|© UNICEF Albania/2008|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman promotes the rights of Roma children during a two-day visit to Albania.|
TIRANA, Albania, 3 October 2008 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, on a two-day visit to Albania, highlighted the plight of Roma children and efforts to strengthen the juvenile justice system.
Veneman visited a Roma community where approximately 100 families were living in makeshift housing by a large landfill in Tirana.
“An 11-year-old girl told me that she does not go to school because she has to work scavenging through the garbage,” said Veneman. “A recent study found that there are approximately 5,000 Roma children between the ages of 3 and 16 years old. Results showed that only about 27 per cent of Roma six-year-olds are enrolled in school and that, on average, 43 per cent of Roma children between the ages of 15 and 16 are illiterate.”
In a meeting with the Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, the situation of the Roma community was discussed. Prime Minister Berisha expressed serious concern over the marginalization and discrimination faced by Roma, especially the children.
Encouraging Roma children to go to school
The Albanian Government is working closely with UNICEF to encourage Roma children to go to school. The government is implementing policy to provide housing for the Roma community, as well.
Veneman also visited a juvenile detention centre in Tirana supported in part by UNICEF. One teenage boy accused of theft had been in the detention centre for seven months awaiting disposition of his case.
“UNICEF is working with the Justice Ministry to ensure expeditious handling of juvenile cases and flexible sentencing alternatives where appropriate,” said Veneman.
The Executive Director met with President Bamir Topi, who has overseen recent justice reforms, especially in the area of juvenile justice.
She also visited Youth Albania Professional Services (YAPS), a sustainable enterprise that trains and employs marginalized youth and persons with disabilities. YAPS runs several businesses, including a cleaning and courier service that operates throughout Tirana.