Czech Romany activists alarmed by attack

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Prague, Czech Republic - Czech Romany activists are deeply concerned about the Molotov cocktail attack on a Romany family in Vitkov, north Moravia, during the night in which a two-year-old girl was severely burnt, and called for Romany guards to be formed and for emigration to Canada.

Many of us in the Romany community worldwide will, I am sure, share the concern and the outrage as to the attacks that we see happening not just in the Czech Republic and Hungary but also in other places and which often go more or less unreported, bar in local media – if we are lucky.

While the idea of Romany guards has been suggested by this writer and some others before it has also inherent problems and that is that those on the outside will then blame the Rom for the problems. Not that they do not do so already.

A protection “force” should be considered, nevertheless, I think, but bow things are to be done must be considered very carefully here.

On the other hand to call for immigration to Canada is, certainly, not the way to go; or immigration to any foreign land. The only thing thins will do is create more problems, namely in the country to which the escape is being made. In many of those countries, the UK for example, there are people who would use such immigrations as a signal to start their own Anti-Gypsy actions, of that we can be sure.

"The movement of Romany Resistance calls on Romanies to be watchful against terrorist attacks by Czechs," the movement says in a press statement.

The statement was joined by the organisations Roma Realia - north Bohemia, Romani Alliance - west Bohemia and Futurum Roma - central Bohemia.

The movements says Romanies should not rely on the "failing state apparatus" and reminds that arson attacks on Romany homes are not unique in the Czech Republic.

We, the Rom, should have notices by now, in fact we should have notices long ago, that no state apparatus would ever protect us, despite all the laws that may state, on paper, that the Romany are a minority protected under this and that legislation, whether in the country, e.g. Czech Republic, or wherever, or in the EU as a whole.

Unknown perpetrators threw Molotov cocktails into a family house inhabited by a Romany family. Three people, including the child, were injured in the consequent fire.

The attack has been sharply denounced by outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and President Vaclav Klaus.

While both the Czech Prime Minister and the President may have condemned this attack this is but rhetoric and for the media and the rest of the world; a fact that we have to face.

The movement has called on Romany communities to prepare possible escape routes from where they live or stay. They should not leave old people, women and children alone without "a strong Romany protection."

"This is the sole that Romanies can do within their possibilities, " the movement says.

The old way used to be “roving camp guards” and maybe those need to be considered, even if the place where one lives is not a camp. In addition to that what might be needed – and I know people will attack me for saying this – is to actually set up Romany communities, Gypsy settlements.

The movement also told possible critics of the call for emigration that no one has the right to keep Romanies at a place of danger where they are the possible targets of neo-Nazis, the statement says.

Kumar Vishwanathan, who has devoted himself to work with Romanies in north Moravia for many years, said that the attack was an expression of cowardice and that the the situation in the Czech Republic for the Romany starts to be intolerable.

He said that he could personally see Romany families having machetes and axes prepared at the door to defend themselves in case of an extremist attack.

"Unless our elected representatives and courts awake and unless they do something about the situation, disturbances will follow," Vishwanathan said.

The problem, as I have indicated already, is that if the Rom arm themselves they will get blamed. It is a vicious circle for our People and I know that only too well.

© 2009

Gypsy child seriously hurt in alleged racist arson attack

The fascist attacks against Gypsies are continuing unabated

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

European countries seem to become a dangerous place for Gypsies yet again

Prague, Czech Republic - A Romany toddler and her parents were seriously injured in an apparent petrol bomb attack on their house in north-eastern Czech Republic recently, according to police reports.

The victims said someone threw Molotov cocktails in their house in the town of Vitkov, setting it ablaze shortly before midnight, police spokeswoman Sona Stetinska said.

She said that police would not be able to confirm the cause of the fire until after examining the site, which has been complicated by the danger of the building's collapse.

Outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said he was 'seriously concerned by surging extremism', urging authorities to determine whether the incident had been racially motivated.

Police said the motive of the alleged attack was not immediately known. 'We cannot confirm that it was racially motivated but we also cannot rule it out,' the spokeswoman said.

The 22-month-old toddler girl, rescued from the burning home by her parents, was airlifted to a hospital in the regional capital of Ostrava in a critical condition, according to the medical rescue services.

She has suffered severe burns on 80 per cent of her body and inhaled fumes, spokesman Lukas Humpl said in a statement.

Her mother, 27, sustained burns on her legs and one arm, while the father, 33, had serious burns on his back and limbs, the statement said.

The incident took place amid rising political activity of far- right and neo-Nazi groups.

On the same night, far-right extremists had embarked on a highly- publicized march through north-western Czech town of Usti nad Labem, home to ghetto-like Roma communities 430 kilometres east of Vitkov.

Czech towns have struggled to ban extremist rallies as their organizers exploit laws that safeguard freedom of assembly.

'It is clear that there is a link between political activation of extremists and direct violence towards inhabitants, ' the premier said. He vowed that his outgoing cabinet would discuss the issue on April 20.

Despite such rhetoric, far-right groups have continued their activities unhampered. The government recently failed in its effort to ban one such organisation, the Worker's Party. Racist-tinged fire bomb attacks, some of them deadly, have also recently shaken Hungary and police torture of Gypsy boys occurred in the Slovak Republic.

Nothing, it would appear, is being done by the EU as regards to those happening, bar lots of talking, yet again, and even more talking.

Being more than a little concerned with the lack of action by the European Union and the Council of Europe, bar rhetoric, I am beginning to wonder as to whether there is more here than meets the eye and whether there is some kind of hidden agenda here by the EU and its member states against the Romany minority.

I leave the readers to make up their own minds on this...

© 2009

Russian Gypsies denied 'baby-money' to buy new caravan

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

KALININGRAD, Russian Federation - A group of Gypsies in Russia's westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad has been denied a federal subsidy for a new caravan.

This happened already in February of 2009 but has only come to our attention as yet.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced at the end of 2008 that so-called 'baby-money,' a payment of 267,500 rubles ($7,700 at the current exchange rate) for families with two or more children could be used from the start of 2009 to help pay off mortgages or improve living conditions.

Before this, the payouts, which were introduced in 2007, could only be used after children reached the age of three.

The Gypsies filed a request for the sum saying that they needed it to buy a new caravan to house the group's many children. However, local authorities said the money could not be granted to them as a caravan was not recognized as official accommodation under Russian law.

So, unless you live in a house in Russia as a Gypsy you cannot get that money that is supposed to be due all citizens. Yet another way of discriminating against the Rom in Russia. Then again, what's new? As always, there is one law for the Gadje and one for the Rom.

Anti-Gypsyism in all forms is rampant in Europe, whether in the European Union member states or elsewhere. So, such minor incidents, I am sure, should not surprise us at all. Sooner or later the living in a caravan, for Rom, will be outlawed, it should not surprise me, in many countries once again.

Do I have far too dark view of things? I do not think so. I saw the writing on the wall where everyone was still trying to tell us how great the EU was supposed to be for all the Rom and how they were going to protect us and our Culture, etc. Yeah! Right! And pigs fly as well.

© 2009


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Anti-Gypsyism now also in South America. The evil canker is spreading.

A mob of more than 100 people attacked a Gypsy encampment near southern Chile's Puerto Montt (Region X) last Friday. The attackers reportedly sought to avenge the death of a local resident, whom they wrongly believed was killed by a Gypsy.

The crowd of locals used fire and stones as weapons against what authorities called a peaceful Gypsy community that had been there since November 2008.

The crowd had been acting in the belief that a Gypsy was responsible for the recent hit-and run accident which killed a local man, Juan Alvarado, 29, but the police maintain there is no Gypsy connection to the accident.

Four cars were set on fire, and tents and other property were destroyed as the Gypsies fled to safety. During the assault, the mob tried to stop the Gypsies from escaping. The police tried to help the Gypsies, but the crowd turned on them.

When a local fire-fighting unit arrived at the site to put out the flames, it, too, was attacked by locals throwing stones.

This is very much akin to what has happened in both Italy and Hungary with the one difference; the police is not on the side of the perpetrators but on the side of the Rom. This makes a very welcome change.

District Attorney Sergio Coronado emphasized there was no connection between the gypsies and the car-death case. “The line of investigation does not lead to the Gypsies. They were ruled out at the very start. The investigation is leading in another direction, and the family of the victim is aware of this,” he said. Local officials said the Gypsy community was a victim of “prejudices” on the part of the locals who attacked them.

Francisco Estevez, the director of the Region X Division of Social Organizations, said he hoped to meet with Regional Governor Sergio Galilea in the next few days to discuss the matter. Estevez said the anti-discrimination initiative currently under discussion in a Senate committee will offer victims of discrimination special recourse in law and will provide special sanctions for those convicted of discrimination crimes.

The Gypsies did not formally complain to the police after the attack, but did abandon their site.

Gypsy camp spokesperson Juan Carlos Farias said his group will travel to Santiago to meet with the “King of the Gypsies” in order to discuss the matter and consider what legal action they might pursue.

Locals have asked that the Gypsies never be allowed back into Puerto Montt and one Octavio Alvarado, head of a local neighborhood association, asked for concrete measures to be taken against the Gypsies returning. “This place has been converted into a dump, full of waste and rats. The owner of the land should come and take a look,” he said.

Francisco Nicolich, a Gypsy who fled the site on Friday said, “Gypsies have never killed anyone. Every time that something happens, Gypsies are blamed.”

Sources: la Tercera, El Llanquihue and others

© 2009

Decent work opportunities for Romanies not just a matter of education

by Michael Smith

On March 11, 2009 the European Parliament (EP) adopted Magda Kósáné Kovács' report on improving the labour market accession for the Roma. And once again, unless they are only talking about the Roma, the word Roma is, falsely and purposely as such, used as an all-encompassing term for all Romanies, which is incorrect. It would, obviously, not surprise me either if they would be talking here as regards to this report solely about the Roma, in the same way as the decade of inclusion is only for the Roma and only for those in Eastern Europe.

However, access to the labour market is the key to overturn the conditions of deprivation and segregation the Romani-Gypsy minority is experiencing throughout Europe, in the European Union member states as well as in some of those that are not part of the Union.

Despite the strong message coming from the EP report, education alone is not the panacea for accessing decent jobs.

While it is indeed clear that education is an essential part and may be the most important field for programs and policies to focus the Romani-Gypsy, these policies must ensure effective continuation into the labor market by eliminating barriers based on prejudices and racist attitudes.

Many times education and schooling programs for Gypsies fall short of their objective because, at the end of long school and training years, Romanies find it very hard to find a job due to the continued discrimination based on their ethnicity.

That is the reason why education alone will not solve the problem of the extremely high unemployment that Gypsies face unless there is not also a change in the racist attitude toward the Romani minority per se.

Maybe one should also add that the Romani Community itself can be seen to be at fault at times in that they (1) do not encourage the children to attend school and to do well there and (2) in that they do not encourage the aspiration many Gypsy children have of becoming this or that.

One must asks that the European, national and local policy-makers to build a strong link between the education of the Rom and their effective access to the the labour market.

If poor Romani families invest time and money in the education of their children, and also time, money and effort in the education of themselves as adults, but this does not, in the end, result in employment, then the Romani community everywhere will continue considering sending children to school as a loss of precious resources. So the problem here is not just the access to education but fair access to jobs. This can be only achieved by fighting against discrimination and stereotyping of the Gypsy.

According to various surveys conducted by recognised research institutes, European institutions, and human rights organisations, the Romani People face great disadvantages in the labour markets and in self-employment opportunities.

Very high rates of unemployment and under-employment, as well as unqualified and low-paid jobs, characterise the situation of the Romanies in the labour markets in both Member States and the Candidate Countries.

This situation is greatly the result of the low levels of education prevalent amongst Rom and the discrimination they face in the labour market. Romani unemployment rates can vary from 25% to 65%, according to the UNDP data. Many Roma perceive that the reason of their unemployment is their ethnicity, and many of them certainly would not be wrong at all in assuming this. Unemployment is double in the younger group age and is strictly linked to education. Nevertheless, Romanies with secondary school studies still have a high 25% unemployment rate, and therefore education certainly is not the main reason for unemployment amongst Gypsies. Racist attitudes by the general public and employers on the other hand is. How this can be overcome, however, is another question.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Hungary's Gypsies under attack

by Michael Smith

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Arsonists set fire Tuesday to a village apartment of a Romani official in eastern Hungary, a region known for recent killings of Gypsies, according to the police in that region.

Peter Papp, chief of the Pest county police department said nobody was injured when a block of apartments in Tatarszentgyorgy was set on fire by an unidentified person, so the Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

The fire was not caused by an incident such as an electric wire fault, according to Mr Papp. The apartment belonged to a deputy head of the Pest Romani self-government.

In February, a Romani man and his son were shot dead and two other children seriously injured when they tried to flee their village house that was in flames.

Hungarian health authorities and fire brigade officials insisted at that time and still do so today that the father and his son died of suffocation when the fire, allegedly caused by a faulty electric wire, swept the house.

The authorities said two died in an accidental fire even though it was obvious both died of firearm wounds, MTI said.

The Romani community and other national minorities in Hungary has been a target of hatred and terror by locals for years.

Hungary has seen basically a resurrection of the Arrow Cross bar under a different name and the target of those Nazi thugs are nowadays again the Gypsy as the primary ones. It was the same in the 1930s to 1945. Here too the Rom were the first that were targeted, despite other claims, and I am referring here not just to Hungary.

We are seeing a repeat, so it would appear to me, of the 1930s and no one is batting an eyelid. Many speeches are given at the occasion of the “International Roma Day” but those are all but empty words.

The European Union keeps saying this and that and how they are for the minorities and also and especially for the Romani but the truth shows a completely different side. The supposed representatives of the People, who draw much of their salaries and funding from the Council of Europe, in other words the coffers of the EU, say very little and do even less.

When there was another time the current president of one of the organizations was very vociferous and was very much for direct action and for defending the People. But that was only as long as that gave political ammunition, it would seem.

Again the question: “so kerena?”

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

March through Czech town puts Roma community in fear

by Michael Smith

Just two days before the so-called “International Roma Day” (amazing that the Sinti are being left out again) far-right groups organized a march through the Roma-populated area in the Czech Republic.

Days before the rally, the organizations were calling through their websites on members and sympathizers to join the march against what they termed “Gypsy terrorism”, and referring to “Gypsy ethnicity” as “parasitic”.

The rally started with around 500 far-right demonstrators who had come from different cities of the Czech Republic. The route of the march was through the Roma neighborhood, where the demonstrators stopped a few times and chanted “Czechs come with us” as well as anti-Roma statements.

Some inhabitants of the town, who were not organized with the far-right groups, joined the rally as it marched through the streets of the town. Not very surprising this, however, knowing the sentiments of the general Czech population the majority of who would not wish to have Gypsies live in their neighborhood nor go to the same schools as their children nor work alongside them.

A few days before the International Roma Day, the Romani community of the town had to spend the day locked in their houses fearing for the security of their children instead of preparing for the celebration of the day.

"We are scared for our own life," said a Romani woman who has lived in the area for 16 years. I lived for 26 years together with the majority population and lived in harmony, before I moved to this part of town. At the beginning, the Roma and the majority population used to live integrated; now this part of town is 100% Romani."

Another woman added, “How do I explain to my children why they can’t go out to play on such a nice day?”

Around 700 law enforcement officials, including anti-conflict unit and riot police, were present and ready to intervene in case the situation escalated. A high concentration of police took position around the Roma neighborhood in order to prevent violence and direct attacks against the Romani community.

Around twenty counter-demonstrators were pushed back by the police in order not to clash with the far-right demonstrators. However, as the rally proceeded, the far-right demonstrators attacked the counter-demonstrators. The quick intervention by the police calmed down the situation and the rally continued its route.

At 3pm, the rally was officially closed at the train station, but violence broke out as far-right demonstrators attacked the riot police and mounted police with stones, petrol bombs, and firecrackers. The violence spread into the surrounding streets.

By that stage, the police had completely blocked the Roma-populated neighborhood with tanks, police vans and riot police, which ensured the safety of the community.

But the devious mind here might ask as to whether that high presence of police and the tanks were there to prevent the Gypsies from actually showing the Nazis where to get off? Remember that the 20 counter demonstrators were pushed back in order to allow the Nazi march to continue unencumbered.

The rally was originally called by the far-right Czech Worker’s party, which later distanced itself from it, but the organization of the rally was taken over by the far-right organizations Movement of Autonomous Nationalists and National Resistance.

What we are seeing here, in the same way as in Italy, Hungary, Romania and even Germany and Britain, is Anti-Gypsyism and if we, the Rom, were Jews this would not be allowed to happen and rightly so. But we are but seen as “Dirty Gyppos” by all and especially also the authorities and therefore those things are allowed to continue.

It is time that the People were prepared, methinks, to stand up and protect themselves. Jews have decided to do just that some while back and it seems to be working.

Mind you, then again: if we, the Rom, do that we will be considered the criminals and not those that actually are the perpetrator of the violence and hatred. So kerena?

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Joint statement on the occasion of the International Roma Day

Today, 8 April 2009, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) issue the following joint call to governments, intergovernmental organisations and civil society to step up their efforts in tackling the human rights violations that the Roma continue to face in Europe.

As we celebrate the International Roma Day, our organisations are deeply concerned by the continuing discriminatory treatment and exclusion of the Roma, and particularly by the recent escalation in hate motivated incidents and racist rhetoric reported in a number of States. In times of economic crisis, communities such as the Roma, along with migrants and other vulnerable groups, tend to become easy ‘scapegoats’ for extremist movements and populist politicians. Such ‘scapegoating’ has already resulted in damaging inter-ethnic relations and an increase in the number of violent hate crimes in some countries. As the economic crisis deepens, political leaders in any State need to unequivocally and publicly condemn all forms of violence targeting the Roma. In order to avoid inciting ethnic tensions, politicians and other public figures must carefully consider their statements, and journalists must apply ethical reporting rules in their articles or radio/TV programmes. Together, we strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and violence against the Roma and call for concerted action from the responsible authorities at all levels in this regard.

In spite of the existence of strong anti-discrimination legislation and policies to promote the inclusion of the Roma in many countries, evidence shows that discrimination against the Roma persists, notably in education, employment, health care, housing, and access to justice and public services. Roma women and children are particularly vulnerable. Segregation in education, a particularly egregious type of discrimination violating the right of Roma children to access quality education and diminishing their employment prospects, endures in several states.

The continuing marginalisation and exclusion of the Roma represents a push-factor for recent migration movements, which have become one of the key challenges in Europe today. The biased portrayal of Roma migrants in the media and political misuse of the image of the Roma have contributed to discrimination and ill-treatment of the Roma in some countries. Roma with citizenship in an EU country have the right to move and reside freely within the EU, but nevertheless often face discriminatory treatment. We are particularly concerned about racial profiling of Roma in some States and the potential violation of their freedom of movement and human rights. The FRA, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE/ODIHR and the OSCE HCNM will therefore pay increased attention to migration-related challenges and assist States in addressing migration while ensuring the effective protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Roma.

Our institutions, based on their specific mandates, will continue to review Roma-related policies, measure their impact, identify good practices and assist States in developing and implementing sustainable integration policies. Partnership with the Roma communities must be one of the guiding principles for the design and implementation of such policies and programmes.

The designation of 8 April as International Roma Day dates back to the fourth congress of the International Romani Union in Warsaw in 1990. The International Roma Day serves as tribute to the first meeting of international Roma representatives on 8 April 1971, near London.


Strasbourg, 8 April 2009 – In his message on International Roma Day, the European Roma and Travellers Forum’s President, Mr. Rudko Kawczynski, called for “collective responsibility to end anti-Gypsyism in Europe’.

Unfortunately, we still see racial profiling in law, public officials and politicians able to make prejudiced remarks without risk of rebuke, the victimisation of Roma women through harassment, para-military attacks against members of the Roma community, strong anti-Roma feelings spreading throughout EU countries… These situations are not coincidental.
Mr. Kawczynski recalled that the struggle to eliminate these situations must confront the current economic and social policies that perpetuate the systematic barriers and racial injustice in our workplaces, educational and social institutions.

This means that we must redouble our efforts in eliminating the anti-Gypsyism and discrimination that are so deeply embedded in the roots of many conflicts and pose risks to international peace and security and in pushing for greater equality and justice for all.
Roma need to be able to find jobs and housing and to receive health, education and other services without discrimination and harassment, and they need to feel welcome in our communities. These are very much human rights concerns.

We take this opportunity to pay tribute to those who have fought, and continue to fight – despite the hardship and sacrifice involved – for equality and the right of all people to live with respect and dignity. The struggle to break down prejudice towards Roma and Travellers and to eliminate discrimination is integral to the struggle for social justice and a better world, which is the responsibility of us all.

There are enormous challenges ahead in the quest for equal opportunities for all - from achieving more effective coordination and mobilisation of resources at international level, to building better capacity at national and local levels. All of us can play a part in raising awareness of these challenges; all of us can play our part in overcoming them.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), which has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe and a special status with this institution, is Europe’s largest and most inclusive Roma organisation. It brings together Europe’s main international Roma-NGOs and more than 1,500 national Roma organisations from most of the Council of Europe’s member states.

‭“‬Political participation is the way to Roma integration‭”

Brussels,‭ ‬7‭ ‬April‭ ‬2009‭ ‬-‭ ‬Almost‭ ‬40‭ ‬years after the first international Romani meeting in Orpington‭ (‬UK‭) ‬in‭ ‬1971,‭ ‬living conditions for most of the Roma in Europe have not only failed to improve but have even gotten worse.

That first meeting in Orpington laid the foundations of the Romani international movement,‭ ‬when Roma people decided to come out of the ghetto to find their place in the society,‭ ‬being accepted for what they are,‭ ‬for their culture and their values.‭ ‬In that occasion,‭ ‬they agreed to call themselves Roma instead of Gypsies or other depreciative terms.

But nowadays,‭ ‬despite all the efforts made by the Roma community to see their rights respected,‭ ‬in many countries in Europe they still face the highest level of segregation and unacceptable racial prejudice.‭ ‬When celebrating the‭ ‬8th April,‭ ‬International Roma Day,‭ ‬we cannot forget that we still are far away from the objectives of equality and integration established nearly four decades ago.

We ask the European institutions,‭ ‬Member States,‭ ‬regional and local authorities,‭ ‬politicians from all parties to commit themselves to this struggle for a society where anti-Gypsyism and racism are totally banned and where Roma are not held as scapegoats or seen as a dangerous and hostile minority.‭ ‬In recent times,‭ ‬European institutions and policy makers have become increasingly aware of the Roma issue and are showing political will for improvement of the minority’s conditions.‭ ‬We invite them to continue on this path towards a more inclusive society for Roma.‭ ‬This could be achieved through a comprehensive and strong European Roma policy.

ERIO believes that the most effective solution to this problem is active Romani political participation.‭ ‬Roma,‭ ‬parties and civil society should cooperate in order to develop approaches to concrete Roma participation in the public debate and in the decision-making.‭ ‬Only with a sound involvement in public and political life,‭ ‬Roma people can find a way out of their segregated situation.

During the congress in Orpington,‭ ‬the International Romani Union was founded,‭ ‬the Romani flag was accepted and the song‭ “‬Gelem,‭ ‬Gelem‭” ‬composed by Jarko Jovanovic was adopted as an anthem.‭ ‬As well,‭ ‬the delegates unanimously declared April‭ ‬8th as the International Day of Roma.

The European Roma Information Office‭ (‬ERIO‭) ‬is a human rights advocacy organisation promoting the rights of Roma communities throughout Europe.‭ ‬ERIO lobbies European institutions,‭ ‬national governments and international organisations in order to bring about improvements in policies concerning Roma communities.‭ ‬ERIO cooperates intensively with Roma organisations and supports them in establishing their concerns and demands to European and national decision-makers.‭ ‬The ultimate goal of ERIO is to contribute to the eradication of racism,‭ ‬discrimination and social exclusion faced by the majority of Roma in Europe.‭

Gypsy families hit by the earthquake are being denied aid and shelter.

Pescara, April 7th, 2009. The citizens of Aquila and nearby municipalities hit by the earthquake are mourning their dead. Those left homeless are being offered shelter and aid in hotels and hostels. Many Roma families living in makeshift accommodation were also hit by the earthquake, with the same impartial cruelty, but no shelter is being offered to them and they are being turned away when they approach the civil protection units or the hotels for help.

The authorities have defined the Roma families “vultures” and the Carabinieri of the Provincial Commando of Pescara have set up ”checkpoints” near the assistance structures in order to prevent Roma families seeking shelter.

According to them, the Roma families “are trying to take advantage of the tragedy in order to sleep in hotels free of charge”.

Roberto Malini, EveryOne Group

65th anniversary on the 2nd of August – Auschwitz-Birkenau

by Michael Smith

This year, 2009, sees the 65th Anniversary of the liquidation of the Gypsy camp, the so-called “Zigeunerlager” at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In reference to this the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma (Zentralrat der Deuschen Sinti und Roma) together with its partner association, the Stowarzyszenie Romów from Poland, is encouraging and inviting everyone to join them at the international memorial ceremony which will take place at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland on the 2nd of August.

The 2nd of August has become the most important day of commemoration within the international community of the Holocaust victims of the Romani minority.

The last 2,900 Sinti and Roma, who the Nazis had deported to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, from all over Europe, were gassed on this day in 1944, not very long before the liberation of this notorious death camps by the victorious forces of the Soviet Army.

For the most part those that were gassed were the old and sick and mothers with their children.

Against this background the anniversary not only has a fundamental meaning for those directly affected, i.e. the victims and their relatives, but also for the European culture of memory as a whole.

In addition to high political and diplomatic representatives from a large number of states, delegations from national Sinti and Roma organizations from the whole of Europe are expected to attend the memorial ceremony on the 2nd of August 2009 at the former site of the camp – one of the largest burial sites of Sinti and Roma.

In accepting this invitation by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, extended to you by its president, Mr. Romani Rose, and by your participation you would not only pay tribute to the last survivors of the Romani Holocaust – whose number is rapidly shrinking day by day – but also show your support for overcoming the racism and social disadvantage which Europe 's largest minority is still subjected to.

Let us use this as a loud cry to the world of “never again!” We must also not forget and we must remind the world that even after the liberation of the camps the survivors of our People were still not treated with any kind of dignity. In fact they were still, basically, treated as before. Many of them had to stay in camps even after because they had their German citizenship taken away by the Nazis and the new administration in the Federal Republic of Germany had no intention of making things any easier for our People.

Let us never forget!

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Gypsies and Travellers experience racism, discrimination and inequality

by Michael Smith

A new research review that came out on March 18, 2009 shows that Gypsy and Traveller communities in Britain experience extensive inequalities, including pervasive racism and discrimination.

They are not, are they? I do not think it would have needed an expensive research to notice that. All one needs to do is open the red tops and there the anti-Gypsyism of the UK public comes to the forefront again and again. Worse still when one goes and has a look at those very same red tops' websites and at the comments that sare left there by readers.

It would have hardly required lots of research but nevertheless if this can highlight the problems and bring them to the attention of everyone it might get us somewhere. On the other hand, however, I can already hear the comments of the same kind of people that comment on the red tops' websites “another load of taxpayers money wasted on them dirty Gyppos” and such like. This always is a two-edged sword.

Some of the key findings of the report by Sarah Cemlyn from the University's School for Policy Studies, Margaret Greenfields from Buckinghamshire New University and the Friends, Families and Travellers organisation are that:

· The lack of suitable secure accommodation underpins many of the inequalities that Gypsy and Traveller communities experience

· Gypsies and Travellers die earlier than the rest of the population

· Gypsies and Travellers experience worse health, yet are less likely to receive effective, continuous healthcare

· Children's educational achievements are worse and declining (contrary to the national trend)

· Participation in secondary education is extremely low, with discrimination and abusive behaviour on the part of staff and students frequently cited as reasons for leaving education early

· Employment rates are low, and poverty high

· There is an increasing problem of substance abuse among unemployed and disaffected young people

· There are high suicide rates among the communities
· Children suffer psychological damage from repeated brutal evictions, tensions associated with insecure lifestyles, and hostility from the wider population

· Gypsies and Travellers who are forced to move into bricks-and-mortar housing can experience the worst housing conditions, combined with racist hostility from neighbours and isolation from their communities

· For some particularly excluded groups of young Gypsies and Travellers, there is a process of accelerated criminalisation, reflecting racism within the criminal justice system, and leading rapidly to custody

· Within prisons, the perpetuation of discrimination, disadvantage and cultural dislocation can lead to acute distress and frequently suicide

· There is a lack of access to culturally appropriate support services for people in the most vulnerable situations, such as women experiencing domestic violence

According to Sarah Cemlyn, the report's lead author:

'This review reveals severe and far-reaching inequalities and discrimination affecting Gypsies and Travellers. Underpinning many of these is the lack of appropriate accommodation for between a fifth and a quarter of caravan-dwelling Gypsies and Travellers, resulting in lack of basic facilities of water and sanitation, lack of security, and frequent and sometimes brutal evictions.

'However the report goes well beyond this in reviewing inequalities across multiple policy areas including education, health, social care, employment, criminal justice and community cohesion. It found that stereotyping and racism is pervasive and often overt, frequently fuelled by misleading media reporting. Children are particularly vulnerable to racism from people in authority, members of the public and other children.'

Margaret Greenfields added that:

'The review explores a range of issues which have so far been overshadowed by the necessity of providing adequate accommodation for marginalised members of these minority communities. We have welcomed the opportunity afforded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) commissioning this review to move beyond this and consider not only the prejudice and inequalities experienced by Gypsies and Travellers, but also good practice, especially that developed by Gypsies and Travellers themselves despite being faced with almost over-whelming odds.'

The research team highlighted that the review contains detailed recommendations for each policy area investigated, while highlighting the urgency of providing sufficient sites, the necessity for service providers to fulfil race equality duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 in providing culturally appropriate services, and the importance of developing solutions in consultation with Gypsy, Traveller and Showman communities.

The report, entitled Inequalities experienced by Gypsy and Traveller communities: a review, by Sarah Cemlyn et al, which reviewed existing research across a wide range of policy areas, was published by the EHRC.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Romani People in Italy - When Racism Kills!

The persecution of the Roma and Sinti in Italy has led to the deaths of four thousand innocent people over the last two years. A figure that greatly exceeds the statistics from the years of the racial laws and the Holocaust.

by EveryOne Group

April 7th, 2009. Before the long sequence of unjust camp clearances - carried out without the offer of alternative lodgings and assistance - there were about 160,000 Roma and Sinti living in Italy. Today, despite the reports and declarations dictated by political and other interests, only about 50-60,000 Roma and Sinti remain in our country. We recently read a report, compiled by an Italian association, according to which - in the city of Rome alone - there are 20,000 Roma, including 16,000 “beggars” and 2,000 “criminals”. These figures are greatly exaggerated, because not even in Bucharest are there this many mendicants. This number, on the other hand, can be found in Dakar, the city in Senegal known as “The City of Beggars”. We will not even comment on the “2,000 Roma criminals”: this is totally unfounded data that stems from atavistic prejudices.

The figures that leave us stunned and horrified, on the other hand, are those linked to the victims of the institutional persecution of the Roma and Sinti in Italy. If we consider the population of 160,000 individuals, before, during and after the tragic diaspora, it is estimated – and backed up by statistics – that the number of deaths due to social exclusion; camp clearances followed by “marches to nowhere”; by hardship and sanitary conditions; disease; child mortality; accidents in the settlements (particularly fires); and episodes of violence; we are talking about 2,000 deaths per year. The figure was calculated by taking into account the average life expectancy of the Roma and Sinti; (which is about 40 years old, compared to an average age of 75/80 for other citizens) the child mortality; and the known cases of violent death. These figures (that do not take into account the number of miscarriages due to camp clearances and purges) must not be underestimated, because they are far higher than the number of Roma and Sinti deaths in Italy during the years of Nazi-Fascism - with the racial laws and the Holocaust. It is an annual figure that compares with those of the horror that hit the Jewish people (again in Italy) during the years of the Shoah.