Scottish event to highlight Europe-wide abuse of Gypsy Travellers and Roma

Call for all governments to stop discrimination and violation of human rights 

  Amnesty International will lead a delegation of Scottish organisations campaigning for the rights of Gypsy Travellers and Roma, to lobby European Consulates across Edinburgh on Wednesday 23rd February, culminating at Bute House, official residence of Scotland's First Minister, at 4.15pm.   At each Consulate, a letter outlining the discrimination and abuse of Gypsy Travellers and Roma specific to that country will be handed in together with a call for governments to take decisive action to guarantee a broad range of human rights, such as access to health, housing and education. The delegation will also present the First Minister's office with a letter highlighting the discrimination faced by Scottish Gypsy Travellers.   The delegation will include UNISON, The Church of Scotland, Article 12, Black and Ethnic Minorities in Scotland (BEMIS), the Gypsy Traveller Law Reform Coalition, the Scottish Traveller Education Programme (STEP), and Friends, Families and Travellers. Also joining the delegation is Jess Smith, a traditional storyteller, novelist, activist and Scottish Gypsy Traveller who will be performing a selection of readings and songs, reflecting the rich and diverse culture of Gypsy Travellers and Roma peoples; as well as her own experiences.   Jess Smith said: ‘Children's rights need nourishment, encouragement, security, praise, approval - for all our Children's rights not the chosen few. If Children's rights live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to love the world. There is no time for mistakes. If we continue to annihilate their innocence the next generation will reap what is sown. Its time to wake up, stop the hostility, the ridicule, the criticism and the shame.’   John Watson, Programme Director for Amnesty in Scotland, said: "The situation for Scottish Gypsy Travellers raises fundamental human rights concerns – particularly the rights to health, education, housing, cultural life and freedom from discrimination. For far too long, Gypsy Travellers and Roma have had their rights violated and have borne the brunt of endemic racism and abuse. It is time for governments across Europe - as well as here in Scotland - to show leadership and take decisive action to end this abuse and ensure the rights of all peoples are protected."   UNISON Scottish Organiser, Dave Watson said: “UNISON believes that Scottish Gypsy Travellers experience a range of discrimination including access to employment, justice, education, health and social care. This is blight on Scotland’s reputation for challenging racism in all its forms. We call upon all political parties in Scotland and across the EU to take decisive action to end discrimination and develop positive programmes to support the Gypsy Traveller community.”   Rev Ian Galloway, Convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said:  “Concern at the treatment of Travelling people and Roma has been voiced in the Church for some time now, and this year's General Assembly will receive a report in detail. Meanwhile it is good to have the opportunity to support this event and bring the need for change to the attention of people here and governments across Europe.”   The delegation will be visiting five Consulates - Germany, France, Ireland, Italy and Slovenia - as well as Bute House. Letters will also be delivered to the Swiss, Bulgarian, Romanian and Czech Republic Consulates, that same day.   ENDS   Notes to Editors:   Jess Smith and representatives of Amnesty International, UNISON, The Church of Scotland, BEMIS and Article 12 available for interview on the day.   The event begins at the Slovenian Consulate at 2:30pm, ending at Bute House at 4.15pm.  Schedule and location of consulates below:   2.30pm Slovenian Consulate, 3 Coltbridge Terrace, EH12 6AD 2:50pm Germany, 16 Eglinton Crescent, EH12 5DH 3:20pm Italian Consulate, 32 Melville Street, EH3 7HF 3:40pm Irish Consulate, 16 Randolph Crescent, EH7 6EZ 4:00pm French Consulate, 11 Randolph Crescent, EH7 6EZ 4:15pm Bute House, 6 Charlotte Square, EH2   Signatories to the letter are: Amnesty International, Article 12, UNISON, Gypsy Traveller Law Reform Coalition, Scottish Traveller Education Programme (STEP), The Church of Scotland, Scottish Association of Social Work, Black and Ethnic Minorities in Scotland (BEMIS) and Friends, Families and Travellers.    For information on Amnesty’s Scottish Gypsy Traveller campaign: www.amnesty.org.uk/scotland

View latest press releases