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UN Spotlights Plight Of Roma Children In Albania

UNICEF Chief Spotlights Plight Of Roma Children During Visit To Albania

New York, Oct 6 2008 3:10PM

The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has highlighted the plight of Albania’s Roma children, especially the poor rates of school enrollment among the minority community, during a two-day visit to the South-Eastern European country.

Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the UN agency, met with senior Albanian Government officials, including Prime Minister Sali Berisha and President Bamir Topi, and spent time at a youth employment enterprise and a juvenile detention centre during her visit.

Ms. Veneman also toured a Roma community that is home to about 100 families living in makeshift housing beside a large landfill in Tirana, the capital.

“An 11-year-old girl told me that she does not go to school because she has to work scavenging through the garbage,” Ms. Veneman said, according to a press release issued by UNICEF on Friday.

Only about one in four Roma children aged six are enrolled in school in Albania, Ms. Veneman added, and an estimated 43 per cent of Roma aged 15 or 16 are classed as illiterate.

UNICEF said it is working closely with the Albanian Government to encourage more Roma children to attend school, to provide housing for the Roma community and to tackle the broader problems of marginalization and discrimination faced by Roma.

The agency is also assisting the Albanian justice ministry to ensure expeditious handling of juvenile cases – one teenage boy accused of theft has been in detention for seven months awaiting a result – and flexible sentencing alternatives where appropriate.

ENDS

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