By Endrit Keraj
In the streets of the southern town of Gjirokastra it happens to meet daily a group of Roma children begging for some coins. Being undernourished and barefoot, they hang around and beg on the streets of the town, as their mother cannot secure their daily food. The ten year old Maria and her four brothers go out from their hut since the early morning hours, coming around the town to collect cans and iron. Drita Mehmeti, their mother, has moved from Fier, her home town, some five years ago to be settled in Gjirokastra together with her husband hoping to raise their children will less worries. Being already divorced from her husband, the 38 year old mother tries to confront alone the difficulties of life. She follows every day the same itinerary: gets the carriage and gathers every metal that she can sell.
“My first husband abandoned me and the second is in prison, I have five little children to raise up and I cannot make it. How much can I gain by selling scrap and cans and how much will get the children by begging in the Bazaar area? No one helps me”, – says the mother of five children. She accepts the fact that her children are begging, but they do it to secure their daily bread. “We do not have what to eat, that’s why the children are obliged to beg”, – says Drita. She has gone hundreds times to the local institutions appealing for help. The State Social Service is the door where she is continuously complaining to gain the modest amount of money of any economic aid.
The orphan children and the director of Gjirokastra Social Service Directorate
Albana Allushaj, director of this institution explains to Drita the reasons why she does not benefit the economic aid. “We have a long way ahead with Drita” –says Allushaj, being recently appointed to this position. According to her, Drita Mehmeti results to be at the same family tree with the members of her former husband, with whom she has still not done officially the divorce in the Court. Drita Mehmeti cannot benefit any economic aid without finalizing the divorce with her former husband in the Court”, – says Albana Allushaj, director of the Regional State Social Service in Gjirokastra region. “Judging the economic situation of Drita, as a women and actually as a head of her family, we are going to register her case in the court to ensure the divorce from her former husband”, says Allushaj.
Drita says that she has never had the financial means to open the case in the court, whereas Mrs. Allushaj further adds that the staff of the State Social Service is voluntarily trying to ensure the financial fee to start the court proceeding in order Drita to benefit the economic aid after that. Up to now, the five Drita’s little children are living in miserable conditions. This winter, they have settled their hut to “River’s bridge” in Gjirokastra by facing the cold and rainy weather. Most of the daytime, Maria and her four little brothers spend it begging in the 18 Shtatori avenue and “Bazaar Neck”. Out of the five children that Drita has given birth from her second marriage, only Maria is registered in the civil status office.
The Director of this institution, Albana Allushaj, says that the social service will be reformatted and will apply more efficient policies. “Referring to the above mentioned case, we are trying to ensure to Maria a normal education, as she is 10 years old and she has not attended any educational program, whereas her four little brothers are not registered in the civil status office. On the other side, we have tried to move the children from the streets to not beg any more by ensuring a meal for free in a daily centre”, says the director of the social service.
The sociologist, Alsona Bala, who is exercising her profession in Gjirokastra, judges that this is a social problem and a lack of management from the
Director of Gjirokastra State Social Service, Albana Allushi
side of the institution of the case of Maria and her brothers, and not only. “In the last years it is evident the increase of the number of the street children that beg or exercise similar activities, who are without any social support and furthermore not even being registered in the civil status offices”, says the sociologist Bala. According to her, there must exist social policies for the children without protection or street children to have the possibility to be fed, have a shelter and be safe. “The Albanian state does have the social policies at place but they are not implemented. Even in the most extreme cases, those of the funerals, the social policies are not exercised either”, -adds Bala. According to her, the social shelters are a good possibility to remove the children from the street. As far as such centers are established for the women, victims of violence, there must be established centers for the unprotected children as well. “Despite the unimplemented social policies from the institutions, the state must be confronted with the contingent of the street children in the near future, as this target group is always prior to deviant behaviours” – highlights the sociologist Bala.
This is a contingent that learns to be raised up alone and to face the darkest sides of life since their early age. They can beg and get used to be helped by the others, but when they will grow up they can throw themselves to deviant behaviours and in the majority of cases they are obliged to use violence to survive. This target group is mostly exposed towards the criminal acts, rapists, traffickers of the white meat and organs”. According to the sociologist Alsona Bala, the most risky contingent are the girls and there will be an increase of this phenomenon in the future. “The women do have a double problem as they can become mothers in a young age and being under such surviving condition they can abandon their child. In this case we do have a double abandonment, being a trend as their number is increased and this also brings the increase of the fictive population”. The case of Maria and her brothers is defined as a flagrant case from the sociologist and public opinion in Gjrokastra, whereas the State Social Service does not exercise any social policy for their treatment.
In the Convection of Children’s Rights under the topic “Family Environment and Alternative Caring”, article 9/5 is mentioned: “In the cases when the parent misuses the parental right, parental authority or shows heavy negligence while exercising it, or with his action affects in a harmful way the education of the children, with the request of the other parent or of the Council of Caretaking or prosecutor there can be removed his/her parental right with the decision of the competent court. The Constitution of the Republic of Albania guarantees the caretaking and the state’s support for the orphans (article 59/e). Furthermore, the Constitution foresees a special protection of these children from the state being expressed in a general way. Whereas, in the Family Code is stipulated the obligation of the state for raising and educating the children without parents and without protection (article 10).
In the Code of the Family is foreseen the right of the Council of Caretaking to address the issue to the Court and to request to the later to remove the parental right in the cases when the parents do not take care to properly raise up and educate their children or when this is requested on behalf of the interest of the child and to trust for his raising and education to a state institution or another person when the later accepts it. On these cases the rights and obligation that belong to the parents towards their child do not cease.
Based on the Family Code, when the Court proves that the parent misuses the parental right or he/she shows a heavy violation while exercising it, or via his/her own actions affects in a harmful way in the education of the children, the court removes the parental right (article 76). Furthermore, the Penal Code provides that it is a penal act the abandonment of the child being under the age of 14 from the parent, or the person who is appointed to take care of him/her. In this case he/she is given a fine or sentenced up to three years. If the exercising of such an act has caused heavy health problems or his/her death, the penalties go from three years of imprisonment to 10 years (article 124)
Maltreatment of the children remains to be one of the keenest problems with which the Albanian society is confronted. The bitter reality of the maltreatment of children is becoming more and more present in different ways in and out of the family. The street children represent the most unprotected category and the most exposed one towards the risks such as maltreatment, lack of safety, illiteracy, malnutrition etc. The marginalization of this category is stimulated by many economic, social, cultural, educational and family factors. According to some partial data only in Tirana there have been identified about 800 street children, who exercise the “profession” of a beggar, ambulant seller etc. Based on the article 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, the children have the right to have a special protection from the state, at a time that the reality is completely different and touchable from everyone.
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