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News 21 Mar 13

Macedonian Mall Caught in Roma Ban Row

Managers of a major shopping mall in Skopje say they may go to court over a leaked email that suggests they planned to remove all Roma employees - which they say is a fake.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Photo by: Build.Mk

Managers of Skopje City Mall say they may sue for libel, following claims that they told a contract firm in charge of cleaning to remove all Roma staff from the food court.

Protesters rallied on Wednesday in front of the mall, the largest in the capital, under the slogan: “I am also Roma”.

The activists have called on people to boycott the mall if the authorities determine that the allegations are true.

“If City Mall does not want Roma, Skopje does not want City Mall,” one protestor said.

According to the leaked email, mall managers wrote to the cleaning company saying: “By 20.01.2013 at the latest, we expect the removal of all employees of Roma nationality from the food court due to many reasons that we previously discussed.”

The mall insists that the memo is a fake, which was concocted and then leaked by Land Service after the mall sacked the firm for poor work.

“We fully deny the claims of Land Service that Skopje City Mall has discriminated against its employees, especially Roma, on ethnic grounds,” management said, adding that it might now sue the firm.

Zoranco Zafirov, a manager of Land Service, on Thursday responded that the email correspondence is authentic and that they intended to hold it as possible evidence.

He also denied that the mall had ever complained about the quality of the firm's services.

“We were told that they did not want Roma, in other words, people with dark skin,” Zafirov said.

Meanwhile, a Budapest-based public interest law organization, European Roma Rights Centre, ERRC, issued a press release condemning what it called a clear case of discrimination.

“Collectively targeting staff based on their ethnic origin is not acceptable,” Dezideriu Gergely, director of the ERRC, said. “This kind of discrimination against Roma in the workplace, presumably based on stereotypes of ‘gypsy criminality’ should not be tolerated.”

Macedonia's Anti-Discrimination Commission also reacted on Thursday, saying that the case “represents discrimination on ethnic grounds against a group of people of Roma ethnicity who are being degraded and humiliated”.

The mall, which opened last year, has become a popular shopping venue for people from across Macedonia and neighbouring countries.

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