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Slovakias shameful plans to remove Roma kids from their families

The litany of discriminatory measures levelled at Roma people in Europe, including children, grows yet longer this week as the Slovakian Prime Minister revealed plans to take Roma kids from their families and place them in special boarding schools, to “gradually detach them from the way of living they currently experience in the settlements“.

It’s a story that has some disturbing echoes of the “Stolen generation” of aboriginal children in Australia who were taken away from their parents, again on the basis of their race, and placed with white families or in orphanages up to the late 1960s.

Quite how this treatment is meant to help Roma children integrate with other Slovakians is anyone’s guess. The fact that some Roma families living in settlements can find it difficult to support the education of children because of poverty, language barriers and other factors, highlights the need for government to provide support and assistance to help them overcome such barriers. It shouldn’t be used as a pretext to send the kids away and out of sight.

It’s not the first time that the Slovakian authorities have tried to segregate schools along racial lines – in 2008 Amnesty brought out a report on how Roma kids were put into ‘special ‘ schools for children with ‘mild mental disabilities’ (as also happens in the Czech Republic). This new proposal seems to take things one step further.

It’s also not the first dramatic illustration of measures targeting Roma in Slovakia. Earlier this year Adam Lebor from The Times reported on the building of a ‘separation wall’ in the Slovakian village of Ostraveny to keep the Roma ghetto separate from the rest of the village:

The most solidly built structure in the Roma ghetto in Ostrovany is the wall dividing it from the rest of the village, built with €13,000 (£11,300) of public funds to separate those living in conditions of medieval squalor from their better-off non-Roma neighbours.
The 150m structure, made from grey concrete slabs 2.2m (7ft) high, has caused outrage among the Roma and human rights activists. “Nobody told us that this was happening — they just came one day and started building,” said Peter Kaleja. “The mayor should not have spent that money on the wall, but should have built houses for us.”

And this isn’t a problem that’s restricted to Slovakia. As I mentioned before, discrimination against Roma in the Czech Republic – something I’ve seen first-hand while living there – is manifest in segregated schools. Earlier this year we reported on Roma families in Romania being evicted from their homes and made to live behind a sewage works. And on Thursday this week we will release a new report on Italy’s new “Nomad Plan” to forcibly evict thousands of Roma and bundle them off to mass camps on the outskirts of Rome.
Racial segregation of both adults and children, it seems, is sadly alive and kicking in modern-day Europe.

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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.
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