PHOTO: Homeless Roma asylum-seekers in Brussels
ERIO finds very worrying the offensive and discriminatory remarks about Roma by Filip Dewinter – deputy for the far-right party Vlaams Belang in the Flemish Parliament in Belgium – during the plenary session of the Flemish Parliament on 16 November 2011. The deputy stigmatised the Roma population by stating: “Minister, in the eyes of the population, as you know, Roma stands for R of thieves; O for trouble junkies; M for knife pullers and A for aggressive people” (the original: “de R van rovers, de O van overlastjunkies, de M van messentrekkers en de A van agressievelingen”). He continued:”You don’t want to see this reality. I repeat: no integration stewards but police officers are what you need, to bring Roma back to where they belong: Romania and Bulgaria, not here.”
ERIO condemns these remarks fuelling anti- Gypsyism in Belgium. Mr. Dewinter’s remarks mirror the rising trends in anti-Roma sentiment, racism, xenophobia and far-right extremism in Europe. ERIO believes that these derogatory statements constitute a direct violation of the fundamental rights of this minority and disrespect for the European Union values. These remarks come at a time when EU member states are expected to submit their National Roma Integration Strategies to the European Commission by the end of this year. One of the aims of such strategies is to improve the socio-economic situation of Roma in the EU. Mr. Dewinter’s remarks are a direct attack to Belgium’s official position on Roma inclusion and to the values promoted by the EU such as human rights, tolerance and equality.
ERIO calls on all politicians in the EU to refrain from discourses and behaviours likely to incite anti-Gypsyism and intolerance. ERIO calls on all EU institutions, as guardians of the EU principles and values, to take the necessary measures and a strong position against discriminatory political speech. ERIO calls on the Belgian Equality Bodies to take immediate action and use all available legislation providing protection by racist hate speech, discrimination and unequal treatment.
European Roma Information Office (ERIO) is an international advocacy organisation which promotes political and public discussion on Roma issues. It aims to combat racist discrimination against Roma and to contribute to an improved public awareness of the problems faced by Roma communities. http://erionet.org