Roma in the Balkans
The Roma Gypsy are the largest minority in Europe. According to the European Commission their number is over 12 millions, exceeding the population of many countries within the European territory. Although their presence in Europe dates back centuries their language, customs and traditions have not being recognised or valued. In the wake of their history of slavery and neglect their reality has not improved, they are still regarded as social outcasts.
156 imagesIn the year 2005 in Sofia, Bulgaria, an unprecedented effort by the Central and South-Eastern governments started as the "Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015", to join effort in making improvements to the socio-economic status of the Roma population within Europe. Half way into this initiative, I journeyed to Sofia, the very city where was to began a new era of tolerance and acceptance for the Roma to look for signs of improvements in their lives. Unfortunately, I had to go to Fakulteta Mahala, the largest Roma ghetto in Sofia to encounter Bulgaria's Roma population. Bulgaria is the European country with one of the highest percentage of Roma population with 5% of Roma, yet Roma are hardly visible outside the Roma ghetto of the city. The ghetto is totally separated, a world quite apart from the rest of the city with shops, church and school totally segregated. Normal city services, like waste collection, road management, transport does not reach the ghetto. Ordinary Bulgarians do not enter the ghetto. The reality is that for most Roma, improvements have hardly reached them.
36 imagesThe Roma population in Kosovo was accused of having sided with the Serbian, consequently persecuted and sent away from the Kosovo's towns. In reality the Roma are unwanted by the Serbian too and been forced to live in enclaves. They are unemployable and have no access to education and health care. Mostly to survive they rummage through the city dumps and try to use or sell whatever they found. They depend on humanitarian organisations for any health check, food and education. The Roma community of Zitkovac in the outskirts of Mitrovice is not different. It is forced to live in sheds and they rely on aid organisation for any assistance. Medicos del Mundo is one of the few NGO's left in the region that assist the Roma communities.