Sunday, 8 April 2012

International Roma Day - challenge discrimination against European Romani, urges Amnesty International

Friday, 6 April 2012

Young girls removing their belongings from their home before the  forced eviction of an informal Roma settlement in Belgrade known as 'Block 72' on 7th March, 2012/ Photograph:  Sanja Knežević

International Romani Day on April 8 is an opportunity to celebrate Romani culture, but also to highlight the persecution and discrimination that Roma people still face today. To mark the day, Amnesty International released a hard-hitting briefing on the plight of Roma, Traveller and Gypsy communities across Europe and called on the European Union to stop ignoring their plight.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Discrimination is one of Europe’s most pressing human rights concerns, affecting the lives of millions of people across the continent. Millions of people are still subjected to exclusion, poverty, ill-treatment, even violence, because of who they are, what they are presumed to be or what they believe... The Roma and Traveller populations of Europe suffer more than most. For too long, governments across Europe have swept the issue under the carpet. It’s time Europe woke up and put a full stop to persecution of these marginalised communities.”

The Amnesty briefing pulls together the latest statistics per country and paints a shocking picture of discrimination. The statistics include:

• In Ireland, life expectancy for male travellers is 61.7 years, around 15 years lower than the national average. 
• In Kosovo, 97 per cent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians are unemployed.
• In Moldova, 59 per cent of Roma live in absolute poverty.
• In Slovakia, 70 per cent of Roma children are in institutional care.
• In Spain, poverty among the Roma community is 4.5 times higher than that among the rest of the Spanish population.
•  In France,  only 15 to 20% of traveller children of secondary school age go to secondary school. President Nicolas Sarkozy described Roma as the “source of criminality” in July 2010

A pregnant mother and her daughter at home before the forced eviction of 'Block 72' in Belgrade. Photograph:  Sanja Knežević

Numbering between 10 and 12 million people, the Roma are one of Europe’s largest and most disadvantaged minorities. On average, they have lower incomes, worse health, poorer housing, lower literacy rates and higher levels of unemployment than the rest of the population.
These are not simply consequences of poverty; they are the result of widespread, often systematic, discrimination and other human rights violations. They are, in particular, the result of prejudice – of centuries of societal, institutional and individual acts of discrimination, that have pushed the great majority of Roma to the very margins of society – and which are keeping them there. 

“Stereotyping and negative perceptions of Roma people, embedded by some media and parts of the European public opinion feed discrimination in all spheres of life,” said Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director. 
“Governments must set the example and challenge social prejudices that foster discrimination against the Roma and ensure their equality. Instead, only too often governments neglect their responsibilities to their Roma citizens to the detriment of all.”

For more information, click here;  to read Amnesty’s blogs on Roma, click here.

In England, hundreds of Traveller, Roma and Gypsy families will mark the day by marching  alongside supporters in London on Sunday as part of a global day protest. Protesters will assemble in Hyde Park corner at noon, visiting various embassies before arriving at the Department of Communities and Local Government. The demonstration is organised by the Traveller Solidarity Network, a group formed out of the Dale Farm eviction. 
For more information, click here.

A bulldozer destroys a house as part of the forced eviction of an informal Roma settlement in Belgrade known as 'Block 72' on 7th March, 2012/ Photograph:  Sanja Knežević