Ethnic Albanian representatives in Serbia have not yet reached an agreement with the Serbian government amid allegations that authorities deleted addresses belonging to ethnic Albanians in the country’s south.
“There is no agreement, nor an arrangement,” said Ragmi Mustafi, head of the National Council of Albanians in Serbia.
Earlier this week, Gordana Comic, the Serbian minister for human and minority rights, rejected the deleted address claims.
“There is no organized deletion of addresses (so-called ‘passivation’ of residence) of Albanians in Serbia and there is nothing but the application of the Law on Residence,” he said, “we have agreed on that with the representatives of the National Council of Albanians.”
“If such a thing is confirmed,” Mustafi hit back, “I will resign.”
The National Council of Albanians began offering “free legal assistance” when it started gathering data on the alleged phenomenon, which involves deleted addresses belonging to ethnic Albanians in the municipalities of Medvedja, Bujanovac, and Presevo. In all three municipalities, Albanians vastly outnumber ethnic Serbs- for now.
The National Council’s concern with deleted addresses stems from a process carried out by Serbian authorities whereby an Albanian’s permanent residential address is “passivized” and removed from the Civil Registry in Serbia. The practice means an individual has, in the eyes of Serbian authorities, ceased to exist; they cannot renew an expired ID card or passport, register a car, access social or medical services, buy or sell property, or vote in elections.
Over the past four years alone, Serbian authorities have allegedly purged more than 4,000 Albanians from the Civil Registry in Medvedja, and 1,000 Albanians in Bujanoc. In “checking” the validity of the permanent residences of Albanian citizens, Serbian state authorities effectively deactivate their permanent addresses, strip citizens of their basic civil rights, and force them to become stateless.
Experts and ethnic Albanian politicians say the deleted addresses are evidence of a scheme to alter the official ethnic makeup and political representation of these areas. Just two decades ago, the multi-ethnic region saw intense violence between ethnic Albanian rebels and Serbian security forces in the wake of the Kosovo War.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia has backed claims made by ethnic Albanians, slamming the deleted addresses phenomenon as “ethnic cleansing through administrative means.”
One ethnic Albanian woman, Teuta Fazliu, has taken her case to Serbia’s Administrative Court. She has vowed to pursue the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
Image via Pixabay