A spokesperson for the European Commission told the French media yesterday that the Commission is carefully following the way in which French authorities are dissolving Romani people’s campsites and wants to ensure respect for guarantees against arbitrary deportation and discriminatory treatment. “Representatives of Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding are in contact with the French authorities to determine whether European regulations are being respected,” the spokesperson said.
Agence-France Presse quoted an unnamed representative of the Commission who said this was a “test of the new French Government”. “The Commission wants to verify France’s commitment to governing itself by the rules it has promulgated in its own legislation,” the representative said.
During the early morning hours of Thursday, French Police cleared a campsite near the northern town of Lille that was occupied by approximately 200 Romani people. The intervention followed a series of similar actions in Lyon and Paris. More Romani people who are Romanian citizens were also deported from Lyon.
Reding sharply criticized French President Nicolas Sarkozy two years ago for his deportations of Romani people who had come to France primarily from Bulgaria and Romania, which are also EU Member States. Under the threat of a court proceedings, France adopted guarantees in the end which Reding said would “protect EU citizens against arbitrary deportation and discriminatory treatment.”
The new Socialist-led government is continuing the policies of the previous right-wing cabinet. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls has ordered prefects to dissolve the campsites if court orders to dissolve them have been issued and to push for the Romani people’s return to their home countries. He has defended the interventions in recent days by saying they are legal and unavoidable because the camps pose a public health risk.
Approximately 20 000 Romani people live in France. Many of the deported Romani people who are Romanian citizens returned to France after being paid EUR 300 each to return to their home country. Valls said the Government will re-evaluate its policy regarding such financial support as well as its restrictions on Romanian citizens working in France.
Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
The US ambassador to the Czech Republic, a former top advisor to President Barack Obama, has made a public all for Czechs to do more for the Roma (“Gypsy”) minority.
“Roma have for a long time faced problems on the margins of society in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe. The unequal access to education and job opportunities have further worsened their situation,” Amb. Norman Eisen wrote in an commentary published in Monday’s issue of the business dailyHospodářské noviny.
“If there is one group of people denied basic rights and opportunities that damages the whole of society,” Eisen continued. “I appeal to the Czech government to take more effective measures regarding the Roma. Success will only come when the public administration at all levels seeks to bring the Roma from the fringes of society.”
The comments follow a critical assessment of the Czech Republic in the US Department of State’s annual evaluation of human rights worldwide, published last week. “During the year, societal discrimination against the country’s Romani population was a serious problem and human rights observers criticized the government’s efforts to overcome it as inadequate.” The report also attacked prison overcrowding, corruption, judicial shortcomings, human trafficking, and discrimination against labor unions and migrant workers.
The country report highlighted what it called the almost non-existent role of Roma in public life: “Few of the country’s estimated 200,000 Roma were integrated into political life. No Roma were members of parliament, had cabinet portfolios, or sat on the Supreme Court. Some Roma were appointed to national and regional advisory councils dealing with Romani affairs.”
The high level of underlying tension between Roma and the majority population, which led to a wave of anti-Roma protests in deprived parts of northern Bohemia last summer after a series of incidents, were also covered in the report. “Throughout the year, extremists targeted Romani neighborhoods as venues for their protests and occasional violence. Police investigated several incidents of torches or Molotov cocktails being thrown at Romani houses. Extremist groups also marched through Romani areas carrying torches and chanting slogans.”
The overwhelming negative tone of the media towards the Roma community, in some cases printing totally fictitious stories which tarnished the community, or, as recently in the case of a Břeclav boy who blamed Roma for attacking himwhen he injured himself falling over, jumping on an anti-Roma bandwagon, was also highlighted. “The national media gave disproportionate coverage to crime and acts of violence committed by Roma compared with similar behavior on the part of the majority population or other minorities,” the State Department report said.
Local politicians have meanwhile sought to profit from taking extreme anti-Roma stances, it said. “Some mainstream politicians have been outspoken in their criticism of Romani communities. Their statements often vilified the Romani minority, blaming it for community problems and assigning collective guilt for crimes. Some politicians called for municipalities to move Romani residents to the outskirts of town into what is often substandard housing, ban alcohol in areas with high Romani populations, and limit residency options for Roma who commit multiple minor crimes.”
In the meantime, in spite of frequent international demands, including from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for more efforts to harness the abilities of the Roma community, they are often forced to live on social support and state hands outs because of job market discrimination. “An estimated 57 percent of Roma were unemployed. In areas with a high percentage of Romani residents, unemployment among Roma was close to 90 percent according to the Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities,” the report said.
Roma children are still frequently offered the most basic education, often being placed as a matter of course in school’s for children with learning difficulties although Czech authorities maintain that this practice has now stopped. They are almost entirely absent from the upper ranks of education.
“The US has its own bad experience with unfairness in education. Our own successes and failures could be an inspiration for those who seek to deal with the issues in a similar way,” Eisen commented in his opinion piece.
Eisen served for nearly two years in the White House as Special Assistant to the President and as Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, being given the informal title of Barack Obama’s “ethics czar.” He wasconfirmed as US ambassador in mid-December in the face of moves by Republicans in the Senate to block the move
I’ve thought about this a great deal recently, but a new friend has prompted me to write this here.
All the news reports I see—so many from Europe—all pointing at the Roma as such an inconvenience. There is talk of internment camps, ghettos, “removal”, there are renewed evictions to “container settlements”. There is massive pressure in regions of Europe such as France, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, to find an “answer” to the “Roma problem”.
All words we’ve heard before, decades ago.
Phrases like “rising aversion to Roma” plaster the newspapers and send shivers down my spine.
But, no one is listening.
In the US they post headlines about “gypsy thieves” who swing through your precious suburban tranquility in the spring and rip off old grandmas. They write articles about bands and clothing lines simultaneously painting us as thieves and vagabonds, as well as romanticized fairyesque beings who don’t really exist.
Our language is fading out.
Our customs are fading out.
WE are fading out…
but apparently not fast enough. Not fast enough for the politicians in Europe who don’t want to deal with us. Recently two men luckily were freed, they faced jail time for simply trying to protect Roma human rights in Italy. In Serbia families have been shipped from a slum into a “container settlement”. It is literally what it sounds like—old shipping containers where Roma are now forced to live.
There are slums on trash dumps, toxic dumps, next to factories, in areas heavily polluted with heavy metals.
… and no one cares. No one helps us. They let us rot—in hopes that what? We will die without direct intervention. France suggested perhaps they should create internment camps (sound familiar?)
It scares me. I am literally terrified when I think of this and what are we all doing about it?
We sit and fight over who is more of a true Roma, who follows Romanipen stronger, who wears traditional clothes, who does this or that, who has lighter-skin or darker-skin, who is American or who is EU. Seriously? What about our brothers and sisters who are living in fear and bad health situations, who have to beg for food, who have no access to education or health care…
What are we doing? Arguing on the internet about little privileged hipsters who just don’t even care? Why are we wasting our time on these people? We need to be focusing on challenging the mainstream shit like the shows on TLC or other misrepresentation.
Tumblr is not enough.
We need to take this much bigger.
Or, perhaps, there will be a nevo baro Porajmos.
The European-wide Action Week against Racism began on 17 March around Europe and will run until 25 March. This year the slogan is “Open your mind and speak out against racism”. The Czech Helsinki Committee has issued a press release on this event, which is organized by the international UNITED network and supported by the various organizations around Europe conducting the anti-racism campaign.
21 March was established as the International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the General Assembly of the United Nations in response to the murder of 69 anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960.
Ever since, thousands of people in Europe and around the world have been actively engaged on that day every year on behalf of equality, tolerance, and the celebration of diversity. The aim of the campaign is to draw attention to the issue of racism from an NGO perspective at local, national, and European level.
The Czech Helsinki Committee joined this year’s campaign against racism in order to draw attention to the rise in hatred and intolerance in the Czech Republic. “We will hold a press conference on 21 March at which we will release the ENAR (European Network against Racism) Shadow Report on the state of racism in the Czech Republic and in Europe. The report on the Czech Republic was researched by the Czech Helsinki Committee and authored by Selma Muhič Dizdarevič and František Valeš,” said Monika Bunžová, Second Vice-Chair of the ENAR Foundation (see http://www.enarfoundation.eu/about/article/board).
ENAR publishes a national Shadow Report on each EU Member State every year, as well as an EU-wide report reflecting on the phenomenon of racism. The new report will map the period between January 2010 and March 2011.
The director of the Czech Helsinki Committee, Markéta Kovaříková, said: “We have designed an exhibition of photographs taken at neo-Nazi demonstrations throughout the Czech Republic. The photographs were provided to us by the Tolerance a občanská společnost (Tolerance and Civil Society) civic association, which has long been involved in monitoring neo-Nazi activities in the Czech Republic. The exhibition will run from 19 – 20 April at the Sicily café on Senovážné nám. 2, Prague 1. We are also planning to disseminate an anti-racist video clip through social networks that was produced by our partner organization, ROMEA, and can be seen on our website and on Facebook.”
Part of the International Day against Racism will include the LUCERNA PROTI RASISMU (LUCERNA AGAINST RACISM) program at the Lucerna complex in Prague. The program was designed by the OPONA public benefit company.
You will not be able to avoid the topic of racism at the Lucerna on Wednesday. In the afternoon there will be a screening of the film “The Last Flight of Peter Ginz”, which reminds viewers of where social engineering has led us in the past and how it has blemished people’s life stories. The screening is connected with an exhibition, entitled “Exhibition against Racism”, which links the past to the present through the history of the Jewish and Romani minorities on Czech territory and investigates the media image of Romani people in detail. The texts on the media section of the exhibition were authored by František Kostlán of the ROMEA civic association.
The day will end with a concert against racism. Ester Kočičková and her “Aryan folk music” - with the catchy refrain “It’s good they always pour us blondes a drink” (“Ještěže nám blondýnám vždycky nalejou”) - will perform with the Tap Tap band. Tonya Graves will also sing. The evening will be closed by Radio 1’s Gadjo.cz and a live show by Jam Sound System. For more information please see www.lucernaprotirasismu.cz
Catherine Bearder on Human Trafficking in the Roma Community - Speech in Parliament
Speaking in a debate in the European Parliament on the Roma community in member states, Catherine Bearder choose to remind the Commission of the scale of human trafficking that exists within the community and that this cannot be tackled until they are fully welcomed into the European family.
Catherine’s speech was: ”I want to draw attention to the topic of human trafficking within the Roma Community.
The poverty of the Roma and the fact that they are marginalised, directly feed into the trafficking of large numbers of their population around Europe.
This begins a cycle of crime that continues with trafficked victims used for crimes ranging from pick-pocketing, prostitution and large-scale benefit fraud.
The scale of this problem was highlighted by the EU Joint Investigation, Operation Golf. A raid on just ONE Roma village last year saw the arrest of 26 people responsible for the trafficking of 272 Roma children - from just one village!
The sooner the Roma community are accepted and welcomed fully into their communities and given opportunities to become financial participants in society, the sooner they will be able to resist the predatory behaviour of the gangs that traffic them. The EU has much to do and a duty to ensure their rights are upheld.”
Michael J. Jordan
After years of debate, the EU unveils its first high-level policy document on the Roma. Now it’s up to national governments to fill in the outline.
BUDAPEST | Angela Kocze has been a firsthand witness to all the calamities that have befallen her fellow Roma over the two decades since Central and Eastern Europe rid itself of communist rule.
Nevertheless, Kocze is the rare voice to somehow muster “cautious optimism” about the first unified European Union policy to target the plight of the Roma, Europe’s largest, most-despised and most-marginalized minority.
She even swallows a grain of salt in that it’s Hungary, her homeland, that claims the new EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies as a crowning achievement of its just-concluded stint in the presidency of the European Union. Budapest can only hope Western partners will look more kindly upon its six-month reign, which was tainted from the outset by Hungary’s suffocating new media law.
Kocze, a research fellow in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for National and Ethnic Minorities, has for years heard empty – even insincere – promises from Budapest to do something about the subpar education, employment, health, and housing from which many Roma are unable to escape.
Meanwhile, the country has seen the dramatic rise of an openly racist, far-right party. In a not-entirely-unrelated development, nine Hungarian Roma have been murdered in suspected racist attacks, including a man and his 5-year-old son shot as they fled their fire-bombed home.
Living conditions for Europe’s Roma are worsening and all European states, including western ones, are responsible for changing that, says László Andor, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
11 July 2011 – Beginning of 2010, Chachipe received information about a discriminatory campaign of the Luxembourg police against Romanian Roma, who came to Luxembourg for the purpose of begging. In a TV report, which was broadcast by the national TV channel, RTL, a representative of the police of the city of Luxembourg regretted, that with the reform of the Luxembourgish immigration law, it was no longer possible to simply expel the Roma. She explained that the police had thus agreed with the Prosecutor to seize their money, if it was proven, that their begging was organised.
The last five years have seen major progress in the development of a common EU approach to increasing Roma inclusion and improving socio-economic conditions in Roma communities. However, this mission and the one to ensure equal rights for Roma, remain incomplete. While the EU Framework for coordinating national Roma strategies was endorsed by the European Council on 24 June, much more is required to ensure respect of Roma rights and social inclusion across Europe. How can the EU move from an overall framework and approach to national-level implementation? This note assesses recent developments in EU policy on Roma, and highlights the further commitments needed to achieve tangible results.