Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Roma 'scapegoats of European society'

Human rights experts have warned that Europe's Roma community faces widespread discrimination and governments are failing to address the problem.

Often referred to as Gypsies, Roma lack access to housing, social services and education, often do not have the identity papers required to get decent jobs and are widely perceived as criminals.

Council of Europe commissioner for human rights Thomas Hammarberg said on Monday: "We have allowed the Roma population to be scapegoats in our own societies - an underclass.

"The leaders of governments must begin to take this problem seriously because this is hypocrisy when it comes to human rights."

Mr Hammarberg and other experts spoke out on the sidelines of a conference in Vienna about Roma migration and freedom of movement.

According to a report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency which served as a basis for the discussions the arrival of Roma is often seen as something negative by EU member states.

Among other things, local authorities throughout Europe make little effort to support their integration into the labour market, it said.

Morten Kjaerum, who is director of the Vienna-based agency, said that many EU states were "very actively" applying bureaucratic barriers for Roma - although they are often EU citizens.

"There are also the traditional stereotypes, the prejudice and racism facing Roma, which may actually be the underlying reasons for creating these more administrative barriers," Mr Kjaerum observed.

Roma, who are often the victims of hate crimes, recently attracted the attention of celebrities.

In August, Madonna drew international attention by saying during a concert in Bucharest that widespread discrimination against Roma should end.

Thousands of fans responded by booing her.

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