Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Recently, a Romani woman and her family from Moldova, were granted asylum in the United States, based on the treatment of Roma in Europe.
Part of her argument was that even if deported somewhere else in Europe, she would be the victim of racism, violence and discrimination.
Lolo Diklo was asked to submit an affidavit in this case which we did. It attested to the situation facing Roma/Sinti everywhere in Europe and the likelihood that this woman and her family would most assuredly encounter racism.
In citing the reasons for his decision, the judge in New York stated that his opinion was strongly influenced by the powerful statement of Lolo Diklo.
We're feeling pretty proud.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
By Sharon Cummins
July 23, 2009 6:00 AM
Gypsies who visited coastal York County every summer starting in the 1880s repeatedly stole blue-eyed children and money from the locals. Or did they?
In 1887, Kennebunkport's summer newspaper "The Wave," reported as fact "A band of Gypsies that passed through here last week had with them a little blue-eyed child that did not in the least resemble his dusty companions. Suspicion was aroused that he might have been stolen and such proves to have been the case. It was the son of James Welch of Nashua, N.H. Pursuit is now being made for the rascals and the little child will undoubtedly be rescued." After the band of Gypsies was followed up the coast by police for a more than a week, a Bath Times reporter wrote that the frantic Gypsy mother of the blue-eyed child finally presented her son's authentic birth certificate to Justice Henry Ragot of Brunswick and the judge declared her innocent of kidnapping. The Gypsies performed in Brunswick that day with their dancing bear and offered Justice Ragot all the money they collected in gratitude for his fairness. The judge refused their gift.
In 1902, Harry Clark of Beverly, Mass., scolded his four-year-old son for standing dangerously close to the kicking feet of his horse. When the father looked for him again he was gone. Immediately, Gypsies were accused of stealing the child €¦ any Gypsies. Many seaside vacationers reported seeing the captive child in Ogunquit and Kennebunk. After fruitlessly searching every Gypsy encampment in Maine and New Hampshire, the press suggested, without a shred of evidence, that it was probably the Indians who had carried little Wilbur Clark away.
To keep them close to home, children were warned, "the Gypsies will get you and turn you into a beggar," but no such case was ever proved. The King of the Stanley Gypsies was asked about this in the 1930s. He said, "Don't you think we have enough of our own children to feed? Why would we want yours?"
Gypsies traveled from Maine seaside resort to resort staying at each until they were chased away. They usually camped on the outskirts of town near fresh water brooks in elaborately painted wagons and tents. Their pet monkeys and bears entertained vacationers at the fairgrounds and along the beach roads. Gypsy women knocked on doors to tell fortunes for money and the men bred and traded some of the finest horses available. Gypsies occasionally used their bad reputation to their own benefit. Attractive fair-skinned young Gypsy girls would trick tourists out of their money by claiming to have been kidnapped and in need of money to get home to their pure, white families. Some Gypsies did cheat and steal to survive, but often they admitted to crimes they had not committed, just to be left alone.
Two Gypsy women appeared at Mrs. Waterhouse's Kennebunk Landing door in the spring of 1931 and offered to tell her fortune. The lady of the house refused to let them in. She later discovered that $20 was missing from her pocketbook and called the police.
Deputies Roland D. Parsons of Kennebunk, Orrison Davis of Biddeford, Irving S. Boothby of Saco, and George L. Simard of Biddeford located the fortune-tellers at a farm the Gypsies owned at Oak Ridge. The two women denied stealing any money but when the police threatened to take the whole band to court, the Gypsies gave them $20.
Tracing the origin of a non-literate culture like the Gypsies' presents obvious challenges. By analyzing words common to the many Gypsy dialects, linguists have traced this unique race of people to India. An Indian origin for the Romani people, as they call themselves, is also supported by recent DNA studies. Early Gypsies led semi-nomadic lives because they were not allowed to own land. Their role in the Indian caste system was to travel from town to town entertaining the upper classes. After being driven out of India around the year 1000 they were widely scattered.
Some tribes eventually established themselves in the southern Balkan countries before 1300. There, they were enslaved. Many Romani bands came to the United States in the late 1800s from Serbia when their nomadic existence was outlawed. Others immigrated after escaping Nazi Germany where half a million Gypsies were put to death during World War II.
When enforcement of zoning ordinances made a nomadic existence impractical in the United States, Gypsies gravitated toward large cities where they could more easily get lost in the crowd. Today, the descendants of the Gypsies who camped along the Maine coast are finding each other on the Internet and learning about their hidden heritage through DNA testing.
Old News columnist, Sharon Cummins, is a historical research professional in southern Maine. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Kocáb draws attention to the forced sterilization of Romani women;
most recent incident allegedly took place in 2007
Praha/Ostrava, 21.7.2009, 10:10, (ROMEA)
Elena Gorolová of the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization in Ostrava told ČTK yesterday that the most recent forced sterilization incident concerning a Romani woman in the Czech Republic of which the Group is aware occurred in 2007. The incident allegedly concerns a Romani mother of four from Frýdek-Místek, who is now 40 years old. Yesterday Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb also drew the attention of the caretaker cabinet of Czech PM Jan Fischer to the issue of forced sterilizations.
"A woman from Frýdek-Místek was forced to submit to sterilization under pressure from her social worker,” Gorolová said. Since the woman does not yet have legal representation, she does not want to release her name. "She underwent the procedure because of her enormous concern that otherwise her children would be taken into institutional care,” Gorolová said.
The problem has been discussed in the Czech Republic since the autumn of 2004, when the European Roma Rights Center publicized suspicions that Romani women were being forcibly sterilized. According to European Romani activists, forced sterilization has also occurred in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, but the greatest number of cases is alleged to have occurred in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Czech Human Rights Minister Kocáb is also aware of the case currently being publicized. In the conclusions of his material on the state of the Roma community in the Czech Republic in 2008 which the government approved yesterday, he writes: "It is necessary to once again open up the question of the illegal performance of sterilization on Romani women, thanks to which the Czech Republic has become the object of international criticism.”
Gabriela Hrabaňová of the Czech Government Council for Roma Community Affairs said the most recent case mentioned by Gorolová has not yet made it to court. She believes the woman harmed is preparing to sue the hospital or physician responsible.
"There are definitely more such women," Gorolová claims. In her view, women do not report cases of forced sterilization because they fear losing their welfare benefits. They are also afraid of the negative effects of publicity.
Forced sterilization of Romani women
13 September 2004 – The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) publishes information on suspicions of the forced sterilization of Romani women in the Czech Republic. ERRC says cases have come to light in which women never gave any consent to the operation, or to which consent was given in extremely tense situations or under the threat of social benefits being taken away. According to various studies, Romani women were forcibly sterilized in the former Czechoslovakia from 1959 – 1990.
17 September 2004 - ERRC and three Czech nonprofit organizations call on the Czech government to set up a commission to investigate the forced sterilization of Romani women. A commission to review the allegations was later established at the Health Ministry.
1 October 2004 - Ombudsman Otakar Motejl confirms he has received initial reports from 10 women who allegedly underwent forced operations between 1991 and 2001 in North Moravian health care facilities. Most of the cases allegedly occurred between 1991 and 1997. Over time approximately 80 women, most of them Romani, complain to the ombudsman.
4 March 2005 - Helena Ferenčíková, of the Vítkovice quarter of Ostrava, sues Blahoslavená Marie Antonína Hospital in Ostrava for sterilizing her without her consent. The hospital rejects the complaint, saying she agreed to the operation.
8 July 2005 - Ombudsman Otakar Motejl declares that the sterilization of Romani women during recent years in the Czech Republic has been a rare occurrence. “I have no evidence for the claim that programmatic sterilization of Romani women is occurring on the territory of the Czech Republic,” Motejl said.
11 November 2005 – The Regional Court in Ostrava rules that hospital management must apologize to Helena Ferenčíková. The court rejects her claim for financial compensation in the amount of CZK 1 million.
6 January 2006 - Motejl proposes the government consider adopting a law to compensate women who have been forcibly sterilized. The ombudsman says that in the past as many as 58 women were illegally sterilized. In his view racial discrimination was not involved, but the medical records lack written requests for the procedure and also lack confirmation that the patients were fully apprised of the consequences of the surgery.
18 August 2006 - Elena Gorolová, a Romani woman, testifies to the UN at its headquarters that doctors in Vítkovická Hospital sterilized her years ago. She admits to having signed a document agreeing to the surgery but claims to have done so without full awareness of what she was signing.
17 January 2007 – The High Court in Olomouc confirms that Helena Ferenčíková has the right to receive an apology for her unwanted sterilization, but once again rejects financial compensation for the non-monetary harm caused to her. The management of the hospital apologizes to Ferenčíková in March.
28 May 2007 – The sterilization of women without their consent is a crime, according to the District State Attorney in Most, which is investigating the cases of two women alleging forced sterilization in a hospital there.
12 October 2007 – The Ostrava Regional Court awards Iveta Červěňáková compensation for her forced sterilization in the amount of CZK 500 000, to be paid by the Ostrava City Hospital (Městská nemocnice Ostrava). However, last November the High Court in Olomouc struck down the compensation, saying the statute of limitations on the claim for financial compensation had expired. The hospital only has to apologize.
2 March 2009 – The Constitutional Court rejects Červěňáková’s complaint regarding the shelving of criminal charges against the two doctors who performed the sterilization on her.
ROMEA, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Hard times for Roma who fled Belfast
Less than a month after more than 100 Romanians left Northern Ireland amid fear of more racist attacks, the BBC's Nick Thorpe meets some of the families who made the journey from the city of Belfast back to the village of Batar.
The heavens open in Batar, just as we arrive. But the rain doesn't deter the women and children by the village tap, scrubbing their carpets.
Just beyond the village limits, the Crisul river winds through fields of maize and sunflowers, woods of acacia.
A ramshackle road turns from dust to mud in seconds, and barefoot children run laughing and screaming for cover.
Ioan Fechete, 36, offers us shelter in his house - but he's only joking. There's no roof.
A neighbour had warned him it was about to fall in on the heads of his wife and children, so he began stripping the tiles and the rotten beams.
To finish off the job, he set out for Northern Ireland to earn enough money to complete the repairs.
He had saved almost £600 in two months when the attacks happened. He didn't witness them himself, but when his fellow Roma described what happened, they made a common decision to leave.
"All I can get here is a day's work in the fields, but very rarely," he says.
He never went to school, can neither read nor write, and says his own children aged 11 and 12 years rarely attend school.
They would feel ashamed, he says, that they don't have proper shoes or clothes, or sandwiches to eat for lunch while non-Roma eat theirs.
“ Other Roma in the street in Batar say they tried their luck in other countries - France, Italy, Belgium - but they say people were kinder to them in Northern Ireland ”
We're sheltering from the rain in a neighbour's yard, under a mulberry tree.
As the rain eases, a horse and cart, loaded with firewood, lumbers down the lane.
It's not all hopeless here.
Marcel Lakatos, the Baptist priest, and also a Roma, proudly shows us the new kindergarten he has built using money donated by Christian communities across Romania.
He is as pleased with the canteen and the toilets, as much as the classrooms.
Roma children here rarely attend kindergarten. They arrive at school never having sat still in a chair, knowing little of elementary hygiene, under-fed.
But with a year of kindergarten, or even spending just a month there before they start school, they can learn a lot, he says.
It means they won't start school at such a disadvantage, he says, because if they do, there's a good chance they'll never catch up.
Pastor Lakatos hopes the kindergarten will be ready by September. The floor tiles are already down but the stairs are just concrete.
Further down the same street, Iosif Fechete is one of the Roma who personally witnessed the attacks in Belfast.
"We were frightened, terrified," he says.
He was asleep with his wife, his children in the other room, when a petrol bomb smashed through the window.
"There were throwing them into every window they found," he says.
A Roma who spoke English called the police. And their journey from Belfast back to Batar began.
"Now I don't know what to do," he says.
He has already completely rebuilt his house with money he saved in Belfast, but the floor and the fittings are still missing.
Outside, his wife peels potatoes fresh from the garden. Two of their six children run round the yard.
"There are very few chances for the adults to learn a new profession," says Marian Caragiu, chairman of the Ruhama Foundation, which has helped disadvantaged people locally for the past 12 years.
"But there are chances for the young - our first priority is not to lose another generation."
Other Roma in the street in Batar say they tried their luck in other countries - France, Italy, Belgium - but they say people were kinder to them in Northern Ireland and they were able to find better work than elsewhere.
Now they're waiting to hear from those who stayed in Belfast if it's safe to come back.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Here's a quote from Ivan Illich, an insightful critic of the institutions of western culture.
"Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results, or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby 'schooled' to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is 'schooled' to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends..."
On July 14th 1921, Italian born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted in Dedham, Mass, of murder.
Many of us are convinced of their innocence to this day. They were convicted because of their political beliefs and not any evidence against them.
Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927.
On July 15, 1917 Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman (and many others) were indicted under the Espionage Act for their anti-draft activities. They later were sentenced to two years in prison and $10,000 fines.
On July 20, 1967 the first National Conference of Black Power opened in Newark, New Jersey. The meetings were attended by over 1,100 African Americans
Sunday, July 12, 2009
The International Romani Union (Representing Roma and Sinti) have called Sunday 2 August 2009 as International Day of Remembrance for the Roma/Sinti who suffered "the devouring", and who suffer throughout Europe today.
In recognition and support, we are asking all allies to make visible the history and situation of the Romani people on that day.
Please talk to at least one person about the suffering of the Roma/Sinti under the third reich and the dire situation throughout Europe today.
Many readers of this blog are already familiar with these things. There is much relevant information on the blog.
I am writing up a short fact sheet people can refer to. I will post it soon.
Also on Sunday 2 August, please light a candle for the victims of hate, racism, xenophobia,antisemitism, homophobia...the list goes on and on.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
DN!: "Little Guantanamo" - Secretive "CMU" Prisons Designed to Restrict Communication of Jailed Muslims and Activists with Outside World
With little public scrutiny, the Bush administration opened two secretive prisons in Indiana and Illinois known as Communication Management Units, or CMUs, that are designed to severely restrict prisoner communication with family members, the media and the outside world. Dozens of Muslim men are still being held at the CMUs, as well as other prisoners, including environmental and animal rights activists. We speak with attorneys for two men being held there, as well as a reporter covering the story. [includes rush transcript]
To read, listen to, or watch the whole story:
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009
First published in Belfast News
Comment: Eamonn McCann
Victimizing the Roma again
The persecution of the Roma people continues across Europe with vicious results, writes Eamonn McCann.
July 6, 2009
IN NOVEMBER 2007, the Czech Republic was found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to have discriminated against Roma children by assigning them routinely to schools for pupils with learning difficulties.
The case had been taken by the European Roma Rights Center with the backing of Human Rights Watch, on behalf of 18 Roma children from Ostrava, the second-largest urban area in the country, after Prague.
The ruling came more than 10 years after the case had been launched. The children had had to exhaust Czech legal procedures before having recourse to the Strasbourg court.
The ECHR noted that the treatment of the Roma had not been contrary to Czech law. It observed that "the channeling of Roma children to special schools for the mentally retarded was often quasi-automatic." More than half of the Roma in Ostrava were being consigned to the special schools.
Official discrimination against Roma is par for the course in many European countries today and in line with historical experience.
Since their appearance in Europe as migrants fleeing invasion in northern India around 700 years ago, they have been continuously subjected to intense persecution. Chronicles of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries record Roma being hunted by posses on horseback and summarily hanged. There are few accounts of anybody standing up for them.
Persecution of Roma in the last century under the Third Reich is reasonably well-known. But the scale of the atrocity is rarely acknowledged.
Between a quarter and a third of Roma in areas controlled by the Nazis, around 600,000 people, were to perish--a higher proportion than of any group apart from the Jews.
The treatment of Roma under Hitler represented an intensification of what had gone before. A Bavaria State law of 1926 required all Roma to register with the authorities and to report their movements to the police. Three years later, the measure was extended to all Germany. Seven months after taking power, in July 1933, the Nazis passed the "Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Defects"--a charter for forced sterilization aimed at Roma and Jews. The first "Gypsy camp" was set up in 1936 at Marzahn, near Berlin. Mass round-ups began in 1938.
During World War II, Roma were deported in large numbers to concentration camps including Buchenwald, Dachau, Ravensbruck, Mauthausen and Auschwitz. On one day, August 2, 1944, 4,000 Roma were crammed into the gas chambers at Auschwitz to die.
In Croatia, the Nazi Ustashe, with the open support of a majority of Catholic clergy, massacred many thousands of Roma, Serbs and Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism. (In fairness, the Vatican protested vigorously, if to no effect.)
And likewise across occupied Europe. Thousands were rounded up in Vichy France and sent in batches in cattle trucks to the camps. Tens of thousands were deported with Jews from Romania (quite likely the grandparents and great-grandparents of many of the Roma currently and recently here) to camps in Transistria, now part of Moldova.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
TODAY, THE same contemptuous, racist attitude to the Roma persists in parts of Europe. In Kosovo, only 25,000 Roma remain from a population of around 160,000 prior to the conflict of the late 1990s. They live in camps in desperately poor conditions. They do not have the status of refugees. No other ethnic group lives in camps.
A news picture last year showed the bodies of cousins Christina, 12, and Viola, 11, Ibramovitc, on a beach near Naples, as sunbathers in fashionable swimwear lathered themselves with oil just 10 meters away. The children had been begging on the beach, then ran into the sea in high spirits and had been swamped by a wave. The UN High Commission for Refugees commented that: "Even in death there seemed to be a total indifference to these children."
In a passionate article in the Daily Mail, journalist Sue Reid described the scene as "chilling evidence of how Italy's crackdown on the Roma has sick echoes of the country's fascist past." Mussolini had publicly described the Roma as "sub-human."
The Berlusconi Government has passed a law which nobody denies is aimed at the Roma laying down six-year prison sentences for immigrants who lie about their ethnicity or country of origin.
And so on. Hungary, Poland, Albania, Bosnia, Armenia...
The Roma are unique, as far as I know, among ethnic groups in that, while they have countries of origin, they don't have and don't seek a country of their own. Nor do they look for assimilation.
Their experience over generations has been that nobody wants to assimilate with them. Literally for centuries, the Roma have been driven like animals across fields and through ditches, spat upon, tortured, murdered. They have had no option but to live on the margins of society, scavenging for a living. This is the context in which to understand the lifestyle of Roma which callers to Talkback and myriad contributors to Web sites cite as explanation of, even justification for, the racist attacks of the last fortnight.
Many of the Roma will, perhaps, give a stoical shrug as they bundle up their belongings to go back where they came from.
We, on the other hand, cannot afford to slough the experience off. We have something evil in our midst and no excuse for not knowing where it might lead. History warns that we must confront it head on.
First published in the Belfast Telegraph .
On the road: Centuries of Roma history
Beginning a series on the modern-day plight of Roma Gypsies in Europe, by BBC Russian for the World Service, Delia Radu traces the ethnic group's nomadic history back to northern India.
"Who are these people?" asks the man behind the counter in the photo store in Southall, an area also known as London's Little India.
He is handing over my order: a hefty pile of colour photographs, of which a picture of two Roma women and their children (above) is the first.
"They look just like the Banjara in Rajasthan - that's where I come from," he says.
He points to a beautiful print on the wall, showing a glamorous group of female Banjara dancers.
The similarity is striking.
Historians agree that the Roma's origins lie in north-west India and that their journey towards Europe started between the 3rd and 7th Centuries AD - a massive migration prompted by timeless reasons: conflicts, instability and the seeking of a better life in big cities such as Tehran, Baghdad and, later on, Constantinople.
Some of these Indian immigrant workers were farmers, herdsmen, traders, mercenaries or book-keepers. Others were entertainers and musicians.
They settled in the Middle East, calling themselves Dom, a word meaning "man".
“ Post-war European governments on both sides of the Iron Curtain denied the Roma Holocaust survivors any recognition or aid ”
To this day they retain their name and speak a language related to Sanskrit.
Large numbers moved into Europe, where the D, which was anyway pronounced with the tongue curled up, became an R, giving the word Rom. Today's European Roma (the plural of Rom) are their descendants.
Maybe because they were carrying customs and memories connected to their Hindu gods, the Roma were regarded as heathens in Byzantium and were assimilated into a heretic sect: "the Untouchables" or Atsingani. This designation is the root of the words used for "Gypsy" in most European languages, such as the French "Tzigane" and the German "Zigeuner".
By the 14th Century, journeying further into Europe, perhaps fleeing the Turks or perhaps the plague, the Atsingani were to be found in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece.
They worked on the land or as craftsmen but in two Romanian principalities, Wallachia and Moldova, they were pushed into slavery and feature prominently in property deeds.
About a century later the Roma fled towards Ukraine and Russia.
Some presented themselves as pilgrims or penitents, and like any such group wandering throughout Europe during that era they were given aid or shelter.
This welcoming attitude changed dramatically around the year 1500.
Historians believe this might have happened because the numbers of the immigrants grew bigger, but they also were seen as spies for the Turks, and consequently hunted and killed by decree.
This led to what some historians dub "the first Roma genocide" - a period of fierce repression.
There were hangings and expulsions in England; branding and the shaving of heads in France; severing of the left ear of Roma women in Moravia, and of the right one in Bohemia.
Following these expulsions and killings, large groups of Roma travelled back East, towards Poland, which was more tolerant.
Russia was also a place where the Roma were treated less heavy-handedly, notably being allowed to retain nomadic or semi-nomadic ways of living, as long as they paid the annual taxes - the "obrok".
In contrast, the policy of the West, especially during the Age of Enlightenment was to "civilise" the Roma through brutal forced assimilation.
The repression included: 24 strokes of the cane for the use of the "Gypsy language"; forbidding Roma to marry among themselves; restricting the numbers of Roma musicians; taking away children as young as four years old from their parents and distributing them among the neighbouring towns, "at least every two years".
In some cases these policies did force Roma to become assimilated. But many took to the road again.
The persecutions culminated in the Holocaust, or Porajmos - "the Devouring" - as it is called in Romany.
The Roma found themselves among the first victims of Nazi policies.
They were sent to die in the gas vans of Chelmno, and were subjected to gruesome experiments in the extermination camps.
Up to 500,000 Roma are believed to have been killed under fascist rule.
Yet post-war European governments on both sides of the Iron Curtain denied the Roma Holocaust survivors any recognition or aid.
In the communist bloc some managed to reach the modest living standards of the era, most often at the price of giving up their language and identity, while the majority of Roma continued to lead poverty stricken lives on the margins of society.
In many cases there were special policies towards Roma, including coerced sterilisation (Czechoslovakia) or forcing them to change their names and hiding their dwellings behind concrete walls (Bulgaria).
The demise of the communist regimes in 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe was followed by an upsurge of anti-Roma violence in almost every country.
Today, six million out of the estimated 10 million European Roma live in Central and Eastern Europe.
Up to two million are to be found in Romania, whose established Roma slave markets horrified Western travellers until as late as the 19th Century.
Decades of communism and the recent admission of Eastern countries into the EU seem to have made little difference to their history of exclusion and poverty.
Most Roma families live in small shacks with no electricity or running water, and international institutions calculate that Roma poverty rates are up to 10 times higher than those of the majority population where they live, while their lifespan is 10 or 15 years lower.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/07/08 00:10:05 GMT
© BBC MMIX
International Remembrance Day of Roma Victims of the Pharraimos (Holocaust)
FROM ROMNEWS NETWORK:
This year August the 2nd will be committed to a International Remembrance Day of Roma/Sinti Victims of the Pharraimos (Holocaust).
The second of August was the Day in 1944 where more than 3000 Roma und Sinti in Auschwitz-Birkenau, have been gassed and gone through the fire.
This action day was suggested by the Roma National Congress and the International Romani Union, on a Hearing of the European Roma and Travellers Forum in the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg on June the 29th 2009. It was adopted by all participants. The Participants of the Hearing “Together against the Antiziganism in Europe” suggested
On August the 2nd at 12:00 h
To go for five minutes on the Streets, everywhere in Europe, to be seen, to pray for the murded, to lit a candle on the street,
TO BECOME VISIBLE !
This year the Remembrance Day will be on the abused and killed Roma and Sinti children in Europe.
Auschwitz Birkenauen – BII – Zigeuner Familienlager – Gypsy Family Concentration Camp
August the 2nd 1944
In this night 2885 – 6000 Roma and Sinti, mainly women and children where gassed. Jewish Survivours reported that the crematory burned the whole night. “It stayed bright the whole night because of the burning crematories”.
A surviving Jew said „The Women were fighting for the life of their children, even a couple of SS-people got injured by the Roma Women“. It was also a Day of rebellion, that’s sadly ended in Gas chambers and crematory.
On August 3rd, Ausschwitz – Birkenau was „Zigeunerfrei“ (Free of Gypsies)
RIP Robby und Robby
In February Robert Czorba (28) and his son Robert Czorba (4), fled their house that was set on fire by a Molotov cocktail, during fleeing the burning house, a Murder Commando dressed in Police uniform shot them dead with Shot Guns.
In the past nine month, 73 violent attacks has been reported towards Roma in Hungary, the dark figure will be much higher. It seems that the Attacks were performed by well trained Hungarian security forces.
Harassment and violence against Roma/Sinti and immigrants are on the rise throughout Europe.
Monday, July 6, 2009
This article appears on the Roma Rights Network. Please visit the website
Canada reimposing visa controls to stop Roma asylum-seekers, Czech media say
By Michael Valpy
From Friday, July 3, 2009's Globe and Mail
Canada will reimpose visa requirements on citizens of the Czech Republic because of dramatically increased numbers of Roma asylum-seekers, Czech media are reporting after this week's visit to Prague by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
The national daily Lidové Noviny (People's News) said Mr. Kenney told the Czech government that the restriction would be imposed next Tuesday on the eastern European country.
Alykhan Velshi, Mr. Kenney's spokesman, would not comment on the accounts or on what the minister discussed with his Czech counterparts. But he did say that speculative media reports could spark a run on the border.
In 1997, the Canadian government imposed visa controls on the Czech Republic after large numbers of Roma - who historically have faced discrimination in the country and say they face constant attacks from skinhead and neo-Nazi groups - arrived in Canada and claimed refugee status.
The restriction remained in place for 10 years, during which time there were virtually no refugee applications. But since it was removed at the end of 2007, about 2,000 Roma have arrived - 1,000 of them in the first four months of 2009, making them the second-largest refugee applicant group after Mexicans.
Mr. Kenney has indicated he is concerned about the sharp increase in asylum claims. The Czech Republic, he said, is "hardly an island of persecution in Europe."
The Immigration and Refugee Board sent a fact-finding team to the Czech Republic in March to investigate the treatment of Roma. Its report, posted on the IRB's website, is inconclusive - it quotes state agencies saying the Roma are protected against discrimination and non-government organizations saying they are not.
Toronto immigration lawyer Max Berger, who is acting for about 400 Roma applicants, said that the IRB has made a decision in just under 100 cases and accepted 85 per cent, an extraordinarily high rate. The general acceptance rate is about 40 per cent.
"So is Canada justified [in reimposing visa restrictions]? It's effectively shutting the door on genuine refugee claims," Mr. Berger said.
He also said that the minister is undermining his own board by publicly declaring that the Czech Republic is not "an island of persecution" and implying that the refugee claims are not legitimate. "It's an entirely inappropriate thing for him to say," he said.
He said it would be more appropriate if pressure were applied on the Czech government to deal with persecution of the Roma.
The concern about large numbers of applicants is "overstated panic," he said. "The IRB has had bigger numbers in the past. In the early '90s, there were 40,000 to 45,000 claimants annually, now there are 30,000."
Source: The Globe and Mail 
The following is a copy of the petition accessible at www.romarights.net
We, the undersigned, request that measures be taken to address human rights abuses against Roma citizens of the European Union and that these measures suffer no delay or curtailment as a result of the recent imposition of visa requirements on Czech citizens visiting Canada. The European Union should hold its member states accountable for ensuring the basic rights and freedoms of its citizens.
We bring to your attention that under the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, a country that fails to protect a minority from persecution by elements of its population is just as guilty of persecution as a country that has an official policy of persecution of this minority, because it makes no difference to the victims. Both Canada and EU member states are signatories of this Convention. Preventing refugees from leaving a country violates international human rights laws. Imposing a visa restriction at this time for Czech citizens coming to Canada demonstrates a lack of willingness on the part of the current Canadian government to listen to the victims of human rights abuse and prevents victims from fleeing their persecutors.
From the home page, scroll down to TAKE ACTION to access the petition.
Source URL: http://www.romarights.net/content/canada-visa-petition
The following is a response from EveryOne Group to the statement of Thomas Hammerberg.
Mr. Hammerberg's statement is below in the previouse blog entry.
Milan, 06 July 2009
The situation of the Roma People in Italy
To Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Dear Mr. Hammarberg,
In response to the recent interview with Klaus Davi for the KlausCondicio Youtube canal, we fully share in your concern for the situation of the Roma People in Italy. There is right cause for alarm. Since January forced evictions have continued unabated: families thrown out onto the street, children often illegally separated from their parents, barracks and personal belongings destroyed, social and medical care denied. After each eviction, the children (those left with their mothers), the women, including pregnant mothers, and the ill have had to look for alternative shelter under bridges, in abandoned buildings or makeshift barracks that are as unsafe as they are unhealthy. The men are often rounded up and taken to police headquarters for “controls” where they are brutally interrogated; the women remain with the children, exposed to violence and retaliation. Following the most recent evictions, the majority of the Roma families have returned to Romania or fled to Spain, Greece or France. Some have cancer, others have disabilities or heart disease—all have had to forego medical treatment and return to die in their country of origin. Episodes of spontaneous abortions subsequent to the evictions have been reported*.
We have made physical, moral and economic efforts (including selling personal belongings and real estate) to try to help these families buy the medications and goods they need to survive or to assist them in renewing their documents or undertaking the return trip to Romania. Promises of assistance from public agencies to help cover travelling expenses went unfulfilled. Instances of forced separation of children from their mothers are known. During a police action in Pesaro, we drove around the city in trucks to collect mothers dying of thirst who had fled the police to avoid being separated from their children. A tragedy was averted when Roma parents threatened to set themselves on fire if their children were taken away.
These events testify to the insidious persecution by public authorities of the few Roma families remaining in Italy: their permits have expired, they have no money to return to Romania, they are denied even basic human rights. They are maltreated, falsely accused of crimes, hunted down and driven out of the cities, beaten and insulted.
We invite you to visit our web site where you will find updated information and can contact several of the victims (telephone numbers can be provided on request) who will tell you about their personal experiences with the ethnic racism that is spreading in Italy.
Your words and appeals to the Italian authorities are highly commendable. But Italy is in the grips of rampant xenophobia. Admonishments, resolutions and advice from international organizations have proven ineffective against the rising tide of racism. We will continue to do what we can to reduce the tragedy of Roma persecutions that world looks upon with indifference.
Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro, Dario Picciau, Glenys Robinson, Steed Gamero, Fabio Patronelli, Katalin Barsony, Nico Grancea, Ionut Ciuraru, Mariana Danila, Danciu Caldarar, Mauro Zavalloni - EveryOne Group
www.everyonegroup.com or email@example.com
Many Roma in Europe are stateless and live outside social protection
Statement by Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
There are Roma in a number of European countries who have no nationality. They face a double jeopardy - being stateless makes life even harder for those who are already stigmatized and facing a plethora of serious, discrimination-related problems. For those who happen to be migrants as well, their situation is even worse.
Many Roma lack personal identity documents which hinders their access to basic human rights, such as education and health services, and increases their susceptibility to continued statelessness. In fact, estimates indicate that thousands have no administrative existence at all. They often have never obtained a birth certificate and do not overcome administrative hurdles when trying to be recognised by the State. They live entirely outside of any form of basic social protection or inclusion.
This is largely a hidden problem. Naturally, it is difficult to establish facts in this area but too little effort has been made by state authorities to collect relevant data about the scope and nature of this systematic marginalisation. As repeatedly noted by the European Committee of Social Rights, states have an obligation to identify the dimension of the exclusion of vulnerable groups such as the Roma, including through statistical means.
Absence of data, only estimates available
There are no precise statistics on the number of stateless Roma. Estimates in South Eastern Europe indicate the following:
Bosnia and Herzegovina: 10 000; Montenegro: 1 500; Serbia: 17 000; Slovenia 4 090 (citizens of former Yugoslavia, many of whom are ethnic Roma).
According to the UNHCR the great majority of the persons referred to as stateless face problems being formally recognized as citizens of the country where they are habitually resident. This is because they lack proper registration and documentation and encounter many difficulties in their attempt to obtain proof of nationality.
Political developments in recent years have made Roma in Europe more vulnerable. The break-up of former Czechoslovakia and former Yugoslavia caused enormous difficulties for persons who were regarded by the new successor states as belonging somewhere else - even if they had resided in their current location for many years.
The Czech Republic used a citizenship law which made tens of thousands of Roma stateless (the intention was that they should move to Slovakia). This law was, however, amended after interventions from Council of Europe and others in 1999. Thereby the main part, though not all, of the problem was finally resolved.
In Slovenia several thousand persons, among them many Roma, became victims of a decision to erase non-Slovene residents from the Register of Permanent Residents. They had missed a deadline and had not sought or obtained Slovenian citizenship soon after the independence of the country. Many of them had moved to Slovenia from other parts of Yugoslavia before the dissolution of the Federation.
Croatia and "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" also adopted restrictive laws which made access to nationality very difficult. Again, this hit Roma people in particular. One consequence was that those who had migrated to other parts of Europe were in limbo; they were not accorded nationality either by their host country or by the new states which had emerged in the areas where they had previously lived.
The Kosovo1 conflict led to a large displacement of Roma people primarily to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" but also to other countries outside the region. While in Kosovo recently, I met with one NGO which is currently working on a large civil registration project, hoping to register the 10 000 to 11 000 members of the community who find themselves with no papers.
It is not acceptable that European citizens are deprived of their right to a nationality - a basic human right. It is necessary to address this problem with much more energy than has been done so far.
European host states where children of Roma migrants have been born and have lived for several years should do their utmost to provide a secure legal status to these children and their parents. Both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights stipulate that children shall have the right to acquire a nationality. In other words, the host country has an obligation to ensure that children do have a nationality; the fact that their parents are stateless is no excuse.2
When in Italy last January I was pleased to learn that the government was preparing draft legislation to provide Italian nationality to stateless minors whose parents had left the war-torn former Yugoslavia and where at least one of their parents was in Italy prior to January 1996. The government also announced that it would ratify the 1997 European Convention on Nationality without any reservation.3 A number of Roma stateless children will benefit from such legislative developments - when adopted.
Problems relating to nationality also affect many adult Roma. When in Montenegro, I learned about the impressive efforts of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who is trying to break the vicious circle caused by the absence of identity documentation. Without such papers individuals are hindered from asserting their most basic rights. The programme has already helped a great number of individuals including some who had left Kosovo.
I also noticed positive steps during a visit to "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". Progress has been made to ensure that Roma can attain personal documents including birth certificates, identity cards, passports and other documents related to the provision of health and social security benefits.
These are the good examples. However, it should be remembered that such measures are an obligation. The Strasbourg Court has stated that the non-provision by states of proper personal documentation which would facilitate employment, medical care or providing for other crucial needs, may indeed contradict the right to private life, a human right protecting the individual's moral and physical integrity.4
The Council of Europe has been a pioneer in the field of protecting Roma rights. The messages coming from its various bodies emphasize that host states should employ all possible means to end the de facto or de jure statelessness of Roma and provide them with a nationality, in accordance with the standards of the 1997 European Convention on Nationality and the 2006 Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in relation to State Succession.
Both treaties contain general principles, rules and procedures of the utmost importance for the effective enjoyment of the human right to a nationality in Europe. Some core provisions are:
- respect for the overarching principle of non-discrimination in law and practice;
- obligation on states to avoid statelessness, including in the context of state succession;
- obligation to grant nationality to children born on their territories and who do not acquire another nationality at birth;
- restrictive conditions on loss of nationality by law;
- duty of states to reason and provide in writing their nationality-related decisions.
The problem of the stateless Roma must be addressed with determination. They often do not have the means to speak out themselves. A study recently published by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency showed also that many Roma do not know how to approach ombudsmen and other national human rights institutions.
National human rights action plans should pay attention to the urgent need to provide resources to facilitate legal work for stateless Roma. In Croatia a free legal aid scheme for Roma was put into place in 2003. This was a good step to promote the necessary legal empowerment. Many more initiatives of this kind are needed.
1. All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.
2. Convention of the Rights of the Child, Article 7 and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 24.
3. Paragraphs 54-55 of Italy's comments on my Report of 16/04/2009. Although to date it has still not done so.
4. See Smirnova v Russia, judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 24/10/2003, paragraphs 95-97.
This Viewpoint can be re-published in newspapers or on the internet without our prior consent, provided that the text is not modified and the original source is indicated in the following way: "Also available at the Commissioner's website at www.commissioner.coe.int"
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Article from Socialist Worker (Britain) 2157, 27 June 2009 (www.socialistworker.co.uk)
COMMUNITY UNITES TO RESIST ATTACKS ON ROMA IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Gordon Hewitt in Belfast
The simmering sectarianism that dominates Northern Ireland boiled over last week as a series of racist attacks forced more than 100 members of the Roma community out of their homes in Belfast.
The attacks spread from south Belfast to the east of the city on Thursday of last week.
The Roma victims, who had all come from Romania, are now in a secret location in a Republican area under armed police guard.
Local people have responded with disgust at the attacks. On Saturday a rally of around 400 trades unionists and anti-racist activists pledged to organise a campaign against racism.
This will counter both the vicious attacks made on the Roma families this week and the rise in racist attacks generally. There were close to 1,000 racist attacks in Northern Ireland last year.
Anna Lo, an assembly member from the Chinese community, Patricia McKeown from the Irish Congress of Trades Unions and Barbara Muldoon from the Anti Racism Network, addressed the rally.
Barbara Muldoon said that the attacks had to stop. "You deserve to walk the streets of this city without being spat on, you deserve the respect all of us deserve."
Her second message was to the racists: "You do not speak on behalf of the people of Belfast or Northern Ireland, your shame is not our shame.
"We are not ashamed, we are bloody furious at what you have done to our neighbours.
"We reject any notion that the Romanian nationals who live in this community are responsible for social deprivation, for a lack of public housing and jobs.
"The responsibility for that lies in Stormont and lies in Westminster."
Racism is on the rise in Northern Ireland. It is evident in the way the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the new "community friendly police service" responded to the attacks on the Roma.
These families had been targeted before, but police dismissed the attacks as acts of random vandalism. They did nothing for months. Even after repeated attacks on the same household the police provided little response or protection.
The media have run endless articles about the flood of immigrants and the Roma "beggars" who mistreat their children, and the eastern European workers who are taking "jobs from local workers".
These arguments are based on lies. Just 3 percent of the population of Northern Ireland comes from an ethnic minority background.
Immigrants are not an economic threat. They don’t steal jobs. In fact, they are more likely to take jobs which people born locally would rather not do.
It was only recently that local business people in Dungannon praised the Portuguese workers for ensuring that local factories remained open.
And if you do what the local shop stewards at the Montupet factory did - unionise the Polish workers and fight to get them a pay rise - you don’t have to worry about the undercutting of wages and conditions.
The rally on Saturday was a good start in terms of building a serious anti-racist campaign.
The British National Party (BNP) has recently opened a call centre in Northern Ireland.
While it does not appear that the BNP or any other force orchestrated these attacks, this is no reason for complacency.
The BNP has been talked up so much over the last ten days that its leader Nick Griffin may feel that it is possible to build something now where it wasn’t before.
The peace process and the powersharing assembly was meant to deliver peace, prosperity and an end to sectarianism. But poverty is rising, and more than 30 percent of people exist solely on benefits.
Many people on the Protestant Shankill Road and the Catholic Falls Road live in squalid housing. People from all communities are competing for the rapidly dwindling number of jobs available and the assembly has announced 10,000 job losses in the public sector.
In some ways it is far more worrying that local thugs, some no older than 15 years old, organised themselves without much in the way of backing.
But the rally on Saturday, combined with the fantastic seven week occupation by the Visteon workers in Belfast and the struggles by workers at Nortel and NCP, shows that there is an alternative route.
That is one of unity between workers of all backgrounds and nationalities to fight not only the immediate effects of the recession but the divisive nature of the state here as well.
original article at
The Roma: Why We Shouldn't Fear Gypsies
by William Blacker
From The Times
"I know too well its truth, from experience, that whenever any poor Gipsies are encamped anywhere and crimes and robberies, etc, occur, it is invariably laid to their account, which is shocking; and if they are always looked upon as vagabonds, how can they become good people? I trust in Heaven that the day may come when I may do something for these poor people."
These lines were written by Queen Victoria in 1836 — wise words from a young girl. And just by writing them she had already done something for those “poor people”. The loyalist thugs responsible for the hate campaign against the Romanian Gypsies in Northern Ireland might perhaps heed the words of the great-great-grandmother of their present Queen.
Queen Victoria drew attention to what is still the nub of the problem: that wherever Gypsies go they arouse suspicion. They look different, often with dark skin and wearing unusual clothes, they speak a different language, do not understand local customs and make little effort to integrate.
As soon as suspicion is aroused, local populations are inclined to jump to the wrong conclusion and innocent people may suffer. I too have been guilty of over-hasty judgments. While in Romania some years ago my passport disappeared and I assumed that it had been taken by Gypsies living in a slum that I had been visiting. I returned there and asked for my passport. They assured me they did not have it. I told them that I would have to go to the police. They begged me not to: local people and the police would be furious with them, they said, for having shamed them by stealing from a foreigner. I decided to go to the embassy in Bucharest and apply for a new passport. On the way I called in on friends with whom I had stayed earlier. They handed me my passport. I’d left it on a bedside table.
Since that time I have become fond of the Gypsies, or “Roma”, as they are often known, and I have spent many years living in a village in Romania where most of the inhabitants are Gypsies. Their lives are disorganised, sometimes exasperating, but they are charming and with a joy of living despite impoverished circumstances. Many are musicians, others metalworkers or brickmakers. They are occasionally unreliable, but if there is any thieving it is usually petty and incompetently carried out. Overall, they are good, friendly people and I warmed to them, as I did to the Romanians and Saxons who also live in the village.
I have a son whose mother is a Romanian Gypsy with whom I had a relationship for more than three years, living together. My son is being brought up in her village and I see him for six months each year. He is a happy, contented three-year-old, but I worry for him when I read about indiscriminate attacks against Gypsies in Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and now in Northern Ireland. I am sure that innocent people suffered.
I have no first-hand idea of what the Gypsies in Belfast were doing. I have read that they were begging, selling copies of the Big Issue, living many to one house and not respecting local customs. I do not know who is to blame for the trouble. But I know that this is a centuries-old problem.
The accepted view is that the Gypsies left areas in northwest India about 1,000 years ago and headed westwards, passing though Persia and Armenia and arriving in the Balkans in the 14th century. From there many continued farther west. There are account books from Holyrood House in 1529 that mention payments to Gypsies dancing for King James V of Scotland. In some places they were received favourably, in others not. Read any history of the Gypsies and you will find countless incidents similar to the one in Belfast. There is nothing new about Gypsies travelling around Europe, nor of them being made unwelcome.
What is new is the scale of the migration and the reasons for it. Nowadays tens, even hundreds, of thousands of East European Gypsies are travelling around the Continent. They have been leaving in droves since 2004 when visas were no longer required. Travelling long distances is now easy, and they have heard that good money can be made in Western Europe. There is one other important reason: the old way of life in Romania is breaking down. When I first went there most village communities were almost self-sufficient. They produced their own food and entertainment. Each village had its own sawmills and flour mills. Neighbours helped each other with farm work and young and old worked together in the fields.
The Gypsies too had specific roles within this society. They would travel from village to village working metal, making spoons, sieves, brooms, collecting old bottles for recycling, buying walnuts from the villagers. Others would play music for village balls, weddings and funerals.
But with Western ideas, which undermined local traditions, and Western products, which destroyed local economies, communities began to break down. The smoothly functioning, centuries-old communities of Eastern Europe are being allowed to disintegrate. And with this, Gypsies are gradually becoming redundant. There is less opportunity for them to make money and they have little choice but to do what everyone else is doing: to head west, looking for work, or to locate to countries where they have heard stories about the generosity of government welfare handouts. But not all Gypsies find lucrative work, or are lucky enough to arrive in countries that take care of them while they are looking for it.
Sitting in the bar of the village where I live in Romania, I hear the pitiful stories of those who have returned home disappointed. Many Gypsies have left in the hope of earning an honest living in the fields of Western Europe. The naive and innocent are lured away by unscrupulous agents. Two young boys I know were offered jobs on a farm in Germany and assured that they would earn €70 (£60) a day — many times more than they could earn at home. But they found themselves forced to beg on the streets of Salerno, Italy. They were beaten and threatened with mutilation or being drowned. At night they slept in rat-infested apartment blocks lying on cardboard boxes and rags, with hundreds of other bewildered Gypsy slaves. Only after pressure from their family at home were the boys returned to Romania. They had begged for three months, but returned with €3 in their pockets.
This month I heard of the experiences on a farm in Germany of two women from my village. They had been told they would earn €50 to €60 a day. They paid €100 for a contract and €100 for the journey. When they arrived they were housed in draughty huts in east Germany, near the Polish border. They were given numbers, not names, and at 5am each day were driven to fields and told to pick strawberries. They were paid by weight of strawberries but were lucky if they managed to earn €20 a day. From this they had to pay for lodging and food, and to repay their employer his expenses. If they had managed to work for two months they would have earned an average of €150 a month — €5 a day. They cut their losses, begged and borrowed money and walked 8km to the nearest town where they found transport to Romania.
Such experiences in labour camps in Germany, especially for Gypsies, has worrying resonances. People are tricked into such situations because there are no jobs in Romania’s villages. In Communist times there had been the co-operative farms, which provided work for everyone in the village. Since the Romanian revolution these have been allowed to decay.
Now there are few jobs but many Gypsy children growing up. My son goes to the local nursery school, along with the other Gypsy children. It is as good a school as any I have seen in England, and there are encouraging signs that Gypsies are being included in the Romanian educational system. But as my son and the other Gypsy kids grow older, they will not have jobs if the present conditions continue. Like the young now, if no work becomes available the chances are that they will turn to petty crime, or head west, very likely exploited by gang bosses, and possibly even end up begging in Northern Ireland.
Can not some imaginative EU politician think of ways of providing useful jobs in Romania to help disadvantaged minorities? Gypsies are skilled craftsmen, but their villages are often crumbling. Could there not be a system of grants from the EU to repair their historic buildings and so provide jobs for those who desperately need them. Is it beyond our wit to think of ways to redirect this money to Romania and save these communities before they break down altogether, to invest in local industry, to get working again the old saw and flour mills that have fallen into disrepair, to give grants to brick and tile-makers (a Gypsy profession) and to encourage small-scale organic agriculture?
All these are vital jobs are needed to keep the communities alive. All the different ethnic groups in Romania, including the Gypsies, would benefit. EU politicians should, like Queen Victoria, look for positive solutions to the problem, for “if the Gypsies are always looked upon as vagabonds, how can they become good people?”
Most Gypsies are not permanently nomadic and are longing to work at home in Romania.
Along the Enchanted Way: A Romanian Story by William Blacker is published by John Murray, £20. To order it for £18, inc p&p, call 0845 2712134 or visit timesonline.co.uk
FROM: THE GAZETTE
BY PETER O'NEIL, EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT
CANWEST NEWS SERVICE
The Canadian government is finally following through on its threat to crack down on Roma migrants from the Czech Republic who have been arriving in Canada by the hundreds each month claiming refugee status, the Czech media is reporting.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney informed his Czech counterparts earlier this week that Ottawa, which lifted visa requirements for Czech visitors to Canada in late 2007, will re-impose that restriction on Tuesday, according to the People's News, the oldest Czech daily newspaper.
An activist in the Czech Republic who advocates for Roma rights said Canada will be making a mistake if it goes ahead with the re-imposition of the visa requirement.
"Business people will be encumbered, legitimate asylum seekers will be encumbered, and discrimination (in the Czech Republic) will continue. It's not a pro-active approach," Gwendolyn Albert, director of the Women's Initiatives Network, told Canwest News Service in a statement.
A spokesman for Kenney would neither confirm nor deny a pending Ottawa decision to bring back the visa requirement.
"I will not comment on confidential state-to-state discussions between Canada and the Czech Republic," Alykhan Velshi, Kenney's director of communications and parliamentary affairs, said in an e-mail to Canwest News on Thursday.
Velshi confirmed that Kenney met in Prague with senior members of the Czech government, including Prime Minister Jan Fischer.
"The increase in asylum claims from the Czech Republic — hardly an island of persecution in Europe — is a real concern and Canada is monitoring the situation closely," Kenney said.
"Since 2007, there has been no visa requirement for Czech nationals. However, visa-exempt countries are aware that if they do not satisfy the conditions of Canada's exemption, the requirement for a visa may be re-imposed."
He noted that Jean Chretien's Liberal government lifted and then re-imposed a visa requirement for Czech visitors in the mid-1990s after a similar flood of refugee claimants from the Roma minority, which is subjected to widespread discrimination in Czech society.
Velshi made clear the government's concern that the media reports could spark an even larger flood of asylum seekers.
"It would be the height of irresponsibility for me to comment on whether or not Canada plans to impose a visa, because that kind of speculation could result in a run on the border."
A spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry refused to comment.
There were 78 refugee claims from the Czech Republic in 2007, all at the end of the year after the visa decision took effect, compared to none for all of 2006.
The total soared to 861 in 2008, making this liberal democracy and member of the European Union the seventh-largest source of refugees in Canada — ahead of war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan and Somalia.
In the first three months of this year, the number of claimants from the Czech Republic jumped to fourth place (653). Mexico was first, at 3,648, with impoverished Haiti (688) and Colombia (656) just ahead of the Czech Republic.
Many of the Roma claimants settle in and around Toronto, with Hamilton being a favourite destination.
There are four direct Prague-Toronto flights a week, with asylum-seekers — who get access to welfare and social housing after arrival — sometimes making up anywhere from 20 to 35 per cent of the passengers.
There were as many as 68 claimants on the May 26 flight, and two days later there were 59, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The Immigration and Refugee Board has since 2007 accepted 118 Czech asylum applications claiming "a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular political group."
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