Northern Ireland: Returning Roma face catalogue of human rights violations at home

Noting the return of members of the Roma community to their home country Romania, after being forced from their homes by racially-motivated attacks in Belfast, Amnesty International has warned of a catalogue of potential human rights violations facing the returnees.

Amnesty International said discrimination against Roma, both by public officials and in society at large, remained widespread and entrenched in Romania. Romanian authorities have repeatedly failed to take adequate measures to combat discrimination and stop violence against Roma.

Romani communities face economic insecurity and are at particular risk of various forms of discrimination. Roma continue to be denied equal access to education, housing, health care and employment. Roma Children's rights can find themselves segregated into special schools.

Previously there have been serious attacks on Roma communities. In the 1990s at least five people were killed and 45 houses destroyed during mob violence. Hundreds of people were made homeless while local authorities failed to intervene or actively participated in the attacks.

Last year the Romanian President Traian Băsescu faced no sanctions despite describing a journalist as a "stinky gypsy", despite the phrase being found to be discriminatory by the High Court.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, said:

"The return of these Roma families to face potential widespread discrimination and persecution in Romania is an indictment of the authorities in both countries.

"The Roma are Europe's most downtrodden minority. For generations they have faced terrible discrimination in Romania and across much of eastern Europe. In recent years, in Romania and other countries, they have faced ill-treatment by governments and violence by racist mobs.

"Given the scale of discrimination faced by Roma people in Romania, that these families are now leaving Northern Ireland to return home, reveals the extent of the trauma they have suffered here. The Northern Ireland authorities, especially the police, need to be much more vigilant in protecting the rights of these and other minorities living here. The Romanian authorites should take note that the eyes of Europe are on them and their treatment of these returnees and the wider Roma community."

ENDS

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