By Rosamond Hutt, Community Newswire


Representatives for Britain's Gypsy population were attending a summit in France today to discuss a range of issues with a newly created European body for Roma and Traveller communities.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), is holding a two-day conference hosted by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg to thrash out new ways to tackle anti-Gypsy racism and the extreme poverty and high child mortality rates prevalent amongst Roma communities.

The Forum is made up of elected delegates from 42 countries with a total Roma population of l2 million.

The UK's representatives - Cliff Codona and Kay Beard - are calling for an end to the forced evictions of Roma communities.

Ms Beard, who chairs the UK Association of Gypsy Women, said she has documented evictions of Gypsies carried out by private security companies hired by local authorities and is appealing for help from the Forum in Strasbourg.

She said: "Some evictions have been conducted like police raids. We think private firms should not be used and police limited to peace-keeping."

Deportations and "move-on" orders encourage a climate of intolerance and racism, according to the chair of the ERTF, Rudko Kawczynski.

Mr Kawczynski said racial attacks on Roma across Europe are occurring at the rate of ten a week, and around 2,000 Gypsies have been killed and twice that number injured over the past decade.

The UK delegation is also urging the Forum to use next year's Roma Nation Day as a means of pressing for a better deal for Gypsies and Travellers on legal accommodation, education and medical care.

It is said above that "the UK's representatives - Cliff Codona and Kay Beard - are calling for an end to the forced evictions of Roma communities" but the question has to be asked where, in the UK, there are those Roma communities that are thus being forcibly evicted. If that reference is being made with regards to the Irish Travellers on the Dale Farm 'site' and other illegal encampments then it has to be stressed yet again, before this confusion continues - and it does indeed continue and it is indeed more than a confusion - that those Irish Travellers are NOT Roma; they are not even Romani, but Irish Trailer Trash, pure and simple. The majority of Irish Travellers in the UK (and elsewhere for that matter) are not even part of the 'old' Irish Travellers that may pre-date, as some think now, the Celts even. The amazing thing is that so many Romani organizations in the UK are trying to help the Irish Travellers (I nearly said the other word again) to be allowed to stay on land they have illegally occupied but when Romanichal families are under the same pressure, like Susan King and her family in Surrey, not a single organization of those so vociferous on behalf of the Irish ones stands up and makes a comment. The Irish Travellers will not thank them for it and it is only muddying the water and the results are already being seen from this muddying, namely that some authorities no decide that Romani-Gypsies who settle down, whether in a house or on a permanent site are no longer to be classed as ethnic Romani-Gypsies but are classed as "white" British.
I believe, as does the IRG, that it must be stressed again and again that Gypsy only can apply to Romani People and that the Irish Travellers are not Gypsy, not Romani and not Roma. Also, yet again, I would like to as the editor of this journal and as Speaker of the IRG to stress that while all Roma are Romani not all Romani are Roma, and that does include the Kaale of Finland who call themselves, in Finnish, Mustaleinen, meaning, Dark Folks, regardless of whether some Kalderash Roma woman in Sweden raved about the Kaale being quite happy to be called Finnish Roma. I doubt also that they would have elected a Vlax Roma woman as their spokesperson; well, then again they did not even - at a grassroots level - elect the person claiming to be their current representative. I doubt that the majority of Finnish Kaale, or Mustaleinen, would even know who that person is, either by name or by sight.