Wednesday, September 29, 2010


From Morgan---We've been asking President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the State Department to speak in support of the Romani of Kosovo who are living on abandoned lead mines.  We have also asked about moving these Romani people to a more than half empty US military base in Kosovo.  We have yet to receive any response in over a year of inquiries and supplications.

Rights Groups Urge Secretary Clinton to Highlight Plight of Roma in France

Say U.S. voice is needed as Europe's Roma are under pressure

Washington, DC – Human Rights First today urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to comment publicly on the expulsions of Roma from France and the discourse of intolerance used by some French politicians. In a letter also signed by Amnesty International USA, Council for Global Equality, European Roma Rights Center, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Institute, and the Public Interest Law Institute, the groups noted Secretary Clinton's long-term commitment to promoting the rights of Roma and urged the U.S. State Department to specifically address the ongoing situation in France.

Across Europe, Roma are currently facing an array of discriminatory and segregatorypolicies. Increasingly, Roma individuals and communities are victimized by private acts of bias-motivated violence, or hate crime, that further threatens the security of this vulnerable population. On numerous occasions, the United States has pronounced its motivation to combat discrimination, segregation, and violence against Roma.

"Your support would not only draw attention to this particular violation of human rights, but also signal to other countries where Roma are facing significant challenges that the U.S. takes seriously discrimination and collective action against ethnic minorities," the groups' letter to Secretary Clinton notes.

Since July 2010, the French government has dismantled two hundred camps populated by Roma and Traveler groups. It has also expelled approximately 1,230 Roma individuals from France back to their countries of origin, mainly Romania and Bulgaria, though a variety of means such as mandatory deportation orders and so-called "voluntary" repatriations. Rights groups maintain that such singling out of a particular ethnic group for law enforcement action is impermissible, and the French expulsions appear to violate numerous due process guarantees provided for by European Union (E.U.) law.

E.U. laws assert the right of each E.U. citizen to move freely across the territories of its 27 member states. The European Commission, the executive body responsible for enforcing E.U. laws, is currently evaluating if France's actions are in compliance with the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as Directive 2004/38/EC. According to the rules, individuals who no longer fulfill residency requirements can only be expelled if the decision is proportionate and sent to them one month in advance "in writing, fully justified and open to appeal." Collective expulsions are prohibited—as is ethnic profiling—and each case must be studied separately.

"Since you have championed human rights and Roma rights in particular, your response to these expulsions is critical. We urge you to speak today to show political condemnation of France's handling of the Roma evictions and expulsions, as well as the negative stereotyping of Roma by French politicians. The alternative—silence—may only undermine the security and safety of Roma throughout Europe," the groups' letter concludes


The Situation of Roma
by Ian Hancock

Radio Free Europe

September 18 2010

Ian Hancock

While the Romani people’s problems are currently making headlines they are nothing new. Indeed the racism directed at Roma in the early 1990s was palpably more violent, on the street, than it is today. But-­-perhaps more troubling in some respects–­now the discrimination is originating at the governmental level, as events in Italy and France shockingly demonstrate.

In 2005 The Decade of Roma Inclusion was initiated, a coalition of the governments of Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Montenegro, and whose founding partner organisations included, inter alia, the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, the United Nations Development Program and the Council of Europe. It pledged “that our governments will work toward eliminating discrimination and closing the unacceptable gaps between Roma and the rest of society.” But at the midpoint of the Decade, little has so far been accomplished.

The factors underlying the contemporary situation are many and complex. First of all, one cannot even begin to tackle them without understanding the circumstances of Romani history. And while the early details of that history are vague in any case, they found no place at all in the socialist ideology (in all of the Decade’s member countries), which placed the future and loyalty to the state ahead of history and ethnocentrism. Roma were treated as a socially defined population and linguistic and cultural differences were carefully controlled, with their assimilation being the long-term goal.

Western scholars have known for over two centuries that the Romani people came from India. The details of how and why and when they left and reached Europe occupy much time among the academics, but it is generally accepted that the population was a composite one from the very beginning, and that it crystallized into an ethnic people­the Roma­during the mediaeval period having been brought there as service providers by the Seljuqs. And it was in the same capacity that they moved on up into Europe, this time as attachments to the Ottoman Turks in their conquest of the Byzantine Empire. Although located where Turkey is today, the Byzantine Empire was essentially “western” – Christian and Greek-speaking. Thus the Roma, Asian in language, culture and genetics, have only ever existed as a people in the West. This alone sets them apart, as Europe’s square pegs. And the situation is further complicated by the fact that as the Roma were shifting their identity from an occupational to an ethnic one, so they were fragmenting­moving across into Europe over perhaps a two century span of time, not as one group but as several. Scholars point to three main migrations. For this reason, there has never been a sense of “pan-ethnic” identity amongst the world’s ca. 12m Roma, divided by space and time; Gitanos in Spain have been separated from the Kaalé in Finland by hundreds of miles and as many centuries. We define ourselves more by what we are not (gadjé or non-Roma) than by what we are. We are defined in turn in many ways, but­thanks too to a well-entrenched literary stereotype­mostly as a people identified by behaviour­individuals who could “stop being gypsies” if they wanted to. That word for us is seldom written with a proper noun’s capital letter.

These details, and events over time such as expulsions, transportations, slavery and the Porrajmos (the holocaust) add up as external factors contributing to the barrier separating the Romani and non-Romani worlds. But there are internal factors too that have to be acknowledged. Together they explain how it is that a people with no land, government, militia or economy has managed to survive the centuries with its language and culture intact.

The internal factors that I referred to are just that; but bilingual and bicultural curricula are still barely evident in the post-socialist nations and will have to find a place in their classrooms eventually, especially where Romani pupils are concerned. Language is an issue in some countries but not others; in Slovakia, there are Romani children who can’t speak Slovak, but in Spain or Finland the children can’t speak Romani. Amongst many Romani groups such as the Vlax or Sinti, the cultural restrictions on socializing with non-Roma are deeply rooted and children are kept out of school because of it; but in other countries such as Greece they are less so, and it is mainly the external factors that divide society.

Some Romanies bear another, heavier legacy­a perspective on life inherited from the hundreds of years of slavery. If, for centuries, a people have lived in a society where every single thing, including food, clothing and even one’s spouse is provided from outside, i.e. at the discretion of the slave owner, and if getting anything extra, including favours, depends upon one’s influence with that owner, then it will instill an assumption that this is how one survives in the world. And while slavery has been abolished now for a century and a half, remnants of this way of thinking are still in evidence. Not only are assistance and material things sought from outside rather than from within the community, but cultivating useful and influential contacts outside of the non-Romani world is also a priority, and becomes a mark of prestige within it. A man can become the leader of his community on that basis alone. This kind of thinking does not encourage self-determination or personal initiative; but before it can be addressed and changed, it has to be understood. Statistically, the highest number of criminal arrests for national Romani populations are among the descendants of the freed slaves, even though they do not form the country’s majority Romani group­in Hungary is an example.

This psychological baggage, still evident a century and a half after abolition, is matched as well by the damage done to Europe’s Roma during the Porrajmos (the holocaust); the Final Solution of the Gypsy Question issued over Himmler’s signature on March 24th 1938 led to massive losses that are still being enumerated. As with the abolition of slavery, when the former owners were compensated for their loss but the ex-slaves were simply turned loose, no war crimes reparations were paid to the Romani survivors after the Holocaust, reparations which, one might speculate, could have helped Roma reorient themselves. No programmes exist as yet to examine the psychological problems endured by Roma.

These are just some of the factors that have to be examined if constructive moves forward are to be made. Education is paramount; both Roma and non-Roma must be taught the details of the historical experience. The external circumstances that have brought us to this deplorable condition today have to be understood, and our linguistic and cultural distinctiveness accommodated. We need our own teachers, lawyers, physicians and politicians, not to work separately from the larger society but to work with it and within it; we must be consulted directly about what it is we want and don’t want, spoken to and not about: in the words of the Decade’s action statement, “nothing about Roma without Roma.”

Ian Hancock


The Romani Archives and Documentation Center

Texas State Commission on Holocaust and Genocide


A collection of Ian Hancock’s writings may be found in Dileep Karanth, ed., Danger! Educated Gypsy (Hertfordshire University Press, 2010


This is a perfect example of the viscious cycle in which Romani people are caught.
Oppression and violence in the east----flee to the west---deported back to the very same conditions.  Over and over and over........
Amnesty says deported Roma face persecution in Kosovo

Wed, Sep 29 2010 bySelah Hennessy

September 25 2010.

PHOTO-- Several hundred people gathered in a protest against what they called ‘gypsy terror’, stating that Roma allegedly commit a lot of crimes but remain unpunished. The signs say, left to right, 'No to the gypsy terror and invasion!', 'The people against the gypsy terror!' and 'Security for the normal people - criminal gypsies in prison'.
Photo: Reuters

Amnesty International has criticized European countries for deporting ethnic Roma to Kosovo where they face discrimination and violence. In a new report, the international watchdog says many Roma, who are also known as Gypsies, arrive in Kosovo with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Amnesty International Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia David Diaz-Jogeix says Roma returning to Kosovo often do not have access to basic services.

"Many of the people who are being returned do not have a clear access to their identity and accommodation papers and that further discriminates them in making sure that they have proper access to health and hospitals or access to social housing or access to state employment," he said.

Many Roma left Kosovo when the country was racked by conflict in the 1990s. In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia.

Diaz-Jogeix says since then many European countries have pressured Kosovo to take Roma back. He says about 7,000 people have been deported to Kosovo by European countries, including Germany and Switzerland, despite the fact that they are likely to face persecution there.

Diaz-Jogeix says Roma face persecution across Europe, but in Kosovo the problem is particularly troubling.

"In the context of Kosovo, there is a further discrimination aggravated by the fact that they are perceived as being allies of one part of the conflict, the Serbs, and that further reinforces the discrimination by the Kosovo Albanians," he said.

Around 90 percent of Kosovo's population is ethnic-Albanian.

A spokesman for Britain's right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, Dawain Towler, says European countries cannot be expected to open their borders to Roma from Kosovo.

"The responsibility lies with the Kosovo government to ensure that people are treated properly and effectively at home. And it is not the responsibility of the U.K. or any other government indeed to take up the burden that has been ignored by their own government," said Towler.

Amnesty International says 97 percent of Roma in Kosovo are unemployed. It says Kosovo's government does not have the resources or political will to deal with their plight.




The Associated Press
September 28, 2010
Hungarian TV asks court to block anti-Gypsy ad


Hungarian state television says it is appealing to the Supreme Court to block a political ad by a far-right party that talks about "Gypsy criminals."

Hungarian Television has refused to run an ad by the Jobbik party, saying it was offensive and did not comply with broadcast rules.

But the National Election Committee ruled Monday the ad's message complied with free speech laws and forced state television to broadcast it if Jobbik asked. Nationwide municipal elections are being held Sunday.

The Jobbik ad says it targets Hungary's "parasites." In it, a young woman who is afraid to go into the street asks "Are Gypsy criminals allowed to do whatever they want?" as a hooded figure lurks.

Gypsies, also known as Roma, face widespread discrimination in Europe, especially in the east.



Parliament debates contentious immigration bill

28/09/2010 -
 France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, Tuesday debated a bill proposed by French Immigration Minister Eric Besson that would strengthen the government’s hand against immigrant and travelling communities.

French lawmakers Tuesday began debating a controversial immigration bill that would extend the circumstances under which naturalised French nationals can be stripped of their citizenship if they commit serious crimes.

The draft law also contains provisions that would facilitate the expulsion of foreigners from France, including citizens of some EU countries.

Originally presented by Immigration Minister Eric Besson in the spring, the bill follows a summer of controversy in which Roma (Gypsy) camps were targeted by the authorities for dismantlement and many of their inhabitants repatriated to Romania and Bulgaria.

Under current French law, immigrants can be stripped off their nationality if they commit crimes against “the fundamental interests of France,” including terrorism.

The new bill allows French authorities to expel immigrants, including EU citizens, who "threaten public order" through repeated theft, aggressive begging or "abusive occupation of land".

The bill’s inclusion of begging and setting up caravans alongside acts of terrorism has sparked howls of protest from human rights groups, who argue the government are equating the offences.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has said the bill appears to target the Roma community, while the European Commission is scheduled to rule on the legality of some of the measures in the bill.

But in an interview with FRANCE 24 shortly before the debate started Tuesday evening, Besson defended the controversial bill.

"We want to promote legal immigration, particularly for work, we want to fight against the networks of illegal immigration, and we also want to harmonise our policies with regards to asylum seekers, cooperating with the source countries that migrants come from," he said.

The National Assembly debate is expected to last two weeks.

Tightening immigration laws

While the bill was put to cabinet by Besson in March, it was subsequently toughened by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux. France has seen a steady tightening of immigration policy over the past few years. If passed, the bill will be the fifth immigration law in France in the past seven years.

The provision for depriving citizenship from naturalised French nationals is a more recent amendment that followed rioting - also linked to Roma - in the French city of Grenoble in July.

After the riots, Sarkozy said any naturalised French national who was convicted of murder or attempted murder of public officials in the past ten years should be stripped of their citizenship.

Besides criticism from the opposition and human rights groups, the bill has also been slammed by former prime ministers Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Alain Juppé and Dominque de Villepin.

Sarkozy’s ruling centre-right UMP party has been accused of pandering to the far right to win back votes from the Front National ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Defending the bill

Both Sarkozy and Besson have strenuously rejected the criticisms and maintain that the bill is aimed at tightening security.

"There was no stigmatisation (of Roma)," Besson told reporters. “The idea that because there are 200 of you, you can simply occupy a piece of private land illegally, by force, is completely unacceptable.

“Furthermore, in every camp that we have dismantled more than two thirds of the inhabitants are actually French travelling people, not Roma.”

Even if the bill is passed by the lower house (National Assembly), it is likely to come up against stiff opposition from France’s Constitutional Council, particularly on the issue of stripping French nationals of their citizenship.

The Constitutional Council is likely to argue that this provision goes against the principle that everyone is equal before the law.

Until now the council has only authorised stripping citizenship from people convicted of terrorism.


Sunday, September 26, 2010



26 SEPT 2010

Gypsy circus is next on France's expulsion listAfter deporting many illegal Roma immigrants, Nicolas Sarkozy's government may force Europe's only Gypsy circus to close down

With its mesmerising songs and startling acrobatics, the Cirque Romanès is one of the most unusual cultural highlights of Paris: the only Gypsy circus in Europe and the only show in the French capital whose artists retreat to their caravans after the curtain falls. For 18 years it has been attracting audiences to its exotic blend of poetry and performance. In June it was deemed good enough to represent France at the World Expo in Shanghai.

But after a summer which has seen France crack down on its foreign Roma population and draw the ire of Brussels for the policy, the future of the circus and its loyal band of artists hangs in the balance. The authorities have refused to validate work permits for the five Romanian musicians whose instruments are crucial to the performances.

The French employment inspectorate insists that the cancellation of the permits has no connection with the wider political climate, which has seen around 1,000 Roma return to their home countries in nearly two months and around 200 unauthorised Roma camps cleared by police. They say there are problems with the circus's functioning, accuse its owner of underpaying the musicians and question the use of child performers.

Such claims are dismissed as "pure invention" by Alexandre Romanès, the circus's charismatic founder. "They're making up all these reasons. It's complete fantasy," he said, as he sipped coffee outside his caravan on the outskirts of Paris. Responding to the authorities' chief criticism – that of low pay – he added: "They get four times the minimum wage, and they are fed and housed. When I contacted a lawyer and told her what they [the authorities] were trying to claim, she just burst out laughing."

Romanès, a published poet and friend of the late writer Jean Genet, is unequivocal about what he believes to be the real reasons for the sudden move, taken for the first time in the circus's two decades of existence. For him, it is just another sign of France's growing hostility towards his people.

"As this woman from Luxembourg [EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding] said, we thought Europe was protected from this kind of thing, but clearly it isn't. What I have noticed is that, instead of waging war on poverty, the French government is waging war on the poor," he said.

In order to try to revoke the authorities' "unjust" decision, 59-year-old Romanès and his wife, Délia, have started an online petition. Urging the authorities to let the circus "employ those Romanian and Bulgarian artists with whom they want to work", the appeal has more than 7,000 signatories. A "night of support" on 4 October will aim to rally the troops.

One of the most vocal Romanès fans is Reinhard von Nagel, a world-famous harpsichord maker and esteemed Maître d'Art appointed by the French culture ministry. There was no doubt, he said, of the political nature of the refusal of permits. "In France, as in other countries, there are laws for and against things, but they are not always applied. If you want to attack someone, you find a law and you apply it. That is what the authorities are doing in the case of Alexandre and Délia," he said, criticising the "zealousness" of the authorities implementing the "hunting down of the Roma".

"It is a policy which I have no hesitation in declaring to be fascist. It bothers me deeply," said Von Nagel, a German who has lived in Paris for decades. At a meeting last weekend with Frédéric Mitterrand, the culture minister, he brought the Cirque Romanès to the minister's attention. "I told him that if the Cirque Romanès is shut, I don't know if I can stay in France," he said.

President Sarkozy's policy of paid "voluntary returns" for all those foreign Roma found to be living on French soil without permission has been denounced as unfair and unworkable by human rights activists, foreign politicians and even members of the president's own right-wing UMP party, one of whom – like Reding – enraged the government by comparing the evacuations across France with Vichy-era roundups of French Jews and Gypsies.

For the Romanès family, who dislike the term Roma and prefer to be proud Gypsies, the situation is telling. Even though they are both French citizens – Alexandre since birth – they feel they are being stigmatised by a crackdown which is supposedly only a question of legality. This was not helped by the leak this month of an interior ministry memo that singled out Roma camps as the target for this summer's expulsions.

"Even we, Gypsy artists who are legal citizens, are being attacked," said Délia, 40, a Romanian-born singer who fled her native Transylvania during the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. "I found it extraordinary that they sent us to represent France at Shanghai and that, when we came back, they weren't letting our musicians work. It's mad, really bad. They want to get rid of us. They just don't want to have to see us. But we are human beings too, you know?"

Friday, September 24, 2010



The Roma's Struggle to Find a Home

By Stephan Faris

PHOTO  Angelo Carconi/maxpp/landov

23/09/2010 - Another day, and another ram-shackle encampment where Roma once lived is gone. The scrap-wood shelters have been pushed to the ground. The tents, collapsed. The inhabitants, scattered. In Rome, the eviction of the Roma — a European minority sometimes referred to as Gypsies — is taking place with the full force of the law: military police, bulldozers, German shepherds. But, in contrast to the international firestorm over such evictions in France, Italy's have attracted little attention.

Even as French President Nicolas Sarkozy tussled with the European Union over the repatriation of dozens of Roma to Romania (despite the name, Roma don't historically come from the country, although many live there), the mayor of Rome announced the demolition of his city's 200 illegal squatter camps, at a rate of three or four a week. This means another wave of expulsions for the Roma, who have faced similar efforts all over the country. Meanwhile, Italy's Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, took to the airwaves and declared the country's Roma problem — and many here see it as a problem — "practically resolved." He added, "The controversy around Sarkozy's decision made me smile a little. For us, it's a movie we've already seen."

The Roma and their camps have been present in Italy since the Middle Ages. But a steep rise in their numbers after Romania's entry into the E.U. raised tensions in a country where bigotry runs deep: in Italian, to call somebody a Gypsy is to call him a thief and a liar. At its height, Italy's Roma population more than doubled to somewhere around 160,000, many of them living in unregistered squats without running water, electricity or sanitation. And they are not welcome. In 2008, after a teenage Roma girl was caught in a Naples apartment allegedly trying to steal a baby, a mob burned down the nearest camp. The government declared a state of emergency and announced it would fingerprint the country's Roma and expel those who were there illegally. Objections from the E.U. halted the fingerprinting, but the censure stopped there.

If Italy managed to avoid the opprobrium being heaped on France, it's not because it treats its Roma any better. The criticism leveled at France accuses Sarkozy's government of singling out a specific ethnicity. Italy's campaign came in a context of broad xenophobia: discrimination against the Roma is not much stronger than that against, say, Romanians in general (indeed, many Italians don't make a distinction between the two).

Italy's politicians insist they aren't performing mass expulsions, but simply enforcing the law, closing camps and arresting criminals. But to many Roma, it all amounts to much the same thing. Frequent evictions, widespread discrimination and the risk of vigilante violence create constant pressure to go. Rebecca Covaciu, a 14-year-old immigrant from Romania, spent two years on the move, enduring police raids, beatings by thugs and a close brush with a mob in Naples before finally settling with her family in an apartment in Milan. "My family has had a terrible time finding work," she says. "When they see that we're Roma, they tell us, 'We don't need anyone.' And then you walk out, and there's 'Help Wanted' on the door."

In theory, evicted Roma are to be resettled, but so great is the mistrust that when Rome started destroying camps in September, the inhabitants — alerted by the arrival of journalists — dispersed before the police and social services could arrive. Evictions continue, even though a dozen new settlements the city has planned won't be completed for several months. Other municipalities are following suit. As a result, say activists, most of Italy's immigrant Roma have already left — to Spain, Switzerland, France and beyond.

Indeed, as more countries follow Italy's and France's leads, the pattern of rousting risks being replicated on a European scale. Italy's politicians have seized on the current uproar to up the ante, proposing laws that would allow the country to expel and bar entry to E.U. citizens who breach the conditions of their stay — just in case the Roma pushed out of France head their way.


Thursday, September 23, 2010


Anti-Roma racism in Italy and France meets resistance
Thursday, September 23, 2010 9:00 AM

Anti-Roma racism in Italy and France meets resistance

Thursday, September 23, 2010

By Jesse Thomson-Burns

Mass actions protest deportations, EU threatens legal action.

French trade unions took to the streets Sept. 4 to protest against the government's policy on immigrants, launching a week of action against pension reforms and other measures, including repatriation of Roma to Eastern Europe.

Demonstrators chanted slogans including “Let's stop repression" and "No to Sarkozy's inhumane policies." (, Sept. 4)

Thousands marched to Paris's city hall, led by Roma. The demonstration numbered 50,000 people according to the organizers. Thousands more rallied in Marseilles, Lyons, Bordeaux and over a hundred other cities.

The recent deportations of Roma in France seems not to be the exception but the rule. “'Sarkozy is merely following the Berlusconi model,’ said Pietro Massarotto, the president of Naga, a Milanese organization that provides assistance to immigrants and Roma. ‘The Italian government invented expulsions of E.U. citizens, in the case they can’t demonstrate they are making a living.’” (New York Times, Sept. 3)

Big capitalist Silvio Berlusconi and present prime minister of Italy, like his counterpart Sarkozy in France, is using anti-immigrant bigotry against the Roma people in an attempt to whip up a chauvinist frenzy to divert the working class from fighting impending cuts to welfare, housing, health care, education and other social services.

The Berlusconi government is using the “law and order” slogan to terrorize and sweep out “illegal” Roma communities but at the same time terrorizing long-time, established and authorized Roma communities.

In Milan, the local government plans to shut down 12 of the city’s authorized communties. A Roma who has lived in one of these communities for nearly two decades, said: “These homes are the fruit of years of work here, and now the city wants to send us away without offering a solution. We have nothing. Where will we go?” (New York Times, Sept. 3)

When Italian municipal officials authorize and allow a community to be built, the Roma are segregated to the outskirts of the city as a way to create an “us versus them” mentality. Also, most of the communities suffer immense inadequacies and not much assistance from the government.

Forced to be nomadic

“There’s a willful misunderstanding about the Roma being nomadic,” Mr. Massarotto told the New York Times. He added that this had allowed governments to bypass the question of integration, a process that would include giving Roma permanent residences and access to schools. “They are forced to be nomadic,” he said, and that leads to “progressive impoverishment.”

The deportations in France don’t seem to be slowing down either. Some 1,000 Roma were deported to Romania and Bulgaria in August, while 11,000 were expelled from France last year, according to the BBC.

The European Union has reacted to the French government's racist deportations of Roma by threatening possible legal actions. Because the French government is specifically targeting Roma, the European Commission is considering taking action based on an EU law barring discriminatory application of the EU's freedom of movement policy.

But the recent moves by the EU to try and end the discriminatory practices of the French government comes on the back of the people's movement in France that has emerged to defend the Roma from xenophobia and anti-immigrant bigotry.

From Italy to France, from the United States to Europe, big capitalists and their lackey politicians are using the racist red herring of anti-immigrant bigotry to stop the potential of a mass united people's struggle whose goals are racial and economic equality. All revolutionary and progressive people must stand against anti-immigrant bigotry and for full rights for immigrants.


September 22, 2010, 9:00 pm Curse of the Scorned Class



.MILAN, Italy — Beware, they told us in the train stations of northern Italy, of the Gypsy baby trick — an old ruse by Europe’s most reviled underclass. A woman will suddenly ask you to hold her child, and then just as you fumble to respond another Gypsy will grab your wallet.

Watch out, they cautioned us in the lovely Turkish port city of Kusadasi, for the Gypsies who prey on tourists along the waterfront. An old lady will bump you, while a teenage hooligan grabs your bag. The Gypsy old-lady trick.

Those Gypsies, known by the less pejorative term of Roma, are getting kicked around the continent again, hardy perennials of European scapegoats. Unspoken characterizations based on ancient stereotypes — they are shiftless, clannish, prone to petty thievery and to begging, prostitution and dark motives — are now out in the open.

In the early days of a Mediterranean fall, one finds open hostility toward the Roma, encouraged by governments in a Europe that likes to think of itself as enlightened. France, following the lead of the Italians, Danes, Austrians and Swedes, is trying to expel the Roma in their midst.

In the words of The Economist, a journal known for bloodless prose, the European Union’s biggest ethnic minority pose “the continent’s worst and most ill-managed social problem.”

Travel is good for many things, not the least of which is testing your national values against those of other countries. Whenever I hear the United States dismissed as a nation of fat people who’ve lost their creative nimbleness, I counter with jabs about in-bred monarchs who haunt rehab clinics between clubbing stints. Or poke at the absurd class system that still prevails in parts of Old Europe. And how can you not laugh at the recent mass marches in France by people being asked to push their retirement age back to — gasp! — 62? Or the classification of hairdressers as a hazard profession in Greece, and thus worthy of an even younger retirement trigger?

But perhaps the best way to judge the health of a nation’s heart is by how it treats the shunned. Plagued by low poll numbers, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy this summer set out to dismantle Gypsy camps and deport the people to Romania and Bulgaria. It has proven to be a popular move at home, but prompted a stinging rebuke from the European Union’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding; she compared the expulsions to ethnic cleansing by the Nazis.

Reding called the French initiative “a situation that I had thought that Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.”

As often happens when the morally indignant let their passions get the best of them, the justice commissioner’s comparison was over-the-top. The Nazis considered the Roma racially inferior, and targeted them for mass murder. At least 19,000 died at Auschwitz alone, and another 30,000 were shot in the occupied Soviet Union and Baltic states, according to the United States Holocaust Museum.

Sarkozy’s deportation, by contrast, is simply a crass political move, and a huge hurdle for poor people who have to gather all their belongings and start anew in another country.

Americans don’t have a “Gypsy problem,” as such. But bad economic times tend to bring out base instincts. Sarkozy’s role model might just as well have been Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona with the invertebrate political principles.

Earlier this year, Brewer was well down in the polls, unlikely to win her Republican primary unless she fell in with mob mentality against illegal Mexican immigrants. She made a series of outlandish statements — about beheadings in the desert, about the majority of undocumented immigrants being drug mules — and signed a constitutionally questionable law aimed at harassing brown people. It worked! She’ll cruise to reelection, no matter that she was unable to complete her prepared remarks in the easiest part of her only debate performance. And so what if her statements about border violence were false; the fear-mongering did the job. Mexicans and their beheadings — yipes!

In truth, crime at the border is down considerably, with recent F.B.I. figures showing that the region is now one of the safest parts of America.

At the same time, Muslims in the United States are now being swiped by the broad brush of bias. Of course, the poison strain of violent Islam is a threat on many fronts — but has very little to do with the majority of practitioners of the world’s second-largest religion. No one blames Christians for the fact that America’s worst domestic terrorist before 9/11, the bomber Timothy McVeigh, was inspired in part by a crackpot and racist strain known as Christian Identity.

In the 19th century, Mormons in America were tarred, feathered, run out of town, their homes burned, their leaders executed. Shakers, those celibate furniture-makers who fussed too much over the modernity of pants zippers, were also harassed. And of course, Jews have faced generations of rejection, from limits on their admission to certain schools to the many private-club prohibitions against them.

And yet, the turning of fresh generations seems to bring with it more open doors and open minds. Depending on whether Americans listen to their better angels during our own spasm of intolerance in 2010, we can look at what is happening to the Roma in one of two ways. It is either a recognizable view across the pond and into a mirror, or a gaze at something we still find repulsive — but largely alien.


Things have quieted down a bit.  We don't have to move the museum immediately.  The signs however, are coming down.

I suppose this would be a good time to get into a discussion on class and privledge and power and control.  That's really what the whole blog and musuem is about; perhaps what all political activism is about.

More later......

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Well, life really is a hoot.  We've just been notified that the museum is no longer welcome at it's present location.
It's on a friend's property on a "private" road.  Are there really such things.  I wouldn't know, never having owned anything, much less a road.  But I digress. One couple has complained about the presence of the museum.  Just on capitalistic principle I think 
There has been absolutely no problem with the museum.  We haven't played loud music, or had parties.....
The problem arose when we put a sign down at the mailbox which I flipped when I was at the museum. 
It had the inflammatory wording

Believe me, there have been no traffic jams on the road.

Anyway, at this point I don't know what will happen.  We don't have many options on where to move the museum.  Brings to mind the communities in England that keep voting to deny Romani caravan sites.

Anyone have any ideas?


Commentary----Notice the last sentence.
Reding says French reaction on Roma linked to sexism
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reding says French reaction on Roma linked to sexism


EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding is standing firm in her ongoing row with France over its controversial Roma policy, refusing to apologise and arguing that the reaction to the harsh words she aimed at Paris last week would have been different if she was a man.

Speaking in a public forum for the first time since her comparison of France's deportation of Roma to events in World War II - remarks that provoked fury in Paris - Ms Reding on Tuesday (21 September) said "No, Why?" when asked directly whether she would apologise for the comments.

The Luxembourgish politician, now in her third term as commissioner, said she believed she had been "strengthened" by the resulting polemic.

"If a man bangs his fist on the table, it is considered manly, he is defending himself. If a woman bangs her fist on the table she is hysterical," she told reporters at a press conference in Strasbourg, according to AFP news agency.

She made a semi retraction of her comments ahead of an EU summit last Thursday after French president Nicolas Sarkozy, according to French daily Le Monde, threatened to boycott the Brussels gathering.

It was noticeable however that while EU leaders generally agreed that her comments overstepped the mark, virtually all accepted that the commission was within its rights as guardian of the EU treaties to examine Paris' actions.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has also authorised a tough policy against the ethnic minority, was alone in criticising the commission and siding with Mr Sarkozy.

Ms Reding on Tuesday also affirmed her intention to press ahead with investigating France's policy in light of EU law.

The commission's experts are looking at two issues: whether France failed to properly transpose EU law on the free movement of people and whether the country has violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The commissioner said the opinions will be ready within the coming days. The college of commissioners as a whole then has to decide to whether to press ahead with taking France to court, a decision it is due to take next week (29 September).

Ms Reding's determined stance came as French Prime Minister Francois Fillon warned that while the commission should guard EU law it should "not go beyond" the role entrusted to it by the EU treaties.

"It is perfectly legitimate that the European Commission verifies the legality of the conduct of operations on illegal encampments. But the Commission should refrain from any hasty value judgements," he said on Tuesday.

The apparent trigger for Ms Reding's outburst - that senior French officials had lied to her about whether Roma were specifically targetted for deportation by French authorities - has been formally denied by Paris.

According to a note from the "French authorities" addressed to the commissioner, neither immigration minister Eric Besson or Europe minister Pierre Lellouche knew of the existence of a now infamous French circular which specifically referred to Roma when talking about the clearance of illegal camps.

The note to the commissioner, seen by AFP, says neither politician was aware of the circular, signed by the head of cabinet of the interior minister, when they met Ms Reding in Brussels at the end of August to discuss France's Roma policy.

The whole episode has sparked an extraordinary stand-off between the European Commission and Paris, and caused tension between Luxembourg and France, as well as between Paris and Berlin after Mr Sarkozy indicated that Germany was planning to close similar camps, something roundly denied by Berlin.

In recent days, all sides have worked to restore calm at the diplomatic level. But little of substance has been said about tackling the root problems of the Roma, the EU's largest ethnic minority.

PHOTO: Viviane Reding, by

Monday, September 20, 2010



Discrimination against the Roma is a Europe-wide problem

The Guardian,

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.


Lasman: Rethinking hatred

By Sam Lasman


Monday, September 20, 2010

Hate — one of the few emotions with a legal definition — has been all the rage lately. Commentators and columnists debate why “they” hate us, why we hate “them” and whether we should all unite in condemnation of some third entity, be it extremism or global warming. The tumult has found its way to this paper, where a levelheaded article “Yale groups combat anti-Muslim sentiment” (Sept. 7) was typhooned with an outpouring of anonymous online comments in which Islamophobia jostled with anti-Semitism, even letting Christian supremacism land the occasional blow.

I was shocked at the vituperative hatred that some members of this community apparently espouse. It strains credulity that some who willingly affiliate themselves with a liberal, multinational university could be so terrifically illiberal and insular. What compels someone to read an entirely inoffensive article about ecumenicalism and spew bigotry, with nary a thought for decorum or careful argument?

As though to shed light on the issue, there came last Friday’s “Why we hate” by Alex Klein ’12. Instead of a helpful taxonomy of bigotry, however, the column offered little more than tired declarations about Islam, democracy and patriotism, all nominally in service of an espousement of dialogue and some murky counter-terrorist action plan. I am no more capable than Klein of either explaining or repairing America’s current hate fixation. However, as a test case, I’d like to discuss another contemporary situation divorced from the familiar terms of jihad and Quran-burnings — one which Yale doesn’t even have a cultural organization to address. While Islamophobia dominates headlines in the United States, Europe is embroiled in a debate over a group most Americans still think of in terms of racist fantasy and stereotypical fiction — the Romani.

The Romani people constitute one of the world’s largest stateless ethnic groups — between six and 11 million. They have never had a state to call their own; they have never even been promised one. Since arriving in Europe following a trans-Asiatic odyssey beginning in Rajasthan, India, they have endured a unique blend of bondage, discrimination and continued poverty that seems to reprise the more familiar woes of Jews, African Americans and Native Americans. In Romania, they were enslaved until 1856; during the Porajmos, the Nazis murdered at least 200,000 of them (a third of their total population at the time); and, in parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, eugenic attempts to destroy them continued until at least 2001. Though they are one of the few groups routinely labeled with ethnic slurs — “gypsy” and “tsigan” (from the Greek for untouchable) — it took a 2005 Canadian Supreme Court decision to establish that antiziganism qualifies as hate speech.

While Europe has become increasingly borderless, much of it remains unwelcoming to the traditionally itinerant Romani. In 2008, after a woman was murdered by a Romani immigrant in a suburb of Rome, the Italian government declared a “nomad emergency” — a racial euphemism poorly disguised. This July, French officials dismantled some 51 “traveler” camps and repatriated their inhabitants. Under French immigration law, all such camps are illegal. However, the European Union justice commission has accused the French government of targeting Romani as an ethnic group, citing a leaked memo from the Interior Ministry which stated, “Three hundred camps or illegal settlements must be cleared within three months, Roma camps are a priority.”

Hatred of the Romani runs through the whole spectrum of society, from Neo-Nazis to presidents — Nicolas Sarkozy rebuked the E.U.’s commission’s accusation by suggesting that the Justice Commissioner allow the expelled Romani to settle in her native Luxembourg, as though seeking to ferret out a common distaste. It’s indisputable that Romani communities have higher rates of crime, unemployment and nearly every other social ill than the societies that surround them; but as we know from an America in which blacks are 6.4 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, such rates are symptomatic not of inherent tendencies but rather of sustained and wide-scale inequality and discrimination. The caretakers of a Romani girl with whom I worked in Romania were frightened to leave her side in the hospital, fearing doctors might mistreat her.

Institutionalized bigotry exposes hatred at its roots. We hate not because of single, proximate causes such as the murder of the woman outside Rome, but because of a deep distrust of those who refuse to immediately abandon their separateness and leap into our melting pot. We hate because the ultimate causes, whether of Romani poverty or Islamic radicalism, are uncomfortably close to home. They are the harvest of our past sins: discrimination and inhumanity in the first case, imperialism and cultural chauvinism in the second. We hate because during economic decline, we seek scapegoats, the more visible the better.

Hate allows us a cultural relativism of shocking ignorance: an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan is provocative, while offensive cartoons of a revered religious figure are harmless free speech. But we can’t have it both ways — a liberal society cannot be liberal only when liberalism suits its tastes. Hate permits hiding behind familiar but baseless generalizations. Worldwide, a slightly higher percentage of Catholics are in the Irish Republican Army than Muslims are in al-Qaeda — though both are dwarfed by the percentage of Basques affiliated with ETA, an organization responsible for some 800 deaths since 1968. Yet no one discusses a Basque predilection to terror — white and without distinctive headgear, the Basques pass snap-judgment “alien” tests without a second glance. For that matter, I’d be the first to admit that we Jews invented terrorism, both mythologically (reread the Samson story) and historically (look up the Sicarii). And though Jews have been called many things through our long history with discrimination, “inherently violent” isn’t typically one of them.

The Romani are not the only people who have endured collective hatred through centuries of migration, war, purges and liberalization. However, their continued existence and struggles present a bold challenge to those who seek to excuse, rationalize or redirect bigotry.

We will hate as long as we see through the mirror but darkly — until we can confront our own failings, and our own flawed selves, face to face.

Sam Lasman is a junior in Berkeley College.


Sunday, September 19, 2010


The Infinite Hypocrisy of the West

Although several articles on this subject were published before and after September 1st, 2010, on that day the Mexican daily La Jornada published one of great impact entitled El holocausto gitano: ayer y hoy (The gypsies’ holocaust: yesterday and today) which reminds us of a truly tragic history. Without adding or deleting a single word from the information contained in the article, I will quote some lines referring to some events that are really touching. Neither the West nor -most of all- its colossal media apparatus have said a single word about them.

“1496: boom of humanist thinking. The Rom peoples (gypsies) from Germany are declared traitors to the Christian nations, spies paid by the Turkish, carriers of the plague, witches and warlocks, bandits and children kidnappers.

“1710: century of Enlightenment and rationale. An edict ordered that adult gypsies from Prague be hanged without any previous trial. Young persons and women were mutilated. In Bohemia their left ear were cut off; in Moravia, their right ear.

“1899: climax of modernity and progress. The police of Bavaria founded the Special Section for Gypsies’ Affairs. In 1929, the section was promoted to the category of National Central section and was moved to Munich. In 1937 it was based in Berlin. Four years later, half a million gypsies died in the concentration camps of Central and Eastern Europe.”

“In her PhD’s thesis, Eva Justin (assistant of Dr. Robert Ritter of the Racial Research Section of the Ministry of Health of Germany), asserted that gypsies’ blood was extremely harmful to the purity of the German race. Someone called Dr. Portschy sent a memorandum to Hitler suggesting that gypsies should be submitted to forced labor and mass sterilization because they jeopardized the pure blood of the German peasantry.

“The gypsies, who were labeled as inveterate criminals, started to be arrested en masse, and as from 1938 they were put into special blocks at the Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Gusen, Dautmergen, Natzweiler and Flossenburg camps.

“In a concentration camp he owned in Ravensbruck, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo (SS), created a space to sacrifice gypsy women who were submitted to medical experiments. One hundred and twenty zingari girls were sterilized. Gypsy women married to non-gypsy men were sterilized at the Dusseldorf-Lierenfeld hospital.

“Thousands of gypsies were deported from Belgium, the Netherlands and France to the Polish concentration camp of Auschwitz. In his memoirs, Rudolf Hoess (commander of Auschwitz) wrote that among the gypsies deported there were old people almost one hundred years of age, pregnant women and a large number of children.

“At the ghetto of Lodz (Poland) […] none of the 5 000 gypsies survived.”

“In Yugoslavia, gypsies and Jews were equally killed in the forest of Jajnice. Farmers still remember the cries of the gypsy children who were taken to the places of execution.”

“At the extermination camps, only the love of gypsies for music was at times a source of comfort. In Auschwitz, starving and infested with lice, they gathered together to play music and encouraged children to dance. But the courage of gypsy guerrillas who fought alongside the Polish resistance in the region of Nieswiez was also legendary.”

Music was the factor that kept them together and helped them to survive, just as much as religion was for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The successive articles published by La Jornada as from the end of August have reminded us of events that were almost forgotten about what happened to the gypsies in Europe. After having been affected by Nazism, they were consigned to oblivion after the Nuremberg trials in the years 1945 and 1946.

The German government headed by Konrad Adenauer declared that the extermination of the gypsies before 1943 was a result of the State’s legal policies. Those who had been affected on that same year did not receive any compensation. Robert Ritter, a Nazi expert in the extermination of gypsies, was set free. Thirty nine years later in 1982, when most of the affected persons had already passed away, the government recognized their right to compensation.

More than 75 per cent of the gypsies, whose total number is estimated to be between 12 and 14 million, live in Central and Eastern Europe. Only in Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia, gypsies were recognized the same rights as the Croatian, Albanian and Macedonian minorities.

The Mexican newspaper described as “particularly perverse” the mass deportation of gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria ordered by the government of Sarkozy –a Jew of Hungarian descent-; these are the exact words used by the newspaper. Please do not take this as an act of irreverence on my part.

In Romania, the number of gypsies is estimated to be two million.

The president of that country, Traian Basescu, a US ally and an illustrious member of NATO, called a woman journalist a “filthy gypsy”. As can be observed, this is an extremely delicate person who speaks in a polite language.

The website posted some comments about the demonstrations against the deportation of gypsies and the “xenophobia” in France. According to AFP, around “130 demonstrations should take place in France as well as in front of the French embassies in several European Union countries, with the support of tens of human rights organizations, trade unions and left wing and ecologist parties”. The extensive report refers to the participation of well known cultural personalities such as Jane Birkin and the film-maker Agnes Jaoui and reminded readers that Jane “together with Stephane Hessel, a former member of the resistance against the Nazi occupation of France (1940-1944), was part of the group that later on met with the advisors to the minister of Immigration Eric Besson.

“‘It was a dialogue of the deaf, but it is good that this took place, for it showed that most of the population was enraged at that nauseating policy’, said a spokesperson of the network ‘Education Without Borders…”

Other news about this thorny issue come from Europe: “Yesterday the European Parliament put France and Nicholas Sarkozy on the spot for having deported thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies during a tense debate in which the attitudes of José Manuel Durão Barroso and the Commission were described as scandalous and ridiculous for their apparent pusillanimity and for failing to condemn Paris decisions as illegal and contrary to community rights”, according to an article by Ricardo Martínez de Rituerto published by El Paí

La Jornada published in another article impressive social data. Neo-natal mortality among the gypsy population is nine times as much the European average and the life expectancy rate is hardly above 50 years of age.

Before that, on August 29, it had reported that “although there have been plenty of criticisms –from the European Union institutions as well as from the Catholic church, the United Nations and the broad spectrum of pro-immigrants organizations- Sarkozy insists in expelling and deporting hundreds of citizens from Bulgaria and Romania –and therefore, European citizens- using as an excuse the alleged ‘criminal’ character of these citizens.”

“It is difficult to believe that in the year 2010 –concludes La Jornada- after the terrible past Europe had with racism and intolerance, it is still possible to criminalize an entire ethnic group by labeling it as a social problem.”

“Indifference, or even consent towards the actions carried out by the French police today and the Italian police yesterday –more European, in general terms- leave the most optimist analyst speechless.”

Suddenly, while I wrote this Reflection, I remembered that France is the third nuclear power in the planet, and that Sarkozy also had a briefcase with the keys required to launch one of the more than 300 bombs he had. Is there any moral or ethical rational in launching an attack against Iran, a country condemned for its alleged intention of manufacturing this kind of weapon? Where are the good sense and the logic of that policy?

Let us assume that Sarkozy all of a sudden goes crazy, as it seems to be the case. What would the UN Security Council do with Sarkozy and his briefcase?

What will happen if the French extreme right decides to force Sarkozy to maintain a racist policy, opposite to the norms that prevail within the European Community?

Could the UN Security Council respond to those two questions?

The absence of truth and the prevalence of deception is the biggest tragedy in our dangerous nuclear age.

Fidel Castro Ruz

September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010


French Gypsies tussle with police after gendarme acquitted in slaying that angered community

By The Associated Press (CP)
PARIS — A group of angry French Gypsies have tussled with police after a gendarme was acquitted in the slaying of a man from their community.

No one appeared injured in the incident in the town of Draguignan in southern France.

The gendarme had been accused of shooting 27-year-old Joseph Guerdner to death in 2008 after Guerdner fled police custody. A Draguignan court acquitted the gendarme Friday.

French TV showed one screaming woman in the crowd slapping a policeman in the face outside the courthouse.

Guerdner was from a community of itinerant Gypsy communities with roots in France reaching back centuries.

It comes at the time when President Nicolas Sarkozy has been stepping up evacuations of camps of French Gypsies as well as expelling as immigrant Roma from eastern Europe.

The Canadian Press.

Thursday, September 16, 2010



Roma and the E.U.


Don’t lie to Viviane Reding. That’s the lesson of this week’s revelation that, contrary to French government assurances that “specific ethnic groups had not been targeted in France,” an Interior Ministry circular had in fact ordered evacuation of camps of “Roma, as a matter of priority.”

Visibly enraged, the European Union’s commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship pronounced herself “personally convinced that the commission will have no choice but to initiate infringement action against France.”

The commission’s wake-up call to racism in France is welcome. But will outrage lead to legal action? And what about the wave of anti-Roma measures in other E.U. states that the commission has steadfastly ignored until now?

The time it has taken for the commission to react suggests observers should hold their applause. After all, until just a few days ago, commission officials were saying they saw “no intention to target action against the Roma” in France, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

The French expulsions were publicly launched in late July at the highest levels of the government after a clash between Roma and police in the Loire Valley that led to the shooting death of a youth. President Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed that those responsible for the clash would be “severely punished” and ordered the government to expel all Roma immigrants.

France’s senior law enforcement official, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, dispelled any further doubts about the policy in August, when he told reporters at a Roma campsite in southern France: “One does not apply the law halfway. The law applies to everyone. The Roma community is not above the law, nor is it beneath the law. That means that the objective announced by the president of the republic, that half our country’s illegal camps will be dismantled in three months, will be met.”

Days earlier, the minister had responded to a wave of international criticism by noting, “It’s not a question of expelling Roma because they are Roma.” He then cited crime statistics showing a 138 percent rise in the number of Romanians ­ overwhelmingly Roma ­ arrested in Paris last year, mostly for pick-pocketing. Over the past month, nearly all of the many hundreds of people sent back to Eastern Europe have been Roma. And yet, only when written proof forced the commission’s hand did it respond.

The issue, then, is not whether Roma have been targeted ­ they have ­ but whether this week’s about-face represents the pique of an individual commissioner or a fundamental shift of policy in Brussels.

Two tests will tell.

First, will the commission take France to court? José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, has yet to publicly endorse this step. His silence on the expulsions has been lamentable. Will he now come out in support of his fellow commissioner?

Second, even if the commission follows through in this case, is France a one-off? Or will the commission begin to apply its new-found moral conviction on issues of racial equality to other E.U. states as well?

Take Italy. In May 2008, the interior minister, Roberto Maroni, reportedly declared: “All Roma camps will have to be dismantled right away, and the inhabitants will be either expelled or incarcerated.” Two days later, when a mob of 60 razed a Roma camp in Naples with Molotov cocktails, Maroni quipped: “That is what happens when gypsies steal babies, or when Roma commit sexual violence.”

The same month, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promulgated a state of emergency defining the presence of “irregular third-country citizens and nomads” ­ read Roma ­ as a crisis justifying extraordinary measures. The authorities began evicting Roma from their camps. The emergency decree was extended the following year. The commission has yet to do anything.

Nor are France and Italy alone. In July, Denmark summarily expelled a group of persons identified by Copenhagen’s lord mayor as “criminal Roma.” But once again, there has been no word from Brussels.

In short, the French expulsions are only the most recent, and visible, manifestations of an ingrained prejudice which is poisoning European discourse and undermining European values.

If Commissioner Reding’s umbrage is to result in more lasting change, the commission must formally refer the French expulsions and similarly egregious measures by other governments, to the European Court of Justice. Let the judges make clear that racism has no place in today’s Europe.

James A. Goldstonis the founding executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, and was formerly legal director of the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center.


Congressman Hastings Raises Cause of Roma, Muslims through Commission Minority Events with French Delegation
Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:49 PM


September 15, 2010

WASHINGTON— France should stop playing a “shell game” with Roma and abandon discriminatory laws targeting Muslims, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) said today after Commission-hosted events held alongside the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Capitol Hill Day.

Co-Chairman Hastings drew parallels between the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero and France’s expulsion of Roma and adoption of laws targeting Muslims.

“I perceive such actions as wrong-headed political maneuvers, particularly the discriminatory policy of targeting Roma for expulsion, and I would argue that there is a danger to politicians, the media, and the public focusing only on these issues,” said Co-Chairman Hastings. “Minority communities are part of the larger fabric of society and we are all put at risk when those who seek to divide for political gain are allowed to take the lead.”

The French senate passed a law yesterday banning the wearing of burqas, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women and other face coverings. The law is to take effect in six months.

European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called the Roma expulsions a “disgrace,” and the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling France’s actions "discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity.”

“France, and other countries, should focus on integrating Roma where they are,” Hastings said. “The situation of Roma in Europe will not be fixed by playing a shell game with them -- expelling them from one place to another.”

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce

Neil Simon

Communications Director
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


World Briefing


France: Replacement Directive Omits Word ‘Roma’

Published: September 13, 2010

Following revelations that French officials had been ordered to specifically single out ethnic Roma in an continuing security campaign, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux on Monday signed a replacement directive in which the word “Roma” does not appear. The ministry gave no explanation for the change, but humanitarian groups and opposition politicians had denounced prior Interior Ministry documents, made public last weekend, as racist and potentially illegal. Amid international outcry, Immigration Minister Éric Besson, above, had made repeated assurances that no French measures had been aimed specifically at the Roma. On Monday, Mr. Besson said he had not been aware of the Interior Ministry order to the contrary. In August, the French government began publicizing the destruction of illegal Roma camps and the ensuing deportations.

Ah what an old trick.  No need to correct an evil practice.  Just change the name,  or omit a word.
And eugenicists become social biologists...........


France's deportation of Roma shown to be illegal in leaked memo, say critics

Free movement, not free settlement, says minister as order suggests Sarkozy policy saw ethnic minority camps singled out

BY Kim Willsher in Paris
PHOTO BY Martin Bureau/AFP
France's deportation of Roma was defended by immigration minister Eric Besson after a leaked memo suggested the minority were being singled out.

 13/09/2010 - France vowed today to continue deporting Roma Gypsies after critics claimed a leaked document suggesting they are being targeted on President Nicolas Sarkozy's orders means the expulsions are against the constitution and break international human rights laws on discrimination.

The leaked memo emerged a few days after France's immigration minister, Eric Besson, insisted that sending police to destroy camps and settlements and ordering inhabitants to leave France was not aimed at the Roma. He insisted they were being treated no differently to other EU migrants who do not meet France's residency rules.

However, the internal order, circulated to police chiefs last month as France began expelling nearly 1,000 Roma Gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria, appeared to confirm the ethnic minority was being singled out.

Today Besson repeated his claim: "France has not taken any measure specifically against the Roma [who] are not considered as such but as natives of the country whose nationality they have," he said.

However, a leaked memo, dated 5 August 2010 and signed by the chief of staff for interior minister Brice Hortefeux, reminds French officials of a "specific objective" set out by Sarkozy.

"Three hundred camps or illegal settlements must be evacuated within three months; Roma camps are a priority," the memo reads. "It is down to the préfect [state representative] in each department to begin a systematic dismantling of the illegal camps, particularly those of the Roma."

Besson told France 2 state television that he was not aware of the leaked circular: "I wasn't a recipient, and therefore I didn't need to know about it," he said.

He refused to make any further comment but added: "The concept of ethnic minorities is a concept that does not exist among the government."

Later, in a press conference, he said: "We will maintain our policy of expelling illegal immigrants. This is not something new." He said 5,000 Romanians and Bulgarians had been expelled so far this year, compared with 10,000 in 2009.

He admitted there had been an increase in deportations since August, following "Nicolas Sarkozy's demand to go ahead with the dismantling of all illegal camps".

In what was seen as a criticism of the Romanian authorities, he added: "Free movement in the European area doesn't mean free settlement. What has been forgotten is that each of the European countries is responsible for its own national citizens."

The document has sparked furious reactions from the opposition and critics of the expulsions. The Group for Information and Support for Immigrants (Gisti) says it is examining the memo to establish if it breaks any criminal laws.

"Can you imagine a circular specifically naming Jews or Arabs?" said Stephane Maugendre, a lawyer and president of Gisti.

The Socialist party has also questioned whether the document is legal and said it smacked of "xenophobic policy".

"I ask the European commission and its president José Manuel Barroso to initiate infringement proceedings against the French government to end the indignity and stigma unacceptable to the European citizens that are Roma," said Harlem Désir, a French Socialist MEP.

France is continuing the Roma deportations despite vehement criticism at home and from the EU and United Nations.Last Thursday the European parliament passed a resolution by 337 votes to 245 calling on Paris to "immediately suspend all expulsions of Roma", saying the policy "amounted to discrimination".

The MEPs admitted their demands were not legally binding but pointed out that mass expulsions are prohibited under EU law "since they amount to discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity".

Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, a former prime minister, said it was unacceptable for politicians to be "tempted by populist, racist and xenophobic policies".

German MEP Martin Schulz, head of the European parliament's socialist group, said: "The country that gave us liberté, égalité and fraternité has taken a different, regrettable path today."

The French authorities appear determined and defiant in the face of such international condemnation. Yesterday officials in Marseille announced more than 100 Roma would be flown back to their home countries today having accepted €300 to return.

Several groups representing immigrant organisations plan to ask the French Council of State to consider the leaked memo to see whether it contravenes the French Constitution. If the Council, the country's highest administrative court but made up of government members, is formally approached the authorities may be forced to temporarily suspend expulsions or Roma. The French government would be at liberty to then send around another memo, but one that did not specifically mention the Roma.



Challenge to Europe’s Conscience

There may be an upside to France’s move to deport thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians, if it helps pull the “Roma question” off the bottom of the EU’s agenda.

by TOL

10 September 2010

When something gets shoved under the rug, it can trip you up. At that point, you can either nudge it aside or pull it out and put it in its proper place.

Not to stretch the metaphor too far, but for years, countries in Europe have been stepping over or pushing aside – into someone else’s way – the question of what to do about millions of people who consistently challenge our value system and notions we have about ourselves as humane and enlightened.

Yes, we’re talking about the Roma – again. Wearying as the topic may be, we have no right to ignore it, especially as some countries dip into a playbook for dealing with minorities that we had hoped had been retired, that the wars of the 20th century and the subsequent founding of the EU itself had been insurance against ever being reopened.

But there it is. In France, more than 8,000 people have been sent back to Romania or Bulgaria this year. Paris calls them “voluntary transfers” because the deportees were given a lump sum for themselves and their children. Brussels calls that paying someone to waive their rights as EU citizens. We call it a fig leaf.

Those EU rights allow any citizen of a member country to stay in any other for up to three months without working. After that time, they must demonstrate that they are self-sufficient or have found legal employment. And even if they cannot, immigration authorities must weigh what threat they pose to public policy or what burden they would be on public funds before deporting them.

Admittedly, legal employment may not be widespread among those being booted out of France right now. And no one should expect French communities to tolerate unsanitary, perhaps unruly (but perhaps not), and almost always unassimilated, colonies of migrants in their midst.

Further – it’s faint praise, to be sure – at least France is not following Italy’s lead entirely, fingerprinting Roma indiscriminately and sending “back” to Romania even Roma who were born in the country.

And finally, some of Paris’ arguments may have merit. A statement from the Immigration Ministry complains that “vulnerable people, in particular children and the handicapped, are sent from the camps to the city centers to engage in begging, prostitution, and general delinquency.” It’s not much of a stretch to believe that of any chronically poor people.

But nor is it much of a stretch to see this crackdown as the desperate attempt of a politician to pull up approval ratings that were scraping bottom: so far, the tough stance on immigration has given Nicolas Sarkozy a few percentage points. We would be less inclined to doubt his sincerity if his proposals didn’t include such red meat as stripping French citizenship from immigrants who kill police officers or practice polygamy or female circumcision.

Almost 13 years ago, TOL published a point-counterpoint exchange on the issue of Romani asylum seekers heading west to escape persecution in Central and Eastern European countries. Jonas Widgren, a Swedish expert on immigration, argued that allowing Roma to stay in their new countries took the heat off the places they left behind, allowing those governments to backslide on reforms or even to encourage Roma to leave. Arthur C. Helton, who was then a lawyer for the Open Society Institute, argued that living conditions were simply intolerable for Roma in the East and that they faced a well-founded fear of persecution at home.

But that exchange overlooked something important: When camps of Roma head westward, the West has to pay attention to them. Romani migration to France, and the ensuing kerfuffle, has led to a debate this week in the European Parliament on the situation of Roma in Europe. It has also led to a review of how the EU’s 10 billion euro fund for social inclusion of Roma is being spent.

In other words, when the “Roma issue” gets shoved into the right borders – and France may be the perfect place for this to happen – it ends up back on Brussels’ agenda.

So what will that mean? In the short term, probably not much. The machinery of Brussels is too creaky, the recession has made European governments and their people too anxious about their own welfare, and the specter of Romani poverty is too familiar to goose anyone into quick action.

But surely France will not be the last country that ends up tripping over this bump under the rug. As more countries join the free-transit Schengen area – Romania’s entry is slated for January – and as labor restrictions on new EU countries expire, we’re likely to see more encampments, and the ensuing ugly roundups, in Western Europe.

Then, when it becomes clear that Romani poverty can’t be lumped together with a clutch of generally “eastern” pathologies, like fractious, dysfunctional parliaments or petty corruption or mercenary media, perhaps it will be time to take it out from under the rug and put it in its proper place.