January 17 2013

Macedonia: Lost in the Times: The 21st Century Struggles of Skopjes Roma Community

In a European Capital, one imagines that people from all demographics would be entitled to contemporary resources and basic services. However, in the Southern European country of Macedonia around ten percent of the capital’s population consists of a Roma community that is practically economically and socially excluded from the first world.

The Romans have origins that trace back to the Indian Subcontinent, however, today they have set up communities throughout Europe, as well as the USA and Brazil. Skopje’s Roma Community is the largest of its kind in Europe, with over 100,000 Romans residing in informal towns on the peripheries of the capital. These communities are unable to connect to sanitation services or safe drinking water due to their remoteness nor are they able to attain basic levels of education or healthcare because of the Government’s and its citizens inability to appreciate the depth of their struggles. Furthermore, the vast majority of Romans are unable to pay the basic citizenship fees that entitles them to public healthcare and education.

The major stigma preventing their progress stems from the long lasting reputation of the Roma’s as a band of “Gypsies” who sustain themselves through illegitimate means. A drive through the streets of Skopje will expose you to Roman youths who persuasively wash windscreens at traffic lights or who unofficially mind parking lots for a small fee. This exposure is what dictates the prejudice of Skopje’s city residents who appear to have little recognition of how the Romans struggle to gain a living from a way of legitimate means.

In the past decade the struggles of the community has been recognized by several aid initiatives, such as Habitat for Humanity, who have implemented sustainable housing, sanitation, and clean water programs. However, one may argue that for the Romans to truly integrate themselves into society the community’s perception in Macedonia will have to change first rather than their living conditions.

Do you know of similar communities in the developed world that have suffered from prejudice?

Credits: Image by Steven Petsinis. Data linked to sources.

Steven Petsinis

Steven Petsinis is an Urban Planning graduate from Melbourne, Australia. He has been involved in Urban Research and Development projects in Medellin, Colombia and Saigon, Vietnam and is currently pursuing his masters in Melbourne, Australia. His main interests lie in land use and social planning, sustainability, as well as studies involving globalization and it's effect on third world communities. He has recently spent one year travelling throughout North and South America, as well as Europe, where he has gathered material and inspiration for his upcoming blogs for The Grid.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2013 at 8:22 pm and is filed under Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Housing, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Macedonia: Lost in the Times: The 21st Century Struggles of Skopjes Roma Community”

  1. Christie Says:

    These type of illegitimate communities seem to be apparent many other places – here in Spain they actually contribute to the city in many good ways. Groups of immigrants, without papers forage around the city for discarded/ waste materials, generally metals which are collected on the streets recycled and sold. These informal systems / occupations are actually a good thing in many ways. Given the volatile economic and environmental conditions that are upon us – can these communities that are respectful of resources begin to soft wire and reshape the our ‘legitimate’ communities?

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