any such specific budget lines.
The representative of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport indicated that in 2008 the Ministry had an envelope of 200,000 Euros specifically for Roma. From those funds, only 74,000 Euros were spent, being used for the construction of 22 new dwellings in Bilisht, as well as for infrastructure (road) for 2 families in Kucova and 4 families in Polican. The other 126,000 Euros remained unspent because the local government units of Korca and Tirana did not realise what the procurement process involved (due to lack of capacity, lack of will, lack of information from municipalities, etc.). Since then, the Ministry of Finance has not approved any financial allocations to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport specifically for Roma. The group of experts was however informed during the visit that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport plans to submit a new request for Roma specific funding to the Ministry of Finance in 2014.
Since “Housing” is the second main priority concern expressed by Roma communities, the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in Albania recommends to start identifying Roma housing needs with a general technical and independent evaluation of Roma housing conditions, including in particular homeless Roma families, rehabilitation needs and Roma families living in slums. The group of experts would also agree with another proposal of this report, i.e. that a Roma Housing Fund be established, which could help finance, coordinate and manage all actions regarding Roma housing concerns.
Applicants for social housing must fulfil approximately 17 criteria in order to be eligible for social housing. Two of these are almost impossible to fulfil by Roma families, i.e. regular income (at best, the families in the informal settlements visited by the group of experts earn money from collecting cans – this is not considered as a regular source of income) and registration of residence. Most of the Roma families in those informal areas are not regarded as residents of Tirana. Some families came to Tirana more than 17 years ago (after 1995) but, due to lack of documents and a proper address, cannot claim any residence. They are de facto excluded from the procedure to obtain social housing. The group of experts proposed to involve local NGOs and relevant institutions in order to urgently solve the registration issue by helping these families obtain the documents.
Members of the Roma community are faced with difficulties in fulfilling the criterion of “regular income” which is required in order to become beneficiaries of this scheme, as they are either unemployed or cannot prove their income resulting from informal activities.
As already recommended by UNDP, the thematic group of experts suggests that the Albanian authorities formalise the ambulant traders, who are mostly but not exclusively Roma, not in a way that should be burdensome for them, but instead to provide them with self-employment security. This would help Roma families to fulfil the eligibility “regular income” criterion for social housing. In this respect, the experience of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in formalising “Roma grey economy jobs” could be considered as a source of inspiration.
Most of these families will not be able to benefit from social housing (so far, only 37 applications from Roma families – filed with the assistance of UNDP – were received by the Municipality of Tirana out of over 1,000 applications). The Municipality of Tirana claims that no other applications have been received because Roma are not interested. When the group of experts asked the Roma families if this was indeed the case, they replied that they were convinced that they would be unable to pay the rent (even when reduced to 20 to 30 euros per month if they benefitted from the 50% bonus from the Municipality). Instead they would prefer to have their informal settlement legalised so as to build small, simple houses themselves. The Municipality does not plan for any legalisation of these settlements however; on the contrary, roads and new shopping centres are envisaged in these areas which will probably result in forced evictions.
On the basis of this information, the group of experts would strongly encourage the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Municipality of Tirana to reduce and adapt the eligibility criteria to the reality of these extremely poor Roma families. Some flexibility in the system and new criteria (such as the lack of ownership of land, overcrowded houses, social conditions, etc.) could be introduced so that Roma families get more points in order to be eligible for social housing.
The findings of the group of experts echo one of the recommendations of UNDP and the Tirana-based Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) in so far as “adjusting the criteria for social housing, transfer of residence, and provision of state legal aid having regard to the situation of most Roma/Egyptian families, that work in informal sectors and cannot verify their income, live in shacks and do not possess a lease contract/certificate of property for their residence, or need administrative and legal assistance in order to access their basic rights”.
The group of experts was concerned by the lack of a “Plan B” in case Roma families are not accepted in social housing units. The issue of legalisation of informal Roma settlements remains highly problematic though no concrete solutions to this aspect seem to be envisaged in the short term. The proposal put forward by UNDP could be a transitory shelter solution.
In case Roma families do not meet the criteria for accessing social housing, the group of experts suggests to legalise their settlements and/or houses and to introduce the system of micro-credits for housing used in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to help Roma families in the self-construction of their houses. The experts highlighted that forced evictions will bring no results and will simply aggravate the problem.
The authorities could also choose to consider the possibility of firstly giving land “in use” and, after some time, “as a property land with infrastructure” (after a case-by-case assessment) to Roma families having long settled in slums on public land, an option provided by existing legal provisions. In these plots, Roma families could build their own homes respecting the standards of "low cost houses" established by local government units.
Authorities, with the assistance of the local NGOs and international actors present, would need to provide assistance to Roma wishing to apply for legalisation of their houses. Without information and specialized help, they risk missing the opportunity of becoming owners and being pushed out onto the street by smarter and better informed real estate developers. In this respect, Albanian partners could find inspiration in the information campaign carried out in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” as regards the legalisation procedure.
The group of experts felt that there was generally a lack of cooperation with Roma civil society. In Albania it cannot be said that there is no active Roma civil society. However, there is a lack of consultation and cooperation between these NGOs and the authorities.
The representative of the Association of Local Self-Government Units (ZELS) referred to her position in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” as acting as a bridge between the ministries and the local and regional authorities. On the one hand, her role is to inform local self-governments about commitments undertaken for the implementation of national programmes and action plans, inform them about requests for new urban planning or data collection and about the financial resources available; on the other hand, her role also involves transmitting back information and concerns from local self-governments to the line ministries. This experience could be transferred to Albania to ensure better communication between the two levels of decision-makers.
Experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina stressed the benefits of involving Roma NGOs as partners to reach the communities and achieve success. The recent recruitment of a young educated Roma woman by the Municipality of Tirana, in charge of equal opportunities/non-discrimination policies, was regarded as a very good practice in a country where Roma civil servants remain very rare.
Roma are not considered in Albania as a national minority under national law (they have no king state), but instead as an ethno-linguistic minority . The People’s Advocate recommends that the Government adopt a Law on Minorities and echoes in that sense ECRI’s recommendations and the Opinion of the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. In addition, and this might be linked to the absence of a Law on Minorities or to the fact that the adoption of an “Anti-discrimination law” is rather recent, the concept of positive discrimination/affirmative action is still not well understood or at least not systematically used in practice. Both the Deputy Mayor of Tirana and the representative of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport indicated that, although they had agreed to award additional points to Roma applicants when examining the applicants’ files for social housing (therefore applying some sort of affirmative measure), they could not go beyond this as it would be discriminatory regarding any other categories of applicant.
The above-mentioned approach is, however, highly insufficient for ensuring that Roma will be granted social housing, bearing in mind that Roma cannot fulfil other key criteria. Authorities fail to take into account that the Roma applicants are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and are simply unable to compete on an equal footing with other applicants for social housing. The solution proposed by the experts from the partner countries is to adopt a quota system suchas the one applied in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” where a quota of 10% of social housing units is de facto attributed to Roma families ensuring that Roma families, especially those in the most vulnerable solutions and who would not be able to meet the criteria, benefit from social housing programmes.
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport of Albania initially responded that such quotas were not applicable in Albania. However, after having been informed that the Ministry of Education had applied quotas for scholarships and for the school enrolment of Roma pupils, the representative of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport admitted that legislation does not prohibit the use of quotas. This system is however not yet systematically applied to address Roma housing issues. The Albanian Housing Act does not envisage any quotas for ethnic groups. However in practice, 25% of social housing units were given to Egyptian families in Berat and 11% of social housing units were given to Roma families in Elbasan. The group of experts invited the Albanian authorities to make this practice more systematic and to study the quota system used in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
The results of the last population census show a relatively small number of people, around 8,000 persons (0.30% of the total population), who declared themselves as Roma. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport invoked these figures to challenge the validity of exchanging experience with the two partner countries, which he thought had much larger Roma populations. The estimates provided by local NGO representatives are in fact very close to average estimates of the Roma population in Bosnia and Herzegovina and only slightly lower than the estimated size of the Roma population in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport indicated that housing policies were designed on the basis of governmental objectives and not exclusively on census figures. For instance, the Small Grants Programme from 2008 and funded by the State budget was based on the needs of Roma communities identified in 2006 by representatives of the National Housing Agency and municipalities. The partner countries explained that their housing and other Roma-related policies are based not on census figures which do not reflect the real size of the national Roma population, but on cross-cutting estimate figures (from NGOs, international organisations and data collected by locally-based institutions). In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the authorities even used the upper estimate of 75,000 Roma to design their housing policy whilst they believe that the real figure is closer to 40,000 (according to the 1991 census, Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina number around 8,800). “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is also using the estimate of 9 to 10% of the Roma population when designing its policies for Roma (this was understood initially by the Albanian Ministry of Public Works and Transport as being the official census percentage).
The group of experts welcomed the current project run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs together with UNDP regarding the setting up of an online registration and statistical database as it could partly address the lack of data regarding the Roma population and their situation.
The non-possession of these documents makes it impossible to certify the address of a person. An alternative document could be a certificate issued by a non-governmental organisation, which possibly could provide a postal address (PO Box) where persons concerned can collect official mail.
The group of experts welcomed the contribution of international actors such as UNDP in Albania and would encourage such actors to assist the Albanian authorities even more with their Roma housing policy. When visiting the informal settlement of Shkoza, the group of experts noticed a newly built Inter-cultural Community Centre which was an initiative by the Social Services of Tirana Municipality and co-funded by the Tirana Municipality (20%) and a UNDP Project (80%). It was aimed at both non-Roma and Roma families that would benefit from social housing and primarily served for fostering cultural exchange and building mutual respect and appreciation among potential Roma and non-Roma beneficiaries of social apartments.
The group of experts was concerned that, despite the commitment of the previous Tirana municipality‘s administration that at least 40 of the 100 Roma applicants would benefit from social housing, the distribution of social apartments has been on hold for more than two years, thus benefiting neither Roma nor non-Roma applicants. The Inter-cultural Community Centre is therefore still empty. The group of experts regretted even more that Roma families living “next door” will most probably not benefit from these social apartments as most of them do not have a verifiable source of income. The group of experts therefore wondered what the final use of the Inter-cultural Community Centre would be if few Roma families, if at all, moved into these apartments.
Referring to the recommendation of the UNDP-supported study by the Tirana-based Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) that “equipping selected locations with decent communal services should be considered (mainly access to clean water and toilet facilities, when taking into consideration the high number of Roma community members living in shacks as well as their frequent mobility and lack of infrastructure in the areas in which they live)”, the group of experts would suggest that sanitary facilities (toilets, showers) be installed in the Inter-cultural Community Centre and that access to these facilities be given to Roma families living in the informal settlement of Shkoza to immediately improve their sanitary situation, until a more suitable housing solution can be found. The group of experts believes that culture is not the main priority of vulnerable Roma families and inter-cultural dialogue with non-Roma is deemed to fail if Roma do not have basic sanitary conditions.
As regards alternatives to social housing for these Roma families living in the Shkoza informal settlement, the group of experts was told that there are presently two alternatives: either making land available through a legalisation process so that those families are able to construct their own houses (a suggestion made by a number of Roma families met during the visit to this settlement); or sheltering those families who are unable to self-build in a decent National Reception Centre until they are able to meet the criteria for any of the standard housing programmes as proposed by UNDP. The group of experts heard however very little from the authorities about these two alternative options during their visit and is concerned that only forced evictions might happen in the near future, which would not bring any solution to the issue.
5.3 Follow-up and proposals for future thematic groups
On the basis of their experience, the group of experts has made several concrete proposals for the organisation of future thematic visits:
· For the requesting/hosting country:
- To define precisely the topic of the thematic exercise prior to the visit;
- To send an early invitation letter so as to ensure participation of relevant state institutions’ experts from partner countries;
- To circulate a draft agenda in due course so that partner experts and Secretariat can make suggestions;
- To leave space on the agenda for presentations from partner countries;
- To let partner countries’ experts introduce certain sessions as key note speakers;
- To properly inform and involve all relevant national/local stakeholders when preparing the visit.
· For all the experts of the thematic groups:
- To prepare a concise list of issues to be addressed;
- Once endorsed by the CAHROM, to circulate the thematic report – and wherever necessary translate it into the official language – to all relevant stakeholders in their respective countries.
5.4 Good practices identified
- The Law for the Legalisation of Settlements adopted in February 2011 by “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and the Social Housing policy developed by Bosnia and Herzegovina could be used as sources of inspiration for the Albanian authorities.
- The concrete and active involvement of local authorities/local self-governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina in collecting data, submitting and co-financing Roma housing projects;
- The Association of Local Self-government Units (ZELS) in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” acting as a bridge between the Ministries and the local and regional authorities for implementation of Roma policies.
- The comprehensive participatory methodology and criteria to select Roma beneficiaries of social housing programmes in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
- The 10% quota system of social housing units de facto attributed to Roma families as applied in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
- Micro-credits for Roma housing projects (rehabilitation, etc.) or for obtaining housing property documents, as implemented in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”;
- Legal aid in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is a particular useful tool for helping poor families obtain legal assistance, including in the housing field or registration for ID or property documents.
- The involvement of various (Roma and non-Roma) actors in the implementation of housing projects in both Albania and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
- The recruitment of a young educated Roma woman by the Municipality of Tirana in charge of equal opportunities/non-discrimination policies.
- The database on Roma housing needs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the online registration and statistical database in Albania (supported by UNDP).
- The involvement of international partners to assist with Roma housing projects (e.g. SIDA and Hilfswerk International Austria in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UN-Habitat in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”; the Council of Europe Development Bank in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, UNDP in Albania, etc.).
Appendix 1: Formal invitation letter received from Albania
Appendix 2: Programme of the thematic visit to Tirana, Albania, 15-17 April 2013
Appendix 3: List of experts and participants of the thematic visit to Tirana, 15-17 April 2013
Appendix 4:. Relevant European and international standards and reference texts
Relevant Council of Europe standards, reference texts and documents
- the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ETS No. 5), in particular in Article 14 (Prohibition of discrimination);
- the 1995 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ETS No. 157);
- the 1961 European Social Charter (ETS No. 35) (Article 16); its additional Protocol of 1988 (ETS No. 128) (Article 4); its additional Protocol of 1995 providing for a system of collective complaints, and the Revised European Social Charter of 1996 (ETS No. 163) (Article 31);
- the Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on policies for Roma and/or Travellers in Europe;
- the Recommendation No. R (2005) 4 of the Committee of Ministers on improving the housing conditions for Roma and Travellers in Europe;
- the Recommendation 1924 (2010) and Resolution 1740 (2010) of the Parliamentary Assembly on the Situation of Roma in Europe and relevant activities of the Council of Europe”;
- the Congress Recommendation 315 (2011) and Resolution 333 (2011) on the situation of Roma in Europe: a challenge for local and regional authorities;
- ECRI General Policy Recommendations No. 3 on combating racism and intolerance against Roma/Gypsies (1998), No. 7 on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination (2002) and No. 13 on combating anti-Gypsyism and discrimination against Roma;
- the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma adopted at the High Level Meeting on Roma (Strasbourg, 20 October 2010);
- the Summit of Mayors’ Declaration on Roma (Strasbourg, 22 September 2011), which calls for the setting-up of a European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion.
Additionally, apart from the relevant activities of the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and the reports of the relevant Council of Europe monitoring bodies (in particular the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and the conclusions and decisions of the European Committee of Social Rights), the following Council of Europe reports and publications served as sources of inspiration for this thematic report:
- the Commissioner for Human Rights’ Issue Paper “Housing Rights: the duty to ensure housing for all” (25 April 2008);
- the Commissioner for Human Rights’ publication “Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe”, Council of Europe Publishing (February 2012);
- CommDH(2009)5 Recommendation of the Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of the Right to Housing (June 2009)
- Jean-Pierre Liégeois “Roma in Europe”, Council of Europe Publishing (2009);
- Jean-Pierre Liégeois “The Council of Europe and Roma: 40 years of action”, Council of Europe Publishing (2010 for the French edition; 2012 for the English one);
- The World Bank Report: “Poverty, Social Exclusion and Ethnicity in Serbia, Montenegro: the case of the Roma”. (October 2005);
- European Social Charter and Revised Charter (RESC) art 31 which establishes the Right to housing, with contracting States undertaking to take measures designed to promote access to housing of an adequate standard, to prevent and reduce homelessness with a view to its gradual elimination, and to make the price of housing accessible to those without adequate resources;
- The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) contains many civil and political rights provisions which are being indirectly interpreted in the development of housing rights across Europe, especially within articles, 3, 6, 8, 13 and 14;
- ECRI Fourth Report on Albania (fourth monitoring cycle), adopted on 15 December 2009, published 2 March 2010, that recommends efforts to regularise illegal housing priority by seeking solutions for persons living in areas not covered by Law nº 9304 on the Legalisation and Urbanisation of informal areas;
- ECRI Second Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina (fourth monitoring cycle), adopted on 7 December 2010, published on 8 February 2011;
- ECRI Second Report on Serbia (fourth monitoring cycle), adopted on 23 March 2011, published on 31 May 2011 that urges the Serbian authorities to take urgent measures to protect Roma from forced evictions by ensuring that adequate resettlement opportunities are provided.
- ECRI Report on "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", adopted on 28 April 2010 and published on 15 June 2010, urges the authorities to settle without delay the issue of the legalisation of the Roma settlements;
- Update of CEB activities in favour of Roma in Word format:
Other relevant European and international standards, reference texts and documents
- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25.1);
- the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 11.1);
- the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
- the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
- the International Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- the International Convention on the Status of Refugees;
- the United Nations Habitat Agenda (adopted in Istanbul in 1996);
- the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium (adopted by the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, in New York, 6-8 June 2001);
- the UNDP report “At risk: Roma and the Displaced in Southeast Europe” ;
- the UNDP/WB/EC regional Roma survey from 2011;
- the UNDP Regional Roma Survey “the Housing Situation of Roma Communities” analysed by Tatjana Peric (2011);
- the UNDP commissioned “Needs Assessment Study on Roma and Egyptians Communities in Albania”(2012));
- the ISSUU Report on the Housing situation of Roma Communities in the Balkans (2012).
- The World Bank qualitative needs assessment study Poverty in Albania: A Qualitative Assessment (2002).
- the 2003 Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area;
- the ODIHR Status Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area (Warsaw, 2008);
- Report on Roma Housing and settlements in South-Eastern Europe. Profile and achievements in Serbia in a comparative framework. (Warsaw, 2006);
- Report on Roma Informal Settlements in Bosnia and Herzegovina (May 2005);
- Report of the OSCE-ODIHR project “Best practices for Roma Integration (2013).
- the European Union Council conclusions on an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 in Brussels on 19 May 2011;
- the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) Comparative report “Housing of Roma and Travellers in the European Union” (October 2009);
- the European Parliament Resolution on the EU Strategy on Roma Inclusion (March 2011).
- the European Roma Rights Centre report “Standards do not apply: inadequate housing in Romani communities” (13 December 2010).
- the Decade Watch reports on the implementation of Decade Action Plans (2011);
- Civil Society Monitoring Reports on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan on 2012 in Albania and in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” respectively.
- Living conditions of the Roma: Substandard housing and health (2012);
- National Roma Center;
- Annual Report 2012.
Documents submitted to the group of experts by the People’s Advocate of the Republic of Albania
- Executive summary in English of the People’s Advocate recommendations to state institutions, regarding minority rights; pre-university educational system; protection from discrimination and living conditions of Roma ethno-linguistic minority (2012);
- People’s Advocate Annual Report (2012).
- People’s Advocate Special Report on problems faced by the Roma community during the first six months of 2012, and relevant actions undertaken by the People’s Advocate.
 The term “Roma” used at the Council of Europe refers to Roma, Sinti, Kale and related groups in Europe, including Travellers and the Eastern groups (Dom and Lom), and covers the wide diversity of the groups concerned, including persons who identify themselves as Gypsies.
 See paragraph 1 of document CAHROM (2012)21 Abridged report of the 4th CAHROM meeting and paragraph 14 of document CAHROM (2013)3 Report of the 5th meeting of the CAHROM Bureau, available on the CAHROM website (http://hub.coe.int/web/coe-portal/cahrom1).
Originally due to be the third partner country, Serbia subsequently cancelled its participation due to time and staff constraints related to internal changes within the Roma Secretariat of the Office of Human and Minority Rights. Serbia, nevertheless, offered to be the requesting country and to host a thematic visit later in 2013 of a CAHROM group of experts on rehousing solutions and housing loans for Roma, combating evictions and guaranteeing security of tenure.
 See para. 28 of the Abridged Report of the 5th CAHROM meeting [document CAHROM (2013)13].
 Due to the late receipt of the formal invitation letter from the requesting country, the Ministry of Transport of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” could not send any representative to the thematic visit in Tirana. The Ministry of Transport, however, was associated with the drafting of this thematic report and provided the experts of the thematic group with a written presentation (available in the Addendum of this report).
 These documents are available in Appendix 4 to this report.
 In Albania, it is not possible to determine specific eligibility criteria for Roma.
 In Albania there has been only one model of public and private partnership, i.e. the project of low-cost housing from which the Roma community benefits. This model is a Government initiative in cooperation with the BKT bank.
 In this respect, please see the article by Jaroslav Kling (UNDP) entitled “Roma inclusion: Building houses does not solve the housing issue” at http://www.al.undp.org/content/albania/en/home/presscenter/articles/2013/08/21/roma-inclusion-building-houses-does-not-solve-the-housing-issue/. .
 See ECRI report from 2002.
90,000 to 120,000 are estimated figures mentioned in the “National Strategy for Improving Roma Living Conditions” based on data from 1995 provided by the International Group of Minority Rights and the University of Maryland. The highest estimate of 120,000 is also mentioned in Maria Koinova’s report, Roma of Albania, August 2000, Albanian Helsinki Committee, (CEDIME-SE), available at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/pdf/cedime-se-albania-roma.doc. The estimates provided by local NGO representatives with whom the Delegation met during the visit, for instance, the Director of Roma Active Albania, Adriatik Hasantari, range from 40,000 to 70,000, meaning that the 1995 figures might have been overestimated.
 ERRC Report, 1997:8.
 See also UNDP national and regional studies from 2011/2012 referred to under chapter 2.4.
 See also the Profile of Albanian Roma based on the UNDP/World Bank/EC1 regional Roma survey 2011 and with additional country specific data from the “Needs Assessment Study on Roma and Egyptians Communities in Albania”(2011) at: http://www.al.undp.org/content/dam/albania/docs/misc/Roma%20in%20%20Albania%20June%202012%20profile.pdf.
 A.T, 1943; Milaj, 1943.
 De Soto et al. Poverty in Albania: A Qualitative Assessment, 2002.
 See Powerpoint presentation of Hilswerk International Austria, delivered at the CAHROM thematic visit on social housing for Roma in Skopje.
 Abbreviations: AL (Albania), BA (Bosnia and Herzegovina), BG (Bulgaria), H (Hungary), HR (Croatia), CZ (Czech Republic), MD (Republic of Moldova), ME (Montenegro), MK (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”), RO (Romania), RS (Serbia), SK (Slovak Republic).
 See Chapter IV of document CommDH(2008)8 Report by the Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Thomas Hammarberg, on his visit to Albania (27 October – 2 November 2007).
 Ibid, page 55.
 UNDP representatives encountered during the visit underlined that Roma families may have regular monthly income from informal activities (scrap collection, trading second-hand clothes or other craft or industrial products in the open market). However, these families cannot prove such income (lack of a verifiable source of income).
 Ibid, page 11.
 See written information received from the People’s Advocate in Appendix 4 to this report.
 See “The Right to Housing and Property Restitution in Bosnia and Herzegovina: a case study” by Paul Prettitore (2003).
 http://www.romadecade.org/cms/upload/file/9270_file10_mc_civil-society-monitoring-report_en.pdf. Note that “Macedonia” is the officially term recognised under the Decade for Roma Inclusion and has been used exclusively used in this report in quotations of Roma Decade documents. It should be understood as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”’ used otherwise in the rest of the report.
See above Civil Society Monitoring Report, page 13.
 Relevant texts can be found in Appendix 4.
 See in particular Chapter IV of document CommDH(2008)8 Report by the Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Thomas Hammarberg, on his visit to Albania (27 October – 2 November 2007).
According to UNDP, “provision of land” may imply “sale” or simply “making the land available at no costs without transferring the ownership title”.
 The process of dissemination of the 400 social apartments has been suspended for more than two years due to political stalemate characterizing the city council of Tirana.
 See pages 57-59 of the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in Albania.
Berat, Durres, Elbasan, Fier, Kavaje, Korce, Peshkopi and Tirana.
 See for comparison the list of 12 priority categories of the housing programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina under 4.2.2.
 According to a report of a meeting held on 19 July 2013 at the OSCE office on the housing situation of Roma, it appears that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Municipality of Tirana have not a common understanding on Roma in relation to social housing. Whereas the Ministry claimed during that meeting that Roma applicants for social housing get 5 additional points for being Roma, the representative of the Municipality of Tirana stated that the municipality has not found a mechanism that would verify the person as belonging to the Roma population, adding that such an element is not included in any official documentation. The above shows that, in practice, Roma would not be able to earn their 5 points in Municipality of Tirana programmes. UNDP offered advice suggesting that the application form for social housing should have a self-declaration as Roma section introduced. Additionally, a recommendation from a well-established Roma organisation (or network of Roma NGOs, such as the Roma Federation in Albania) could count as recognition/acceptance of that family by the Roma community. This being said, it was also explained to the officials of the Municipality of Tirana that belonging to an ethnic/minority group is not verified or certified via an official document, but it is based on a self-declaration to be accepted by everyone.
 See the Addendum for more details about the Action Plan.
Source: Programme 1 - Administration, Sub-programme 11 - Supporting the implementation of the Decade and Strategy for Roma, paragraph 488 - Capital grants to municipalities, subparagraph - 488190-11 other Capital grants.
Source: Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No.161/2010.
Similarly a programme of the national Employment Service Agency entitled “Active Measures for Employment” includes Roma as an explicit (but not the sole) target group (page 30).
 See in particular pages 65-67.
 See further information about this project at http://www.nationalromacentrum.org/en/news/legalization-of-the-housing-of-roma-people.
 Horizonti received the 2011 European Best Practices Award which is offered jointly by Italy’s Foundation Giordano Dell’Amore and the France-based European Microfinance Network (EMN) for its programme “Housing Microfinance for Roma and marginalized people”.
 As far as the housing situation of refugees is concerned, the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) has provided a loan of 80 million Euros to support those who are living in collective centres, including Roma, through social housing. The project was drafted by the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees and UNHCR.
 See CEB activities in favour of Roma at http://www.coebank.org/Upload/infocentre/brochure/en/roma_brochure.pdf and the following update in Word format in Appendix 4.
 Habitat For Humanity Macedonia and Horizonti, which provides microenterprise loans to Roma, have developed loan products to help Roma improve their housing. Habitat Macedonia has created educational materials to support self-building. Averaging US$2,200, the loans have been used for roof reconstruction, adding toilets and running water, room additions, heating systems, insulation and replacing doors and windows. Of the first 50 loans disbursed in Shuto Orizari through mid-2008, 20% were used for installing toilets and upgrading water systems. Source: Habitat for Humanity Housing Microfinance. PDF/DEV/11-08.
 In the informal Roma settlement of Bregu I Lumit, there is only one WC and shower for 40 people/15 families. There is a project to build a new school in this settlement that may result in segregated schooling.
 In the Shkoza informal Roma settlement, 25 Roma families live next to empty newly-built social houses. Most of these families will not be able to apply for these social housing units and might be evicted. A Roma Resource Centre was recently built with funds from UNDP. It may however remain empty if no Roma families obtain social housing in these units.
 Page 16 of the Civil Society Monitoring Report on the Implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy and Decade Action Plan in 2012 in Albania.
Taking into consideration that a large number of Roma complainants are not registered with the local government units in Tirana and as a result do not have access to legal benefits, the People's Advocate Institution of Albania has recommended that the Minister of Interior takes measures to register members of the Roma minority in civil registers and facilitate the procedures of transfer of registry data in the local units where they have a new residence (for further details, see the People’s Advocate’s report on problems faced by Roma in Appendix 4).
 An unemployed Roma engaged as an ambulant trader in the open market may earn up to 500 USD monthly, but this is neither declared nor registered in the Centre for Business Registration. Therefore they do not receive a tax identification number, do not need to declare income or pay social insurance. The situation is similar for those Roma who collect scrap or beg in the street: they could earn as much as 250 USD per month but these earnings are “invisible”.
 37 Roma families who have been living for ten years on the site of the former Centre for the Realisation of Works of Art in Rruga Kavaja, Tirana, were forcibly evicted on 7 August 2013 and, at the time of adoption of the thematic report by the experts, were still living on the streets of Tirana. Despite requests by the People’s Advocate that the landowner follow relevant legal and judicial processes, the development company, Park Construction Albania, claims that that it has no obligations to the Roma who are occupying the land and have no legal title to it. During the summer, Amnesty International and local NGOs urged the authorities to ensure that these Roma families are not forcibly evicted without a judicial decision, due advance notice and information about the legal remedies available in accordance with both international standards, including the UN Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Resettlement, as well as Albanian law, following a decision by the relevant court. They also asked the municipal authorities to provide alternative housing which meets international standards for adequate housing for these families, after having duly consulted with them.
 UNDP suggested to the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities to set up a National Reception Centre which will provide immediate and transitory shelter to those families (including Roma) who do not yet meet the criteria for social housing programmes or who have applied and are still waiting for an answer. This was based on profiling of the Roma families who are in most need of housing, but do not yet meet the criteria for social housing. This category of Roma families includes those long-term unemployed, long-term homeless, illiterate, those running a big family, those generating income through scrap collection or begging and those whose adults do not have a profession or have developed an enforced primitive living style. This category of Roma families is settled informally in public or privately owned/claimed land and is at continual risk of evictions. The proposed National Reception Centre would provide immediate and transitory shelter to this category whilst helping beneficiaries to be connected to any of the social housing programmes (rent bonus, credit with low interest, provision of land served with infrastructure, social apartment, etc.). A former military residence located 5 km from the centre of Tirana has been designated for this purpose by a Decision of the Council of Ministers; however, the June 2013 parliamentary elections have delayed the process of reconstruction and operationalization of the Centre by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
 As regards problems and solutions related to forced evictions, please refer to Amnesty International’s document “Know your obligations: A guide to preventing forced evictions” from November 2012.
 As proposed by the Tirana-based Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS).
Together with Vlachs (Aromanians). The Egyptian community has neither the status of a national minority nor of an ethno-linguistic minority since Egyptians speak Albanian.
 In addition to these 10%, Roma families can be beneficiaries of social housing unit if they respect criteria.
 The UNDP projects team in Albania has recommended to the previous and current Tirana Municipality administration to set quotas in social housing for Roma which would be at least 10% in addition to the points system through which some Roma may qualify. In other words, the proposal was to ensure that at least 10% of the 400 social apartments would be allocated to 40 Roma families. UNDP believes that the same principle could be applied for other social housing programmes (i.e. rent bonus, credits with no interest, provision of land served with infrastructure, etc.).
 See footnote no. 12.
 As recommended by the Tirana-based Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) which also pointed out that different Local Government Units (civil offices nearby) condition the issuance of documents / official (family residence certificates, familiar certificates etc.) to the payment of local taxes.
 See the Needs Assessment on Roma and Egyptian Report, UNDP 2012, page 27.
 The team of experts underlined that municipalities are not obliged to contribute financially. They can also, for example, offer land, help with construction material, facilitate access to ID/property documents or undertake projects for Roma within their mainstream welfare programmes.
 The above recommendations, resolutions and declarations are electronically accessible at http://www.coe.int/web/coe-portal/roma_reference-texts.
 See the information note “The CEB’s contribution to Roma issues” in Appendix 4 to this report.
 See in particular Yordanova and Others v. Bulgaria.
 See the European Social Charter Roma thematic factsheet (updated May 2012) at http://www.coe.int/T/DGHL/Monitoring/SocialCharter/Theme%20factsheets/RomaRightsFactsheet_en.pdf and the Collective Complaints Procedure summaries of decisions on the merits concerning Roma by the European Committee of Social Rights at http://www.coe.int/T/DGHL/Monitoring/SocialCharter/Theme%20factsheets/SummariesMeritsRomaRights_en.pdf