Saturday, March 28, 2009


Roma face apartheid like conditions

As European Union (EU) and countries of Europe reportedly seemed to lack strong political will to improve the plight of Roma people who were living in apartheid like conditions, United Nations (UN) should immediately intervene, acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, stated in Nevada (USA) today.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that Roma had reportedly suffered maltreatment from centuries in Europe and still continued to face social exclusion and it was apparent in the recently issued Human Rights Report by United States Department of State.

According to this Report, "In a number of countries, including Italy and Hungary, members of the Roma community were targets of societal violence, which in some cases was more frequent and lethal than in previous years".

This Report says that Albania "did not fund its National Roma Strategy"; in Austria "Roma faced discrimination in employment and housing"; in Belarus "Roma were often denied access to higher education"; in Bosnia and Herzegovina "mainstream society often excluded many Roma from public life"; in Bulgaria "police harassed, arbitrarily arrested, and used violence against Roma"; in Croatia "societal violence, harassment, and discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem"; in Czech Republic "restaurants, bars, and other public places at times refused to serve Roma"; in Estonia "Roma faced discrimination in employment and other areas".

It further says that in Finland, "discrimination against the approximately 10,000 Roma extended to all areas of life, resulting in their de facto exclusion from society"; in France "Roma faced discrimination in education, housing, and access to government services"; in Greece "Roma continued to face widespread governmental and societal discrimination, including systematic police abuse"; in Hungary "Roma continued to experience widespread discrimination in employment, education, housing, penal institutions, and access to public places"; in Ireland "Travellers faced societal discrimination and were regularly denied access to premises, goods, facilities, and services"; in Italy "Roma live in camps characterized by poor housing, unhygienic sanitary conditions, limited employment prospects, inadequate educational facilities, and inconsistent police presence".

In Kosovo "official and societal discrimination persisted against ...Roma"; in Latvia "government acknowledged that the Romani community faced high levels of unemployment and illiteracy, as well as widespread societal discrimination"; in Lithuania "societal hostility toward Roma continued"; in Moldova "Roma suffered violence, harassment, and discrimination"; in Montenegro, "Prejudice against Roma…was widespread, and local authorities often ignored or tacitly condoned their intimidation or mistreatment"; in Poland, there was "widespread discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, the media, and education"; in Romania "Romani groups complained that police brutality, including beatings and harassment, was routine"; in Russia "authorities in Chudovo, Novgorod Oblast, demolished the homes of several members of the local Romani community"; in Serbia "Roma were targets of verbal and physical harassment from ordinary citizens, police violence, and societal discrimination"; in Slovak Republic "Roma were particularly singled out for violence"; in Slovenia "Roma continue to suffer prejudice and discrimination, in particular with access to health services, education, and employment"; in Spain "Roma...still faced particular difficulties and discrimination in their access to employment, housing and social services and, reportedly, in the treatment they received within the criminal justice system"; in Turkey "law states that ‘nomadic Gypsies’ are among the four categories of persons not admissible as immigrants"; in Ukraine "representatives of Romani and other minority groups claimed that police officials routinely ignored, and sometimes abetted, violence against them".

Rajan Zed asked how Europe, which prided itself for its human rights record, was tolerating such widespread prejudice against a segment of its own society.

Maltreatment of Roma was simply immoral and a dark stain on the face of Europe. EU should offer "formal apology" for centuries and generations of maltreatment of the Roma, Zed added.

Zed called on all world religions, denominations and religious leaders to show strong will, courage, and commitment in support of Roma cause as they should not stay apathetic to societal truths by remaining silent spectators to the plight of Roma people of Europe. He stressed that it was not moral to remain unconcerned when fellow human beings were facing blatant injustice and discrimination right under our nose in Europe.

Rajan Zed further said that references to Roma people in Europe, who numbered around ten million, reportedly went as far back as ninth century AD. How many more centuries Roma had to reside in Europe to prove that they were "real and equal" Europeans like any other, Zed asked.

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