Monday, September 20, 2010
Discrimination against the Roma is a Europe-wide problem
Monday 20 September 2010
The opportunity to address Roma human rights issues was squarely within the Copenhagen accession criteria for new EU states, but in most cases the issue was sidelined as it did not fit the enlargement agenda (Special report: Roma deportations, 18 September). The Roma and other Gypsy/Traveller communities remain uniquely marginalised across Europe, notwithstanding the EU's funding of numerous projects and initiatives. Discriminatory attitudes are prevalent towards the Roma throughout Europe in a way which has made it easy for states to adopt discriminatory legislation and to reject calls for greater integration. These attitudes are not simply concerned with Roma poverty or petty crime, as has been suggested in France and Italy. This is about racism and the construction of useful scapegoats in times of economic and social insecurity. The Roma have been presented as a threat to the fabric of society in France and Italy; the solution has been liquidation of encampments and deportations. The same arguments were used against European Roma 70 years ago to even more disastrous effect, when an estimated 600,000 were exterminated. Yet we should not be too quick to condemn. Our own treatment of Gypsies/Travellers has not been positive, and there are current legislative proposals which further criminalise the travelling lifestyle by introducing a criminal offence of intentional trespass. In 2002 we were "informed" that "waves" of Roma migrants were arriving in Dover from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There were many calls for their removal – and not just from the conservative right. A European strategy is urgently needed where the human rights of Roma are seen as a European priority rather than the responsibility of a handful of economically impoverished east European states.
Dr Helen O'Nions
Nottingham Trent University
To this excellent letter, I would only add that everyday Gypsies in England are denied caravan sites.
Posted by Morgan at 10:58 AM