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May 2015 Meeting - Discrimination against the Roma in Europe

At our May 2015 meeting we were extremely fortunate  to welcome Ulrike Schmidt,  Amnesty's Country Co-ordinator for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. 

Ulrike talked to us about the enormous and increasing difficulties currently faced by Roma people within the European Union, where they often suffer racial discrimination, violence and threats to their ordinary rights to health care, education and housing. About 70% of the 10 - 12 million Roma in Europe, now live in central or eastern Europe. Although a minority are nomadic, most prefer to settle in one place and many families who have lived in their home villages for generations are now facing forced evictions.

Whereas under communist regimes the Roma had equal rights and families were obliged to settle in one place, the recent return to nationalism in many European countries, especially Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, has meant a rise in prejudice and anti-Roma protests. Enforced unemployment, low wages and hunger can lead to petty criminality which is then exploited for political purposes, thus fuelling further prejudice.

Ulrike told us about Amnesty's current campaign to wipe out school discrimination for Roma children, especially in the Czech Republic where discriminatory practices mean that most Roma children receive inferior education in Roma-only classes within mainstream schools, or are sent to schools designed for children with 'mild mental disabilities.'

The campaign aims to press the Czech government to end such discrimination and segregation in schools and, in particular, is targeting the Czech Prime Minister from now until September 2015. It is calling on children globally to take part in the campaign on behalf of Roma children and asking parents, teachers, schools and youth groups to support this initiative.

To get involved, please contact

To view the latest Amnesty report, please click on this link:

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