International Roma Day - 8th April 2011
Today isInternational Roma Day and a good time to reflect on the plight of the Roma inEurope and Amnesty’s work on the rights of Roma. Amnesty has been campaigning onthe rights of Roma as part of the Demand Dignity campaign, focussing on humanrights abuses that are a cause and a consequence of poverty.
The Romaare one of the largest ethnic minorities in Europe but are also among the most deprivedcommunities. They suffer massive discrimination and are often denied rights tobasic services such as housing, employment, health care and education. Furthermore,Roma communities often suffer human rights abuses such as forced evictions,racist attacks and police ill-treatment. All of these issues have an enormousimpact upon the lives and futures of Roma children, who find themselvesmarginalized throughout Europe.
We havefeatured a number of actions and campaigns for the Roma on this blog and on ourwebpages. Last September, Helle blogged about the deportations of Roma fromFrance and the segregation of Roma children in ‘special’ schools and classes inSlovakia, both issues that we have campaigned about.
At ourevent on the rights of Street Children in December, David, Amnesty UK ChildRights Advisor talked about the effect of our campaigns, and mentioned an EUmeeting at which the Human Rights Adviser to the Slovakian Deputy Prime Ministerexplained that the Amnesty campaign has helped to put the issue of theexclusion of Roma children from schools on the agenda in Slovakia and hopefullywe will begin to see progress in this area.
Meanwhile,an Amnesty report in January called on the French authorities to stopstigmatizing the Roma. Anti-Roma sentiment and discriminatory practices againstthe Roma were widespread in 2010. A policy circular specifically targeting theRoma was withdrawn in August 2010, following public outcry over the discriminatoryeffect of targeting a particular ethnic group.
Howeverexisting policies appear to have a considerable focus upon identifying and dismantlingillegal camps and expelling their inhabitants from France wherever possible. Inpractice Amnesty has reported that these measures do appear to disproportionatelytarget Roma from Romania and Bulgaria.
We havealso campaigned for proper investigation and prosecution of racially motivatedattacks against Roma people in Hungary. Between January 2008 and August 2009the Roma in Hungary were subjected to a series of Molotov cocktail attacks andshootings in which six people died, including a four-year-old boy and a13-year-old girl. Following campaigning by Amnesty, the trial of fourindividuals suspected of being responsible for the killing began on 25 March2011. However, Amnesty International remains concerned that the Hungarianauthorities lack procedures for investigation racially motivated crimes, andthat the police are not taking effective measures to stop the continuing harassmentof Roma people in Hungary.
In Marchof this year vigilantes in Hungary harassed and intimidated Roma residents inthe village of Gyöngyöspata, following an anti-Roma march held by the far-rightJobbik party. Groups are alleged to have harassed and verbally abused localRoma residents, made verbal death threats and threatened them with weapons anddogs. The vigilante groups were reportedly marching on the streets in militaryoutfits and on some cases with weapons such as whips and axes. Many local Romafeared for their safety and stopped sending their children to school as aresult of the harassment. Police check-points have been established, but somereports state that Roma residents were told to ‘behave’ and nothing wouldhappen to them.
Therefore,there are still serious concerns about the safety of the Roma in Hungary andthe risk of further racial violence and harassment. It is essential that theHungarian authorities introduce proper procedures and measures to investigate,prosecute and prevent racially motivated crimes. Please visit our action page to take action on this issue.
TodayAmnesty has launched a petition calling on the Serbian authorities to stopforced evictions of Roma. Since 2009 Belgrade municipal authorities have beencarrying out forced evictions of Roma communities in informal settlementswithout the safeguards required to protect the rights of evicted persons underinternational law. Families have been left with inadequate housing followingthe evictions, with some resettled in metal containers and others forciblydisplaced to southern Serbia.
The Romain Serbia also face systematic discrimination in access to human rights,including adequate housing. Roma face considerable difficulties in obtaining birthcertificates and registering as residents, and as a result they are frequentlydenied access to basic services, including education, health, social insuranceand employment. Without access to these basics, Roma children will remain marginalizedand discriminated against, denied the basic opportunities that should beavailable for all children.
Amnesty iscontinuing to work for the rights of Roma in Europe, and with so many issuespotentially having a severe impact upon the rights and futures of Roma childrenthe Children’s Human Rights Network will continue to feature reports on thisblog and actions that you can take to hep defend their rights on our webpages.
- Visit Amnesty's Roma in Europe Campaign
- For further information on the plight of Roma in Europe and campaigning materials including video clips and photos, visit Amnesty International's page of materials for International Roma Day 2011
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.