Cafes in Skopje Don't Admit Roma Customers

by Elena Simonoska

The Mesecina Roma Humanitarian organization from Gostivar, complains about the increasing number of cases of discrimination and racist incidents directed against Roma in Macedonia.

The latest incident involved three young roma, Senad, Senaj and Birdzan, who sat at a cafe on the Vardar River quay in Skopje. The waitress came and asked them to leave, under the excuse that the table was for regular patrons only. When they demanded explanation, the owner of the establishment told them "the rules are from yesterday, boy, its a new law since yesterday".

"Mesecina" has collected and documented many cases of similar discriminatory actions, through its six centres in different cities and municipalities in Macedonia.

Muhamed Toci, Coordinator at "Mesecina", says that they couldn't bring up charges against the owners of the cafes, because of the fact that there is no legislation that they could invoke. They are waiting for the Law on Anti-Discrimination, prepared by several MPs and the Helsinki Committee.

"A number of cases of discrimination were registered in Kocani, Vinica and Delcevo, but racism is on the rise in other cities, such as Prilep and Ohrid. The Roma are not served in cafes under a variety of excuses", says Toci, and adds that in Vinica, there was even an organized group, under the name "Black Rose" that attacked the Roma. Similar group also existed in Bitola, but it has stopped its attacks because its leader is in jail for another offense.

According to Toci, the Roma rarely decide to bring up charges, because of their mistrust of the Police, which holds the same prejudice about the Roma and often abuses its authority.

There has been only one court conviction for insulting a Roma person (it was Toci in fact that bore the brunt of the abuse) was Dafina Naumoska from the Social Care Centre in Gostivar. In January 1999, Toci went to the Centre to get some documents, when Naumoska pushed him out of the office, yelling abuse. Naumoska was sentenced to one month in prison and one year on probation. (Dnevnik)