Wednesday, 13 November 2019

12 Roma Children Expelled from Kotoriba Kindergarten, says MP

ZAGREB, November 13, 2019 - The Roma minority member of parliament, Veljko Kajtazi, said on Wednesday that 12 Roma children had been expelled from a kindergarten in Kotoriba, Međimurje County, calling on all those involved to solve the problem as soon as possible so that children could continue attending kindergarten.

Expelling Roma children, even for a short period of time, will have long-term negative consequences, Kajtazi said at a news conference in the parliament.

The November 5 decision whereby the kindergarten management expelled the Roma children reads that a child stops attending kindergarten if its parents do not pay the kindergarten fee for two consecutive months, with the final deadline for due payments being November 9.

The children were expelled because the Science and Education Ministry was late with payments even though the kindergarten is aware that it will obtain the money, Kajtazi said.

Since 2009 the Science and Education Ministry has been co-funding preschool education and it has been covering the share of the kindergarten fee paid by parents for all members of the Roma minority.

This, along with the financing of the rest of the membership fee from local budgets, has made it possible for kindergarten care for members of the Roma minority to be free, Kajtazi said.

The children were expelled because the kindergarten holds their parents responsible for the payment of the membership fee share that is paid by the ministry, he said.

Kajtazi said that he received information from the ministry on Tuesday saying that it met its obligations regularly and that the request for payment from September was being processed as well as that it would soon pay the 28,000 kuna that it was required to pay.

He said that the ministry paid funds at the kindergarten's request twice during a school year and that since 2015 almost 113,000 kuna had been paid into the Kotoriba kindergarten's account.

The MP also said that his office had tried to contact Kotoriba municipality about the problem but was referred to "the kindergarten whose manager is on sick leave."

More news about the status of Roma in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

World Day of Romani Language Marked in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 6, 2019 - The World Day of Romani Language was marked in Croatia on Tuesday as one of three holidays of the Roma community in the country.

"Our work over the last ten years on promoting the Romani language and marking the World Day of Romani Language has been a very successful project through which we have preserved some of the valuable material for future generations and restored a sense of pride to the Roma community," Veljko Kajtazi, the MP for the Roma minority, told a ceremony marking the World Day of Romani Language in Zagreb.

Speaking of the Roma community's achievements and plans for the future, Kajtazi cited an expanded edition of the Romani-Croatian Dictionary covering over 30,000 words. He added that a Roma Memorial Centre would be opened in August next year on the site of a WWII concentration camp for Roma at Uštica near Jasenovac, and that the founding of a central library for the Roma in Croatia was under way.

"We will collect all relevant literature from the Roma community in one place, save its rich tradition and culture from oblivion and make it available to the general public for the first time. This will also make us unique in the world," Kajtazi said.

The head of the University of Zagreb, Damir Boras, said that a program of Romani studies was being prepared as part of the Department for Indology and Far East Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, and that the Romani language and literature were already being taught.

The World Day of Romani Language has been organised by the Kali Sara Alliance of Roma in Croatia since 2009. This initiative was embraced by the UNESCO General Assembly in 2015 and today it is marked in at least 15 countries.

More news about the Roma in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemorated at Jasenovac

ZAGREB, August 2, 2019 - A memorial ceremony was held on Friday at the Roma cemetery in Uštica, about 100 kilometres southeast of Zagreb, for more than 16,000 Roma killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp during the Second World War.

The commemoration, organised by the Roma organisation Kali Sara and the Council of the Roma Minority in Croatia, was held on International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, or the Porajmos, which is marked in Croatia on August 2.

Attending the commemoration were Deputy Prime Minister Davor Božinović on behalf of the government, Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Ivan Žinić as President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's envoy, Deputy Parliament Speaker Sinisa Hajdaš Dončić, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

After prayers, Božinovic and MP Marija Mačković laid wreaths and paid tribute to the Roma victims.

Addressing those gathered, the representative of the Roma community in the Croatian parliament, MP Veljko Kajtazi, said that he was pleased that after seventy years, people started talking about the Roma victims of the Ustasha-run Jasenovac concentration camp.

He added that he could not be completely satisfied with the status of the Roma community in Croatia but that he hoped that the operating programme for the Roma would be implemented in cooperation with the government before the end of its term.

"We hope that with the assistance of the City of Zagreb and the Croatian government next year we will open a Roma Memorial Centre here," Kajtazi said and added that Roma in Croatia can significantly contribute to Croatia's economic development along with other citizens.

More news about the Jasenovac concentration camp can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Roma Can't Be Integrated Without Local Government's Involvement

ZAGREB, June 14, 2019 - After Thursday's meeting between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, MP Veljko Kajtazi and a delegation of the Kali Sara Roma association, Minister of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts Darko Horvat said that the Roma ethnic minority cannot be integrated without the participation of local and regional government and that they were not meeting all their obligations.

Integrating the Roma ethnic minority into normal co-existence without local and regional government representatives simply will not occur, Horvat said after the meeting in the government attended by ministers and state secretaries.

Strategic documents and action plans clearly highlight who is responsible for which tasks and what rights and obligations belong to whom, but it was concluded that part of the obligations that local governments have taken upon themselves are not being fulfilled nor implemented at the set pace, Horvat said.

He said that during the meeting the government presented what it was doing in an effort to integrate the Roma ethnic minority as transparently and quickly as possible, and also to what measure local government was participating in that.

It was concluded that the operational programme for national minorities is being implemented as planned and that each year participation from the state budget to resolve the problems of the Roma community and other ethnic minorities has increased. The Roma community is being integrated more and more in processes into the local community and into the implementation of the operational programme at the national level, he said.

MP Veljko Kajtazi said that he received full support from the prime minister and that he advised him that local and regional governments that have adopted their action plans for the Roma minority do not have sufficient funds to implement those plans.

Kajtazi said that they had asked that the operational programme for their minority be strengthened, particularly with regard to education, housing, and the work of the committee overseeing the National Strategy.

He added that he expects 70% to 80% of the operational programme to have been implemented by 2020.

More news about the Roma can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Interior Minister Discusses Roma Issues in Međimurje

ZAGREB, June 4, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Tuesday held a meeting with county and municipal heads and ethnic Roma representatives in Međimurje County following a recent rally at which about 1,000 people gathered to raise public awareness of what they labelled irresponsible, dangerous and criminal behaviour in their community, pointing the finger at state institutions which, they said, had failed with regard to the local Roma community.

"Only when we define the problem together with all its aspects, we can seek right solutions," said Božinović today and insisted that education is the key to making efforts aimed at Roma integration successful.

If a mere four out of 318 secondary school students (of the Roma background) manage to finish school, then something is seriously wrong, he explained. By dropping out of the school young people are disadvantaged on the labour market and that needs to be solved, Božinović said. Occupations which Roma members traditionally pursue are not competitive in the 21st century, he said.

During his visit to Čakovec he said that additional staff would be added to the local law enforcement authorities, and also promised stepping up inter-departmental coordination and cooperation with the county and municipalities concerned. Thus, a higher number of community police officers is expected.

County Prefect Matija Posavec said he expected the local social welfare services to be sufficiently staffed so that they can check how welfare vouchers are spent. Posavec expects the education and justice ministries to be more engaged in solving the problems.

The deputy head of Pribislavec municipality from the Roma minority, Željko Balog, reiterated his criticism of the work of ethnic Roma parliamentary deputy, Veljko Kajtazi in the parliament. He said that Kajtazi cannot represent Međimurje Roma as he does not understand them.

The parliamentary deputy of the Roma ethnic minority, Veljko Kajtazi on Tuesday said that he was surprised that ministers were going to visit Međimurje and the Roma community in Pribislavec without being accompanied by him, as he represents the minority and when asked why he was supporting the government, Kajtazi said, "now we'll see about that."

"I'm surprised that all the ministers are going to Međimurje, to the Roma community without a Member of Parliament, we could say that was sad," Kajtazi told reporters ahead of a meeting of ruling coalition partners when asked for his opinion of Interior Minister Davor Božinović's visit to Međimurje just three days after a protest was held there.

He said that it was true that after President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had relocated her office to Međimurje County, she sent a memorandum about the situation and the problems surrounding the minority however the government has still not responded.

"That's correct, but I also know that 90% of the population in Međimurje voted for the president. I recall that; however, I cannot remember the president having invited the Member of Parliament to come to Međimurje," Kajtazi said.

More news about the Roma in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Anti-Roma Feelings Stirred with Protest in Čakovec

ZAGREB, June 1, 2019 - About 1,000 people rallied in the centre of the northern town of Čakovec on Saturday for a protest called "I want a normal life", and speakers at the event pointed to irresponsible, dangerous and criminal behaviour in their community, pointing the finger at state institutions which, they said, had failed with regard to the local Roma community.

After the rally, the Međimurje County police said that their decision to allow the protest had proven to be good and that there was no hate speech or incitement to racial, religious or ethnic intolerance at the event.

Addressing the protesters, Alen Pancer of the civic initiative "The right to a normal life", said that residents of Međimurje wanted to live a normal life just like other Croatian citizens.

He said that the protest was not directed against the Roma minority and that there were Roma who were hard-working and honest but that an end should be put to the terror local residents had been experiencing on a daily basis. "Seven percent of the (local) population accounts for 70% of crimes in Međimurje," he said.

"We want to be able to drink coffee in our own front yards, have pets and tend to our gardens but those of us who live close to Roma settlements cannot do that," he said, blaming political decision-makers for that.

Pancer went on to say that local residents could not rely on police because there were too few police officers and they were unable to protect themselves, let alone other citizens.

The rally was also addressed by a local student, Tin Hrgović, whose posts on social networks led to the initiative for the protest and who said that the rally had drawn people with different worldviews and political preferences who all wanted the same thing - the right to a normal life. "The situation is disastrous and a part of the Roma minority behaves in a criminal way," he said.

Commenting on accusations that the rally was a racist and nationalist gathering that threatens human rights, he said: "Is it a human right to shoot from an illegal weapon or disturb citizens with loud music, steal or insult. Is it a human right to snatch someone's necklace from their neck or purse or beat an old woman to death?"

"We must say 'No' to this because we want a safe and normal life in Međimurje," he said.

Hrgović said that responsibility rested not only with individuals from the Roma minority and that the current welfare system was to blame, too. "The money intended for children is used to buy alcohol and drugs and for gambling. What can we expect of those children when they grow up, if their parents behave like that? We in Međimurje know how many Roma live in such conditions, but the rest of Croatia doesn't," he said.

He called on social workers to "get out of their offices and go into the field". "An end must be put to this vicious circle. Dispensing money won't solve the problem but will only deepen it."

The deputy head of Pribislavec municipality from the Roma minority, Željko Balog, called on Croat compatriots not to lay the blame on the entire Roma population but rather on irresponsible individuals. "There are Gypsy gangs in (Roma) settlements, but that is not to be blamed on the Roma but on state institutions," he said.

Speaking of the Roma minority member of parliament, Veljko Kajtazi, Balog said that Kajtazi "does not represent the Roma" and that he had "surrounded himself with criminals."

Selnica municipal head Ervin Vičević called for hiring more social workers and more police in Međimurje while Pribislavec municipal head Višnja Ivačić said that there was no control of how social benefits and children's allowances were spent.

After the protest, the Međimurje County police held a news conference at which its head Ivan Sokač said that the decision to allow the protest had proven good. "Međimurje has proven to be, as always, a tolerant region. There was no hate speech or incitement to ethnic or religious hate," he said.

He stressed that the police had not received any request in writing for a counter-protest, adding that they had issued a verbal reply that no counter-protest would be allowed.

Sokač said that he was satisfied with what had been said at the rally. "Most of the things that were said are true."

"Six to seven percent of the population is responsible for 70% of crimes and there is a growing number of juvenile delinquents... I hope that increasing the number of police officers will not be the only solution to the problems of the Roma minority. The speakers were right to point the finger at all institutions, including the police," said Šokac.

More news about the Roma in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Roma Children Most Deprived Group in Croatia

ZAGREB, May 9, 2019 - Children's ombudswoman Helenca Pirnat Dragičević said in parliament on Thursday that inequality was one of the key challenges in the exercise of children's rights, that their quality of life depended on the place of residence or birth, and that Roma children were the most deprived group.

Roma children have no access to a broad range of services, mostly because their families are poor, yet positive examples from some communities show that their lives can be changed, she said.

Submitting a report on the work of her office in 2018, i.e. on the rights of 800,000 children in Croatia, she warned about a high poverty risk and unequal availability of services, for example healthcare, which she said created big differences between children already from birth.

As for the most frequent violations of children's rights, the ombudswoman said children in institutions were especially vulnerable, followed by violations of their rights in education and violence against children.

"Children in Croatia suffer violence and neglect at home, in school, in the community and the digital environment," she said, adding that one in four children under 16 had been physically or psychologically punished, or witnessed violence between their parents.

Saša Đujić of the opposition Social Democratic Party asked if it was abuse of children's rights or normal when a politician, for example, visited a school and took pictures with children, read them stories and gave them candy.

The ombudswoman said it was "certainly not" normal but that headmasters were also responsible as "they must see to the best interest of the children."

More news about the Roma in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Croatian Roma Mark World Roma Day

ZAGREB, April 9, 2019 - A better education for Roma children, integration and preservation of the Roma culture were key messages of a ceremony marking World Roma Day, held at Zagreb's Croatian National Theatre on Monday evening, with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović attending.

"There is no reason why Roma children and youth should not be included in the education system from kindergarten to university," Grabar-Kitarović said, pointing to the need to improve the status of the Roma community in Croatia.

The event marking World Roma Day was organised by the Croatian Roma association "Kali Sara" and Roma minority MP Veljko Kajtazi. Among the guests were Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of Roma from a number of European countries and Canada.

President Grabar-Kitarović called on Roma to send their children regularly to school, noting that the state had to make sure every Roma child had textbooks and other necessary equipment so that they could complete their secondary education and enrol in a faculty if they wished.

"That is the best way to integrate Roma children and youth in our society. That first step facilitates the employment and full integration of Roma in the Croatian society," said the president. She also underlined the importance of preserving the Roma language and culture.

Addressing the event, Kajtazi, too, underlined the education of Roma children as a priority. "We are doing our best for the Roma community to get education, but there are still obstacles and Roma children are often sent to three-year secondary schools. That is not our future, our future is four-year secondary education - regular high schools and technical occupations for Roma children," he said.

Speaking of positive changes over recent years, Kajtazi mentioned the legalisation of 1,200 houses, improved infrastructure in some Roma settlements, the introduction of water supply infrastructure and the construction of playgrounds.

For those improvements, the annual awards of the Kali Sara Roma association were presented to the mayor of the eastern community of Belišće, Dinko Burić, and Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

World Roma Day is marked on April 8 to commemorate the day when in 1971 the first world Roma congress was held in London.

Kajtazi said that that was one of the most important events in the history of Roma, marking a turnaround in how Roma were perceived in Europe and the rest of the world.

More news about Roma in Croaia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

No Significant Progress in Gender Equality in Croatia

ZAGREB, March 23, 2019 - Some of the gender equality indicators in Croatia, such as the number of boys and girls enrolled in primary and secondary schools, continue to be good, however, there has been no significant progress on other indicators such as labour market equality, female entrepreneurship, the role of women in politics and business, the status of Roma women, inequalities between rural and urban areas and the inclusion of the LGBT community, shows a gender equality analysis of the World Bank.

The analysis has detected the biggest gap in the possibility to make economic earnings considering the fact that a large number of women, youth, pensioners and members of minority groups do not have access to the labour market.

The unemployment rate among women is 19% higher than unemployment among men, and women account for 57.4% of groups that lack access to the labour market, it was said at a presentation of the World Bank analysis in Zagreb.

Women in Croatia are educated successfully at all levels, including institutions of higher education, but that does not automatically mean a higher rate of their participation in the labour market.

There is a huge gender gap among workers in Croatia, shows the report, presented by a World Bank senior expert on social development, Tara Sharafudeen, and World Bank data processing expert Paul Andres Corral Rodas.

Compared to 71% of employed active men, only 61% of active women have a paying job. For women the situation changes in the course of life - initially the level of their employment is similar to men's but in time their participation in the labour market declines.

Men in Croatia earn much more than women. The average monthly pay for women accounts for around 88% of the average pay for men, and women who work earn less than men throughout their life.

The pay gap leads to a gap in pensions, which is why after leaving the labour market women face social exclusion, poverty and financial dependence on their spouse or partner.

As many as 32% of women in Croatia aged 25-64 have been inactive due to obligations related to care while only 12% of men do household chores.

Poverty among elderly women is 35% higher than poverty among elderly men, which is especially worrying considering estimates that elderly women will be making up 15% of Croatia's population by 2035.

The Roma minority is the most socially excluded minority group, and inequality starts early for Roma girls and grows stronger in time. As many as 78% of Roma girls leave school early compared to 60% of Roma boys. Only 6% of Roma girls complete secondary or a higher level of education as against 24% of Roma males. With an 82% rate for women and a 72% rate for men Croatia has Europe's second highest rate, after Spain, of Roma who are not included in the education system, labour market or some type of training. Roma women in Croatia do the least paying jobs in the entire Southeast Europe.

LGBT persons in Croatia face a high level of discrimination, violence and harassment which significantly exceeds the EU average. According to the World Bank report, in 2012, 60% of LGBT respondents said they had been victims of violence and harassment, often in public places, and more than a half said they avoid public places as they do not feel safe there. One in four respondents who had a job in the period of 12 months before the survey felt discriminated against at work in the previous year for stating their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Croatia has one of the lowest employment rates in the EU and women are much less likely to become entrepreneurs than men. Only three percent of women aged 25-29 are entrepreneurs. Older women are more inclined to start their own business and the rate is slightly higher (8.5%) in the 60-64 age group. At the same time, only 12% of households have women in the highest positions.

Gender Equality Ombudswoman Višnja Ljubičić said that society has the duty to provide equal opportunities of success to men and women because the entire society benefits from that.

More news about gender equality in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Croatia's Roma Join Mass Emigration

November 29, 2018 — A new group has joined the masses emigrating to Western Europe: Croatia's Roma, an oft-marginalized societal and economic underclass which has until now stayed put.

The most impoverished of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County’s Roma have started leaving Croatia, according to Novi List. About four thousand Roma lived in the area surrounding Rijeka until recently, but the number dropped drastically as the unemployed and poorest families left for Germany.

Croatia overall is enduring a mass exodus as young, well-educated citizens leave to the tune of nearly 200 a day by some estimates.

The last two years saw the number of families surviving on some part of Croatia’s social safety net fall by over 100 in the broader Rijeka area.

“Some left three years ago; some two years ago, others yesterday. They left for bread, for a better life,” Sadik Krasnić, president of the Council of the Roma National Minorities of the Primorsko-Goranska County, told Novi List. “More people would have left, but we managed to employ them on time, mostly in Sanitation.” Krasnić know of about 15 to 20 families who have left recently, each with three children or more.

The worst-hit areas appear to be Rujevica and Škurnjske Drage. The town of Delnica may also see a mass exodus. There, many families lack employment or any connection to basic municipal services such as water or electricity. Some, according to Krasnić, still live in tents.

Roma have historically been ostracized within Croatia and often unable to access basic municipal services and social welfare benefits granted other citizens. A 2015 UN Human Rights Committee report claims Roma effectively became stateless after the breakup of Yugoslavia and “face difficulties in meeting the requirements for obtaining Croatian citizenship because they often lack personal identity documents."

Roma moved into the Rijeka region, the northwestern corner of Croatia next to the Istrian Peninsula, in the 1950s. The first migrants made their living shining shoes under the clock at the city’s center. Their descendants, including Krasnić, still live there — of have until they started moving out.

A cadre of local politicians have helped Rijeka’s Roma find jobs, get electricity, legalize homes, and build playgrounds for children, according to Krasnić.

“We desperately want our kids to go to school, finish their educations so they can find their callings,” Krasnić said. “We don’t want to live in isolation.”

Those who emmigrated found jobs, apartments, schools for their children, Krasnić added. The better-off members return during the summers to fix the homes they left behind, checking odds and ends such as electric and water connections — still in the works at the time they left.

“They’ll come back some day, I know their souls,” Krasnić added.

Check out our other stories on Croatia’s ongoing demographic problems.

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