Thursday, December 19, 2013


The Romani people have suffered from discrimination, racism and hatred for so long that sometimes it just seems like that is the way things are.

Well, it is not the way things should be.

Did you hear that in Sweden a few weeks ago a secret police register was discovered with the names of 4000 people on it, most all of them Roma.  The others were people with close connection to that community.  More than 1000 were children.  The BBC reported at the time:

The reporter who broke the story, Niklas Orrenius, describes discrimination against the Roma as "the last acceptable racism in Sweden," though the revelations have caused widespread shock and anger across the country.

"I have met many Roma people on the list," he says, "and they said they don't believe the police is preparing ethnic cleansing or something like that, but they're scared because this is a state-controlled register of thousands of Roma, and who knows who'll be in charge of Sweden in 20 years and what they will use it for."

The former leader of Sweden's liberal Folkpartiet, Maria Leissner, says the register represents a "hate crime".

The Roma have lived in Sweden for more than 500 years.

 In Britain last month former Labor Party Home Secretary David Blunkett went on an anti-Roma tear.  He warned that Roma migrants could trigger a race riot: “We have got to change the behavior and the culture of the incoming community, the Roma community, because there's going to be an explosion otherwise.”   After his rant, a, leader of the ultra-nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) declared, “Blunkett should be should be admired for the courage he has shown by speaking so plainly on this issue.”

Check these statements out as reported in the Global Post:

  • Gilles Bourdouleix, member of National Assembly, France - July 21, 2013: “Maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough of them.”
  • Manuel Valls, minister of the interior and member of the National Assembly, France - Sept. 25, 2013: “The majority [of Roma] should be delivered back to the borders. We are not here to welcome these people. I'd remind you of [former Socialist Premier] Michel Rocard's statement: ‘It's not France's job to deal with the misery of the whole world.’”
  • 3. András György Király, secretary of state for minorities, Ministry of Education, Romania - Sept. 20, 2013: “It is a general problem, and in relation to those schools where the number of Roma is significant, if there is indifference, if there is disarray, of course I would not allow my child to attend that school.”
  •  Jean-Marie Le Pen, member of the European Parliament and president of the Front National Party, France - July 5, 2013: “I'll give you a prognosis: you have some concerns, it appears, with a few hundred Roma who have a stinging, let's say stinking, presence in the city ... that's just the tip of the iceberg. I announce that within 2014 around 50,000 Roma will arrive in Nice. Also, from the 1st of January, the 12 million Roma that live in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary will have the possibility of moving in all the other European countries.”
  • Per Sandberg, member of Parliament and deputy leader of the Progressive Party, Norway - May 2, 2013: “At the borders, police can [under existing laws] stop organized groups of Roma, Bulgarians or French because we know from experience that these people disrupt the peace and it has also been proven that many of them engage in criminal activities.”
  • Zsolt Bayer, co-founder of the Fidesz Party, Hungary -  Jan. 5, 2013: “A significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals, and they behave like animals. When they meet with resistance, they commit murder. They are incapable of human communication. Inarticulate sounds pour out of their bestial skulls. At the same time, these Gypsies understand how to exploit the 'achievements' of the idiotic Western world. But one must retaliate rather than tolerate. These animals shouldn't be allowed to exist. In no way. That needs to be solved — immediately and regardless of the method.”
  •  Ezra Levant, political activist and TV host, Canada -   Sept. 5, 2012: “These are gypsies, a culture synonymous with swindlers. The phrase gypsy and cheater have been so interchangeable historically that the word has entered the English language as a verb: he gypped me. Well the gypsies have gypped us. Too many have come here as false refugees. And they come here to gyp us again and rob us blind as they have done in Europe for centuries … They’re gypsies. And one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging.”
  • Traian Basescu, president, Romania - Nov. 3, 2010: “We have one more problem which must be stated and which makes the integration of nomadic Roma difficult — very few of them want to work. Many of them,traditionally, live off what they steal.”
Do I need to go on?

Workers Power writes;

In October, Irish police kidnapped two young Roma children from separate Roma families. The parents and children were forced to undergo DNA tests, which proved… they were indeed related.

This followed the case of Maria, a Roma child seized by Greek police, whose parents adopted her from another Roma family in Bulgaria, who were too poor to feed her.

In all three cases the police raids were based on the fact that the children “looked different” to their parents – the Greek press dubbed Maria “the blond angel”, with the implication that she must belong to another “race”. This was a revival of the ancient lie that “Gypsies” kidnap children – akin to the infamous “blood libel” against the Jews.

The Conversation notes:

The furor  has reignited right wing anti-Roma hatred across Europe, ranging from Serb neo-Nazis trying to abduct a child in Novi Sad who was not “as dark as their parents” to Italy’s Northern League MPs calling for across-the-board inspections in all Italian Roma camps for missing children.
In the Ireland case,    the garda (police)  said they were acting in good faith by taking the children away, an assurance that has been accepted by the taoiseach (prime minister), Enda Kenny, and the minister for justice, Alan Shatter. “I don’t accept at all that there would be any institutionalised racial tendencies within the gardai,” Kenny told the Irish Independent.

Oh, really?

Memet Uludag of the Anti-Racism Network commented. “The State cannot just apologise and move on. The State must act properly and find who is responsible for this process.” 

But really, you and I know we cannot rely on the State, any State to do anything about this type of racism.

Oh, and just yesterday,  The District Court in the Slovak town of Košice has acquitted a non-Romani youth of stabbing a Romani man to death even though there is no question he committed the crime. Several psychiatrists testified that he was not responsible for his actions at the time, while other experts came to the opposite conclusion. The Slovak youth responsible for taking the life of another human being was then released by the court because the experts testified that "he does not suffer from any mental disorder." The bloody incident took place at a bus station in 2010 in the town of Košice.    The experts did not suggest that the youth should seek treatment, as in their view he is not mentally ill. "Given that he was in such a state of mind, I do not insist that the defendant be found guilty, and I propose the court acquit him by reason of insanity," the prosecutor said; defense counsel Marta Šuvadová joined that opinion. Andrej K. has communicated that he is sorry about what happened and said he will have the experience in his mind's eye for the rest of his life. The court in its acquittal stated that the defendant was not criminally liable by reason of insanity; the verdict has taken effect.

What the hell. 

Enough of this.  I am going to post a couple of pieces about the fight back by the Romani.  The first is from the European Roma Rights Centre.  The second is from Rabble.  Neither of these fight backs are particularly radical.  That isn't the point.  Rather we all should learn from them, recognize that the struggle of the Romani People should be the struggle of all anti-racists, not something shoved to the back burner, but something pushed to the front.  It is decades, centuries in fact, past time for a militant response to this racism.  It should not be left to the Roma People to take this on alone.  We should all be there shouting at the top of our lungs that enough is enough.

Three Years On, Roma Evicted from Cluj-Napoca Call for Justice

Cluj-Napoca, Budapest, 17 December, 2013: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is marking the three year anniversary of a forced eviction in Cluj-Napoca, Romania by calling on the Municipality to act. Almost 300 people were forcibly evicted from their homes close to the city centre in 2010, and taken to a site out of the city, close to the city’s waste dump.
‘When, after waking up in the morning, I saw the rubbish dump I thought to myself: Oh God, this must be hell! How could they bring us here?’
Claudia Linda Greta, 31, Community activist
‘There were rats running everywhere. If I were to leave a piece of bread there, on the table, it would suddenly vanish. During the night rats are still running around here.’
Alexandru Nova Bela, 65, Bookseller
The forced eviction to Pata-Rât has been widely reported and condemned by international bodies. Despite this, the Roma remain at the site out of town, with little sign that the local authority is willing to relocate them. The Roma community who were evicted here struggle to find work and access essential services.
‘It is very difficult to find a job even when you live in Cluj, not to mention here. And the bus….how else could I go to the city if I don’t have a car of my own? First, you have to get past the dogs. There are three packs on the way to the bus stop. After that, you have to wait, at minus 20 degrees, in the winter, for about 45 minutes. You end up repeatedly being late to work…If they see that you live in Pata- Rât, they don’t even talk to you, regardless of the way you speak, the vocabulary you use, the way you dress…’
Fechete Petru Alexandru, 29, Mechanic
For young people, school life has become increasingly difficult since the eviction. Alexandra Greta, 17 wants to become a lawyer, and studies economics, accountancy and mathematics.
‘[After the eviction] I was very ashamed… They knew I had been relocated and they asked me what it was like there. I was ashamed because there were piles and piles of rubbish. I told them that I don’t live there, among the trash, but that there is an area where houses had been built. They saw it on the internet too.’
Alexandra Greta, 17
The ERRC is awaiting the outcome of a domestic court case against Cluj-Napoca municipality, which has never been found accountable for the eviction – which was not in line with international standards. The ERRC is calling on the municipality to immediately, provide adequate and appropriate alternative housing for the evicted families in consultation with them, as well as consulting with the other Roma communities living at Pata-Rât to find better housing solutions.
The ERRC has been working extensively with the community, including helping them to set up a community organisation to fight for justice. The Pata-Rât eviction is part of a pattern of forced evictions against Roma – the most recent took place in Eforie Sud.
“Enough is enough - it’s time for Romania to put a stop to these illegal evictions which segregate Roma and condemn them to a life on the margins,’ said Dezideriu Gergely, executive director of the European Roma Rights Centre.
This press release is also available in Romanian.
For more information, contact:
Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
Tel. +36.30.500.1324


Roma refugee families hang 'Roma Are Not Bogus Refugees' banner

Photo: Justice for Roma Refugees

Roma refugee families in Parkdale, Ontario hung a 40 feet x 20 feet banner off a pedestrian bridge atop the Gardiner expressway at 7:00 a.m. on December 18, 2013, International Migrants Day 2013, insisting "Romas Are Not Bogus Refugees." Actions are taking place around the world.

"Romas are not bogus refugees, our families deserve immigration status in Canada rather than be deported to places like Hungary where our lives are at risk," says Robert Jano. "The Roma people have faced immense pain and persecution for hundreds of years. This tradition continues to be carried out by the Canadian government when they deport us."

Amnesty International insists that the Romas are "one of the largest and most disadvantaged minorities in Europe" facing "widespread discrimination and racism." The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Right has said that Romas face "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" of the highest order. Of the 10-12 million Roma in Europe, one in three are unemployed and 90 per cent live below the poverty line.

"Right-wing and neo-nazi parties burned down our homes, every day we heard of Roma children and families being attacked, we were segregated in schools and turned away from jobs," explains Timea Rusznyak. "This is happening in Hungary, in Italy, in the Czech Republic, and in Slovakia. Across Europe, the Romas are being hunted, and Canadian governments are sending us back into those conditions to suffer more."

Attacks on Romas have been escalating in Hungary since 2006 and particularly after the rise of the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary anti-Roma organization, in 2008 and the rise of the right-wing Jobbik Party in Hungary soon after.
The European Roma Rights Centre documented 61 attacks against Roma and/or their property in Hungary between January 2008 and September 2012 which claimed the lives of nine people, including two minors. The attacks left dozens of people with injuries, ten of which were life-threatening.

"Canada takes in less refugees, less families every year, the entire immigration system is being broken up," adds Rusznyak. "People in Canada need to wake up and realize what's happening and demand that this be changed. Migrants need full status and support, not racism and deportation." 

In 2012, Canada resettled 26 per cent less refugees than in 2010 and 2011. While actual acceptance numbers after the so-called Refugee Exclusion Act (Bill C-31) was passed are not available, Canada received half as many asylum claims in the first half of this year as it did during the same period last year -- 4,558 compared to 10,375. The number of Hungarian asylum seekers in Canada has declined to just 33 between January and March this year, compared with 724 for the same period last year.

In January 2013, Canadian authorities launched a billboard campaign in Miskolc, Hungary, to deter Roma asylum seekers. According to testimony presented by the European Roma Rights Centre at Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Helsinki Commission, the bill board campaign has resulted in "aggravation of the hostile atmosphere that Romani people have to face every day."
The Mayor of Miskolc Ákos Kriza (member of the governing party FIDESZ) stated that, "Miskolc will not welcome back repatriated Roma refugee claimants arriving from Canada." He even threatened returning Romani parents that the authorities would take their children away and place them under state supervision. After the campaign in Forró (near Miskolc) anonymous anti-Roma graffiti appeared on houses calling on the Roma to "go to Canada."
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Justice for Roma Refugees are a group of Hungarian Roma families living in Toronto. We are organizing to stop the deportations of Roma families and we demand that Hungary to be removed from the safe country list.

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