APPEAL TO EU TO END 'ETHNIC CLEANSING' OF ROMA
We - individuals and members of various citizen groups all across Europe - condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the recent failure of Italian authorities to protect our fellow citizens and residents of the European Union, and to continue to perpetrate an atmosphere of xenophobia through inflammatory political comments and aggressive police actions targeting migrants. We refer to the shocking violent incidents of the past week in Naples (Ponticelli), in which hundreds of Romanian (European Union) citizens of Romani origin - women and young children amongst them - have been forced to flee for fear of their life as their homes were destroyed, and others deported forcibly by Italian police (see links below for further details). This appears to be part of cyclical pattern whereby one Romani individual is accused of a crime and then the entire community is targeted for violent retribution. For example, in November 2007, a Romanian man allegedly of Romani origin was accused of murder. At around the same time in Italy, a young woman (a British national, Meredith Kercher) was also murdered, and an American woman was implicated in the case. However, Italians did not rise up in violence against all Americans in Italy. They did not burn down the homes of American inhabitants. They viewed the murder suspect as an individual American, and did not view her as representing the whole nation.
The recent actions targeting Romani Europeans remind us of pre-Holocaust policies visible in Europe in the 1930s, activities and actions in which the far-right government of Italy under Mussolini was responsible for systematically singling out Italian citizens of Jewish and Romani/Sinti origin. The same genocidal policies were witnessed in Germany, Austria, Croatia, and other states in which fascistic politics became acceptable to the mass of the populations of these states, many of whom stood by and watched their fellow humans being rounded up and taken to camps. Influenced by the xenophobic comments of the Berlusconi government, close to 70% of Italians surveyed in an informal poll last week wished to expel Roma from the country: once again, the seeds of another Holocaust are being sown in Europe.
We, the citizens and residents of Europe, are outraged at the silence with which our 'humanist' European politicians and intellectuals have responded once again to pogroms in Europe directed at the Romani communities, this time in the 'democratic' state of Italy, ironically one of the original founding members of the European Community.
In this regard, we would like to emphasize the commendable statements of the Spanish deputy premier, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega as a counter example to that of the relative silence on the part of other European governments: "The government [of Spain] rejects violence, racism and xenophobia and does not support what is happening in Italy... [we] do not support the policy of expulsions without respect for the law and rights, or actions which exalt violence, racism and xenophobia."
Europe has come a long way from the Middle Ages to overcome the scourge of its anti-Semitism; similarly, European leadership is needed in this critical hour to overcome centuries of deeply corrosive anti-Gypsyism on this continent.
We therefore call upon the responsible EUROPEAN UNION bodies and the EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT to take immediate and concrete action in the following manner:
A) Political Censure of the current Italian government - an Open and Strong Declaration by the European Parliament and European Union that the violence directed at the Romani communities is unacceptable and that the current administration has failed to provide adequate protection to fellow European Union citizens and residents. The level of protection provided to the Romani communities should be equal to that as currently provided to the Jewish minorities of Italy: both suffered under the fascist regime in the past and both are once again vulnerable today. Romani communities must be ensured that they will not face scapegoating and ethnic cleansing as the Italian authorities have allowed in recent times. Survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants must - like all human beings - never again be subjected to genocidal practices in Europe.
B) Creation of a CRISIS AND MONITORING COMMITTEE for the on-going violence directed at vulnerable immigrant and migrant communities in Italy - in particular, the Romani communities. This committee could be set up under the auspices of the European Parliament, and should consist of representatives entrusted by the Romani community amongst its members. This European Crisis Committee should be tasked not only with the monitoring of developing events on the ground, but also to report back on how the Italian government is conducting its investigations - into the recent crimes by vigilante mobs of burning down the homes of Romani residents - with impartiality and objectivity. Furthermore, the committee should make its recommendations on how to improve the situation in the medium and long-term so that social inclusion of excluded migrant and immigrant groups becomes a top priority of the Italian state at the local (commune) as well as regional and national levels. An objective assessment of the results of these social inclusion policies should be made transparent.
Ultimately, this petition is a global appeal to the European powers to take responsibility for xenophobic actions in member-states such as Italy, and to build bridges of understanding across the continent, so that the twelve million strong Romani Europeans - rather than continuously feeling under siege on this continent as 'pariahs' - would finally be recognized as Europeans who have made long-standing (though unrecognized) contributions to this continent. This is a test for Europe's great 'humanist project'. We trust that European leaders will respond to this challenge swiftly and concretely.
For further information about this appeal, please contact the PROGRESSIVE ROMA ACTION GROUP (PRAG) at: prag_2008[at]hotmail[dot]com
The reader will find a petition online which he or she can sign, nd I would urge everyone to do so, regardless as to whether we may think that this may, or may not have any effect. The petition can be found here...