Tuesday, May 31, 2011




Blindspot: Kosovo Roma and the Decade (2011)



In 1999, more than 100,000 Roma fled Kosovo and sought refuge in other countries. The needs of these people are not reflected in programs conducted under the Decade, concludes this report by Mensur Haliti.

During the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, more than 100,000 Roma were forced to leave Kosovo and seek refuge in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and countries in Western Europe. They lost all their property and most of their possessions, and the drama of their displacement was an exceptional but underreported human tragedy.

But their problems did not end upon their arrival in safer neighboring states. The immediate trauma of “escaping” with their “bare lives” was worsened by the somewhat lesser but debilitating trauma of non-acceptance, ignorance, and outright neglect in their new home countries, where they often have been pushed to the very margins of society. After unexpectedly obtaining new identities as internally displaced persons or refugees, they faced a search for sufficient housing and the daily struggle for survival.

Eleven years after their expulsion, the Roma from Kosovo are still afraid and feel the injustice of being forced to leave. They are lost and without hope, knowing that their currently miserable living conditions are nearly impossible to surmount. They believe that neither integration nor return is possible. Their dire poverty is also a severe handicap when it comes to accessing both formal and informal institutional networks of social assistance. For instance, Roma from Kosovo are unemployed because they are poor and without skills and qualifications, and poor because they are unemployed or do the lowest paid jobs. Thus their circle of poverty is complete. The bases for their economic activities are at the edge of cities and often in containers adapted into living quarters near large landfills overflowing with garbage.

National governments have made some efforts to address the needs of their most vulnerable citizens, including the Roma from Kosovo. Despite these efforts, the Roma from Kosovo remain one of the most vulnerable groups still heavily affected by the consequences of the Kosovo conflict in 1999. The failure of governments to include the Roma from Kosovo in any programs or initiatives like National Strategies for the Roma 8or Comprehensive National Strategic Documents for the accession of these countries to the European Union undermines any progress made so far.

The governments of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina have joined the regional initiative called the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005–2015. By doing so, these countries have assumed the obligation to work systematically and continuously on improving the situation of their Roma communities.

However, while a considerable number of Roma from Kosovo live in these countries, and this initiative is also an opportunity for the inclusion of the Roma from Kosovo, this is not reflected in the programs so far conducted by the governments within the framework of the Decade. As a result, the Roma from Kosovo remain without the possibility to effectively use and access these programs.

The Balkan wars of the 1990s heavily influenced the relations between the European Union and these countries. The resolution of the status of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees became one of the main issues on the political agenda of the European Union concerning these countries. The European Union has issued reports in which it determines the progress of the countries involved in the process of European Union accession, as well as reports which identify the measures that the governments must take for the Roma from Kosovo in order to achieve the desired progress. Still, there is serious concern about the process of return and integration. In practice, this process is not taking place at the desired speed. It is impossible to measure the results of the government programs targeting the Roma from Kosovo, whose living conditions are beneath human dignity and unacceptable for Europe in the 21st century.

- Mensur Haliti

Decade of Roma Inclusion Documents


But  this statement does not talk about the situation of the Romani IN Kosovo

Monday, May 30, 2011





A show on French Gypsies under the German Occupation censored by the European Commission Liaison Office (ECLO) in Kosovo.

Paris, May 26, 2011.

 "Mérignac-Beaudésert, Tsiganes français sous l’Occupation" is an adaptation based on historical documentation dealing with the internment and deportation of French Gypsies during the Second World War.

 The text has been published by the French publisher l'Espace d'un instant, in partnership with the Voix des Rroms, the Nouvelles alternatives transeuropéennes et the Fédération nationale des déportés et internés, résistants et patriotes.

 It was put on stage under the direction of Christophe Sigognault, following a residency at the Maison d'Europe et d'Orient in Paris.

The performance opened the festival Le Printemps de Paris on the 9th of May 2011 at the occasion of the Fête de l'Europe (European Day).*

The show was programmed by the festival "Festival of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian culture", supported by ECLO and organised by the KFOS (Soros Foundation in Kosovo).

ECLO then considered that the content of the performance was "inappropriate" and asked KFOS for the show should be taken off the programme of the festival.

When asked to explain their decision, ECLO replied that it was not a case of "censorship" but a case of a "change to the programme", the reason being their wish to "put the emphasis, with this festival, on the promotion of the rich cultural heritage of these communities within Kosovo and to contribute to facilitate their integration within the Kosovan society and promote exchanges between its various communities".

ECLO added that "it does not want to question the importance of these tragic historical events nor the quality of the performance", but that " [its] partners implementing the festival are requested to consult [ECLO] and give them a full presentation of the programme for approval before any of its programme can be confirmed", and that ECLO would have wished to be able to "discuss [it] beforehand and to inform its colleagues at the French Embassy in Kosovo".

We would like to express our righteous anger in the face of such behaviour. We know too well what such a position underlines: to present Rromani culture in a folkloric and preconceived manner, one of largely desperate musicians flanked by lascivious women dancing on tables, and to essentially ignore historical and memorial issues in order to please a few diplomats.

We also know well what fuels the will to subjugate the content of a work of art to its funding. We can clearly see that ECLO considers this memorial work as counterproductive to exchange and integration. The worse being that -knowing that ECLO considers the case as a simple "misunderstanding"- it shows that ECLO cannot even question the content of its own policy. We can imagine how a proposal to screen Tony Gatlif's feature film "Liberté" would have been received in such a context.

We believe that the very fact that artists and cultural operators in France and in Kosovo decide to undertake and support this memorial work concerning the rromani community, should be considered with pride and honour by France, Kosovo and Europe as a whole. We believe that it is those who cannot see it this way that, unfortunately, give the image of Europe as a Banana Republic.

We invite all of those who share our views to let it be known to the head of ECLO Khaldoun.SINNO@eeas.europa.eu
as well as to the Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
and to circulate the present message as widely as possible.

The show will be presented in Prishtina, outside of the official programme, thanks to the determination of the signatories below.

Marcel Courtiade, Commissioner for language and linguistic rights of the International Rromani Union,

Dominique Dolmieu, Associate artist at the Maison d’Europe et d’Orient, Paris Saimir Mile, President of La voix des Rroms,

Jeton Neziraj, Artistic director National Theatre of Kosovo,

Christophe Sigognault, Artistic director of the company Saudade.




Coming later this year to Bio™, a new 8-part series following the lives of Gypsies and Travellers over the summer of 2011. A Gypsy Life For Me will follow key characters and events from the travelling community with exclusive access to some of the most colourful and entertaining aspects of Gypsy life.

Bio™ has got together with the traveller community to find out how they would like to celebrate their way of life, giving them the opportunity to tell their stories. We will be spending the next few months meeting a whole host of colourful Traveller and Gypsy characters and finding out how they cope with the prejudices and stereotypes many of them face through their everyday life.

We have been given unprecedented access to Travellers Got Talent, the community’s annual talent contest. Jake Bowers, a Romany journalist and the contest’s promoter, hopes this will overcome negative stereotypes to reveal a nation that has survived for a thousand years. He says,

“By throwing open the doors…we will be revealing the tales and talents of those determined to follow in the footsteps of other famous performers with Gypsy heritage such as Charlie Chaplin, Cher Lloyd, Bob Hoskins and the Gypsy Kings.”

Bio™ will also be following the work of the Romany Woman’s Union, and the competition they have developed, Miss Gypsy UK. Josephine Smith, the Union’s President hopes that allowing the cameras to follow that work that they do will help to overcome the prejudice that women in her community face. She says,

“The Romany Women’s Union has developed Miss Gyspy UK to counter the ignorance and provide an opportunity for the true portrayal of how Gypsy and Traveller girls lead their lives.”

We’ll be bringing you more information throughout the summer on how filming is progressing, so watch this space!

In the meantime, if you would like more information on Travellers Got Talent please visit the Travellers Times website. (See sidebar for connection to this site.
Meanwhile, the exploitative British show,  my big fat Gypsy wedding, is premiering in the United States on TLC.  Have we no shame?

Saturday, May 28, 2011



Czech Republic: Myths about taxpayers supporting "lavish" Roma lifestyles

Most, Czech Republic

When might the "luxury" of a taxi ride paradoxically save someone money? Is everything you hear about Roma people true?

Some unemployed families in Most, Czech Republic, have been seen taking taxis to shop at Kaufland or Tesco. Critics of Roma people say the practice feeds rumors that the town hall is reimbursing Roma people for their taxi rides from the Chánov housing estate.

"I heard someone say that 14 days ago in the store. I think it's nonsense," taxi driver Jiří Urban told news server Denik.cz.

"Everyone has long known that Roma people on welfare have enough money for taxis, but the town hall doesn't reimburse their taxi travel, that's nonsense," agreed two women from Most who preferred not to be named.

Alena Sedláčková, a spokesperson for the Most town hall, confirmed that the authority does not reimburse travel by taxi. Taxi drivers with whom news server Deník.cz spoke pointed out that their Roma customers mostly either never ask for receipts or throw the ones they get away, so they evidently don't need them for reimbursement. When benefits are disbursed, taxi drivers estimate 60-90 % of their customers are Roma people, roughly half of whom use a taxi for grocery shopping once or twice a month.

One example of Roma thrift is the fact that they will usually take the bus or walk to the grocery store and then share a taxi among four people for the return journey. A taxi ride to the Chánov housing estate costs CZK 80, while four people taking the bus would pay a total of CZK 136.

After a large shopping trip, families usually have such heavy bags that they would not be able to carry them to the bus stop. "Some people use canes or are otherwise disabled. We shouldn't be surprised they want a taxi to take them to their door," one of the taxi drivers told Denik.cz.

The Magyar family takes a taxi to do a big grocery shop once a month when they receive their aid to dependent children benefits. "We can't afford to travel more than that," Roman Magyar, the father of four children, told Denik.cz.

Other myths about the Roma include the idea that they somehow have easier access to welfare benefits than "whites". The Czech Labor Office emphasizes that the rules for awarding benefits apply to everyone the same.

"We proceed according to the law. We provide no advantages to anyone," Eva Maříková, spokesperson for the agency, told Denik.cz.






Sami Mustafa: Roma directors don't have to make films just about Roma people

Prishtina, Kosovo,

27.5.2011 12:04, (ROMEA)

PHOTO Sami Mustafa (foto: Lukáš Houdek)

Sami Mustafa is a 26-year-old film director from a Roma mahala near the village of Plemetina in Kosovo. His first encounter with film-making was through a program run by the Balkan Sunflowers recreation center there in 2003. One year later he started collaborating with two film production companies, Koperativa and Quawava. He has directed several films about the postwar situation of the Kosovo Rom. His documentary film "Road to Home" was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 as the only film representing cinematography from Kosovo. Mustafa founded the Roma film production company Romawood and since 2009 has been running the Rolling Film Festival of Roma film together with Balkan Sunflowers in Prishtina as its artistic director. He lives in Prishtina with his French girlfriend, the film-maker Charlotte Bohl. Romea.cz interviewed him in Prishtina.


How did a boy like you get out of the Roma mahala and start making films?

I basically started in the spring of 2003, when a guy from Australia came to Plemetina. He worked for Sky News in Sydney as a cameraman. He came to Kosovo to collaborate with nonprofits and lead a workshop for youth in Plemetina that lasted three or four months.

It was a workshop on film-making?

Making documentaries. He was basically a journalist, so that was reflected in what he taught us, but he was brilliant. The workshop was one of our after-school activities, and really just one of many, because I also attended Scouts. Under his direction we made the film "Welcome to Plemetina", which was very positively accepted at film festivals in Europe, as well as in Kosovo and the USA. The film was the collective work of 13 children.

How old were you when you participated in the workshop?

Now I'm 26, I'll be 27 in August - Good Lord! Well, it doesn't matter. I must have been 17 or 18.

You are one of only a few teenagers from Plemetina who continued with film. Was that first film your launching pad?

I took it all very seriously. Basically everything I do I take seriously. Even when I was just going to Scouts I was completely absorbed by it. Then the people who led that project designed another one that was similar, related to work with video. They asked me and a friend of mine to participate, and one year later my second film was made. A year later I learned of another film workshop that operated on the system "work and learn". It was basically paid work during which you learned new things. It was a year-long program. It was also my last year of high school. Then I had to decide what to focus on and what to throw overboard. In the end, I got rid of Scouts. I also gave up medicine, which I was studying at the time.

You wanted to be a doctor?

No, no, I just studied at the medical high school. There was no other option, the school is one of only two in Plemetina. The other is the economics high school, which couldn't be considered because of my math.

So you have no film education?

Precisely. There is no film school in my life. After that year of paid internship, when I made money, I bought a camera and a computer with my savings and started filming. I made various films. One of them is basically my most recently completed works, "Never Back Home". I started filming it in 2004.

What is the central theme of your work?

I focus the most on Roma people. I do my best, through my films, to demonstrate the fact that the current life of Roma people in Kosovo is significantly politically influenced. In addition, I do my best to capture some disappearing elements of Roma culture, even though I don't actively participate in their preservation. I think it's important to record them at a minimum on video cassette so the next generation of Roma people and other nations can understand some things later and think about them.

You chose this central theme because you are Roma?

Absolutely, definitely precisely because I am Roma. In the beginning I knew nothing about the Roma in general and I didn't know where to find such information. I didn't understand why they say we are from India. Naturally we did not have the internet, where I might be able to answer these questions. I therefore decided to start with what was right in front of my nose, the Roma in Kosovo. To try to find out who the hell I am, why I am here, why they call us Gypsies, to get to the bottom of why there is so much hatred against us - it's hidden, but you can feel it from people - and so much violence. The films I started making were both for Roma and for...

For the gadje? [Translator's Note: non-Roma, can be pejorative]

Hmm, I don't like that word. That is one of the things I have to resolve for myself. What does the word gadjo really mean? Roma people call one another Roma, which means "people". To call you a gadjo means you aren't a person.

Do you think Roma perceive you differently than they would a non-Roma filmmaker when you make your documentaries?

I personally believe both approaches need to be combined. It is good to understand something, but also not to be too emotionally engaged in it just because I am Roma myself. That's why the opinion of the non-Roma person, that non-person (laughs) is good, and it's good to make compromises. I do my best to be neutral, insofar as that is possible, and to look at Roma people's problems through different eyes. I am doing my best to capture how we all see these people. It is very difficult to understand them, you have to insert yourself into these situations, which is terribly painful and can also affect the entire outcome.

Do you feel that entry into a Roma community is simpler for you than it would be for your French girlfriend Charlotte? That you gain people's trust faster than she would?

I think it's all the same. It really depends on the people you're filming. I work for the most part in such a way that after I come somewhere I take out the camera immediately and start filming, but the response to that is different every time. People who want to speak start coming to the camera on their own and speaking to it. Then you have the people who start yelling at you to get out of there. At that level it doesn't matter whether I am Roma or not. On the contrary, I think what I am good at is that when I see people with great potential to tell their story engagingly, I am able to convince them to do it because I am Roma, and that's just because I know how to behave in that situation. When I think about it now, it's basically a very selfish approach. You compel them to speak because you need it.

What are you hoping to achieve with your films?

That's connected to the festival I do. I wanted to make films so people could learn what's going on here. In addition to the problems, I want people become familiar with Roma culture, with the Roma way of life. I also wanted to show that films made by Roma people exist. So I basically created the festival. Its main aim was to collect films about Roma people or created by Roma people themselves, films that don't make Roma people either culprits or victims. The selection should be based mainly on the stories of individual people.

How does the festival operate?

The festival started in 2009. Anyone can apply. We are doing our best to collect as many films as possible to see what kinds of films are being made about Roma people. Then we select the films according to themes we have predetermined. About 50 films were submitted the first year. The condition was that they had to be based on a personal story. One criterion was that they not be stereotypical, either in the negative or the positive sense. We are emphasizing films that introduce something new. We are not choosing films that say the same old dusty thing over and over. The stories of individuals are good because they don't generalize and they show one concrete case on which a certain situation has left its mark.

Can only Roma film-makers submit?

No, it's a film festival with films about Roma and films by Roma.

So Roma people who made a film about globalization could enter?

Exactly. I myself have not made films only about Roma people, I am interested in other themes as well. That is why it seems important to me to show that Roma film-makers don't necessarily have to do Roma themes.

How does the festival itself run? Where do you hold the screenings?

We do our best to make it a good cultural event in Prishtina, which is primarily where the Rolling Film Festival takes place. We choose a cinema or theater that is accessible to all. We don't want to choose a venue from one of the two sides - to screen only in hippie places, or only in the snob places. We want everyone to have a pleasant experience, and that's why we choose the middle road most often. In addition to the festival itself, we also have a side program, called "Rolling On the Road". That screens films directly in the Roma mahalas.

How might the screening of documentary films for ordinary Roma people be essential?

When we consulted each other on what the festival's side events should be, we came to the conclusion that both are equally important - screenings in cinemas, and screenings in the field. A good example is the film "American Gypsy". That film is about a Roma family and describes the daily life of Roma people in America. The story of that family is similar to many Roma families around the world. They share a similar culture, opinions, tradition, way of life. When I saw it I was absolutely astounded, because Roma people in Kosovo live that same way, their perception of things is the same, they keep the same traditions. A film like that is naturally important for people who are not Roma, but it is just as important for Roma themselves. They can basically realize how important the life they live is.

What kind of people visit the festival in Kosovo?

We want to reach out to absolutely everyone. For example, we invite colleges and high schools. We have a special program for high schools where a comedian does some stand-up-comedy. He tells jokes to the audience while some of the films are running. The films are stopped at certain points so there can be interaction with young viewers about the message. We believe this might compel them to reflect on some differences. Through the jokes we also try to remind them of important things they may not have noticed during a normal screening. That program runs in the regions in addition to Prishtina.

Why do you think it is important to screen films about Roma to the broader public in Kosovo?

I believe it is important to show all films, but there is one more reason the Roma films are important. A few years ago, the situation of the Roma here was very different than it is today - I am thinking of before the war, when 90 % of Roma people had full-time jobs. Today only 0.3 % do. The majority population's relationship to the Roma has changed. It is influenced by many prejudices, by the fear of other ethnicities that escalates during war. This isn't just about the prejudices that exist about Roma, but the belief that Roma people helped in the fighting against the ethnic Albanians, which is not completely true. Because there is a debate after each film screening, I believe these films influence the opinions of those who see them.

Where do you see your life heading? What is important for you?

These problems with ethnicity have always been here and will remain here. However, I believe these small actions fighting against stereotypes, which are being done by many other people besides us, are important because they have the power to change some people's views. Certainly, they will not change the approach of the entire society, but whether its 1 000, 500, or at least three people, it can prompt them to start doing something themselves. What do I personally want out of life? In the end I am just a guy who makes films and enjoys it. Sometimes I make a bad one, sometimes a good one. Basically I am just doing my best and will continue to do my best to help these various nations reach a compromise.

What are the prospects for life in Kosovo?

Sometimes it's crazy. When I remember the education I received here, I have to say it was good for nothing. There was one teacher at the medical high school who had been there since Tito and was not even qualified to do his job. For God's sake, these are the people who are supposed to give us the benefit of their experience? We might have someone's lives in our hands someday! Those four years were just a catastrophe. I just wanted to graduate, primarily for my parents. When I think about it now, I am probably one of only a few young Roma doing something here. Mainly in the last three or four years I have devoted my life to the festival and to films. That's what I want to do. That's why for me personally, life in Kosovo offers good prospects. However, even though I love Kosovo very much, I hate it at the same time. When I have children I do not want them to live life as I lived it, in the same conditions. There are prospects here for me as an individual, but not for the people to whom I am responsible.

Lukáš Houdek, Zdenka Kainarová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert


Friday, May 27, 2011







Ever since European visa requirements were dropped for travelers from Serbia and Macedonia, an increasing number of Roma asylum seekers from the two countries have been making their way to Germany. They have all been rejected -- and Roma rights groups are furious.

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By most European standards, the Marienfelde Refugee Center on the southern edge of Berlin is not luxurious accommodation. But the three-story buildings that house asylum seekers do feature heating, hot water and ceiling lights -- things that for 33-year-old Sashko Tomovski and his family are lavish amenities.

"This for us is Las Vegas," Tomovski, an asylum seeker from the Republic of Macedonia, said as he stood outside his modest apartment building at the center. Until recently, he said, he and his wife and their three young daughters lived in a flimsy shelter with no electricity, heat, or running water in a Roma settlement in eastern Macedonia he called "hell."

Asylum seekers from the Western Balkans like Tomovski have recently been arriving in Germany and other European nations in steeply rising numbers. While Afghans and Iraqis have comprised the top two groups seeking asylum in Germany for the last two years, applicants from Serbia and Macedonia were unexpectedly third and fourth on the list in 2010, accounting together for 7,444 applications -- and most of them are Roma or members of other minority groups.

A year earlier, just 690 applicants came from the two countries. Belgium and Sweden have reported similar increases.

Easier for Asylum Seekers

The development is attributed not to worsening trends of oppression or conflict in Serbia or Macedonia, but to the lifting of visa requirements for travelers from these two countries to the 25 European nations within the Schengen border-free travel zone. That change, which went into effect at the end of 2009, was seen as a step toward integrating Southeastern European countries into the European Union.

But the move also made it far easier for potential asylum seekers from the two nations to travel within Europe. Last December, visa restrictions for Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania were also lifted, raising concerns among European Union officials that even more asylum seekers may be on the way.

The rise in asylum applications from Serbia and Macedonia "points to the extreme poverty and continued exclusion suffered in particular by Roma in these states," the German refugee rights organization Pro Asyl said in a statement. Roma communities in the Balkans and much of Europe face inadequate housing conditions, with widespread discrimination leading to forced evictions, lack of access to social housing and underemployment, say human rights groups.

Such conditions, however, have not been deemed reason for giving Roma refugee status. Not a single applicant from Serbia or Macedonia was granted asylum in Germany last year, and European Union officials see the influx of applications from these nations as an abuse of asylum systems.

Changes Unlikely

"Such asylum applications were and will also henceforth be consistently and speedily rejected, so that the duration of the illegitimate residence in Germany and the associated burden on public finances is minimized as much as possible," Thomas de Maizière, who was interior minister at the time, said in a statement earlier this year. De Maizière has since taken over the defense portfolio in Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, but the sentiment is unlikely to change under his successor, Hans-Peter Friedrich.

Asylum seekers in Germany and other European nations are provided benefits such as housing, medical care and modest sums of money for food and clothing during the several months it may take to process an asylum claim.

Other countries have also sought to return the asylum seekers quickly. Last year, for instance, Belgium bussed hundreds of asylum seekers back to Serbia and Macedonia from Brussels.

European Commission officials have said that the influx of asylum seekers from the Balkans could jeopardize the ongoing process of visa liberalization for countries in the region. Last October, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström wrote a letter to the interior ministers of Serbia and Macedonia asking them to take measures to prevent the flow of the asylum seekers to EU member states. Around the same time, an expert mission organized by Belgian authorities and including European Commission members visited Skopje and Belgrade to express their concerns in person.

'A Request to Break International Law'

Border patrol police in Serbia and Macedonia have since taken steps to strengthen controls, checking to see if travelers have return tickets, requesting evidence that travelers have enough money to stay in the Schengen area for their intended stay, and telling potential asylum applicants that their applications will be rejected.

Refugee and Roma rights groups in Germany have condemned the stepped-up border controls. The request to those nations to "keep their citizens from leaving their country is a request to break international law," a coalition of European refugee and Roma rights groups said in a statement. "The idea that citizens would eventually be hindered from leaving their country on the grounds of their ethnic background is unbearable to us against the background of German and European history."

By some estimates, as many as a half-million Roma and Sinti were killed by the Nazis during World War II in what has sometimes been referred to as the "forgotten Holocaust." On Holocaust Remembrance Day earlier this year, Zoni Weisz, a Sinti survivor whose parents and siblings were murdered by the Nazis when he was a boy, became the first representative of the Roma and Sinti people to speak to Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, on the occasion.

"We are Europeans, let me remind you, and must have the same rights as any other residents, with the same opportunities available to every European," Weisz said to the parliament.

Issues involving Roma migration from Southeastern Europe to more affluent European nations have received much attention of late. Last year, France came under harsh criticism for its practice of targeting Roma migrants from Bulgaria and Romania for deportation. Germany has also drawn condemnation from human rights groups for deporting Roma and other ethnic minorities from Kosovo who have lived in Germany since fleeing war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990's.

Bullied and Beaten Up

Despite increased controls, asylum seekers from Serbia and Macedonia continue to arrive in Germany. Near the end of last year, Tomovski and his family hitched a ride in a bus that delivered them to Hamburg, he said. There, he applied for asylum before being settled at the Marienfelde Center in Berlin.

The center was built nearly six-decades ago to accommodate refugees fleeing East Germany, and by the time of German reunification, 1.35 million East Germans had passed through the camp. Following the recent rise in the number of asylum seekers coming to Germany, the center is once again admitting refugees; it now houses about 270 people, but can potentially accommodate as many as 2,000.

At the Marienfelde Center on a recent afternoon, a group of Roma residents vehemently rejected the notion that their asylum claims were illegitimate. Many had spent several years of their childhood in Germany, having fled the Yugoslav wars in the 1990's, and now wished to return because of what they said was rampant discrimination in their homelands.

One teenager from Serbia who called himself Dennis complained of having been bullied and beaten up in school because he is Roma. "They say, 'this is not your land,'" he said. "If you fight back, they'll kill you."

'No One Wants to Help'

Dennis said he arrived in Germany several months ago with his parents and brother. The family had learned a few days earlier that their asylum request had been denied and they were given a few weeks to leave Germany.

"We want to stay," he said. "We have nothing there. My father can't find a job. We can't earn anything."

A 27-year-old man who also said he came from Serbia with his family insisted that the discrimination Roma face there justified their asylum requests. "The problem is we are not even accepted as people," he said of life in Serbia.

He too had recently received word that he and his family would not be given asylum. It felt, he said, as if he had nowhere left to turn.

"Everyone knows how bad the Roma have it," the man added. "But no one wants to help."


 Paris stage to host Dale Farm protest

By Jon Austin

27/05/2011 -

THE plight of families facing eviction from Dale Farm traveller site will be raised by three actresses on a Paris theatre stage.

Kika Markham, widow of Four Weddings and a Funeral actor Corin Redgrave, Anna Carteret, 68, police inspector Kate Longton in Eighties cop show Juliet Bravo, and Argentinian actress Stella Maris, will take part in a special show.

The actresses will perform Romany songs, poetry and theatre, at Theatre de l’Opprime (Theatre of the Oppressed) on Sunday.

The performance is to raise international awareness about the looming eviction of up to 96 families from Crays Hill, taking place at a human rights festival.

Kika, 70, who has featured in Lynda La Plante’s Trial and Retribution and the BBC’s Waking the Dead, will read the emotional speech given by her late husband to Basildon councillors, in the Towngate Theatre in June 2005, when he attempted to get them to vote against the eviction.

The three will also sing Djelem Djelem, the Roma national anthem.

Mr Redgrave collapsed from a heart attack during the speech, before being resuscitated at Basildon Hospital.

He continued to keep an interest in the situation at Dale Farm, until his death last April, aged 70.

Kika said they hoped to give a repeat performance of the show in south Essex, in support of the travellers.

She said: “We are doing a performance on the persecution faced by Roma people in France, in Europe, as well as at Dale Farm.

“We will talk about Dale Farm, video footage of evictions will be played as well as newspaper reports read out.

“I will read out Corin’s speech, when he had a heart attack in Basildon.”

Video footage of the 2004 clearance of families by Chelmsford Council – including some now at Dale Farm – from the Meadow-lands site, near Little Waltham, will be aired to show what is likely to happen in Crays Hill if the eviction goes ahead.

Kika said there was a growing tide of oppression of Roma and traveller people across Europe.

She claimed it recalled the atmosphere before the atrocities committed during the holocaust.

She added: “In France, President Sarkozy is expelling Roma from the country who are French nationals. There is persecution in Hungary.

“These are very worrying trends. At Dale Farm, the people have not been allowed to settle after they bought their own land.

“It could be a good, nice place, where they could live securely if the council would only support it, rather than push travellers on.

“I hope we can do the performance in Basildon, to raise awareness and do some fundraising for the travellers’ campaign.”








May 26, 2011

The United States would like to reiterate its support for the OSCE's work in combating intolerance and discrimination, particularly with regard to Muslims and Roma/Sinti.

As U.S.Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith conveyed to the Permanent
Council in February, states must strive to ensure that no group can be marginalized, stereotyped, or discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, birth, or national or social origin.

We are disappointed that recently, some political leaders in the OSCE region have made statements about Muslim and Romani communities that contradict the OSCE's goals in combating intolerance andiscrimination. Statements that perpetuate Islamophobic and racist attitudes are never part of responsible political discourse. Strong political leadership at the highest level is needed to counter negative portrayals of minorities by politicians and members of the media, to speak out against those who use public platforms to incite ethnic hatred, and to encourage factual and balanced portrayals of Europe's minority communities.

We urge all OSCE participating States to seek ways to improve the socio-economic and security situation for their Muslim and Roma residents and to ensure accountability for discrimination or violence directed at them, in accordance with OSCE commitments.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To read the statements of Silvio B. please see the blog entry for Tues 24 May titled SILVIO.

Thursday, May 26, 2011







Despite recognition as an official minority, little is known about educational opportunities for Sinti and Roma in Germany. But a research project has shown that Sinti and Roma lag far behind the rest of the country.

Sinti and Roma have been at home in German-speaking parts of Europe for over 500 years. Scientists and minority experts estimate that there are around 100,000 Sinti and Roma in Germany today, but how they fit in to society at large is an area that remains only partially researched.

For Daniel Strauss, the head of the Baden-Württemberg state branch of the Association of German Sinti and Roma, this lack of research needs to change. He needs facts to help him in his fight for more opportunities for Sinti and Roma.

"When I was a kid, I went to about 200 different schools. As a child of a fairground worker, every week I went to a new one," Strauss said. "I told my own kids that I can't expect that of them. Over the last few years I've noticed that it's not the exception, but rather the rule, that the educational situation is pretty difficult. There are many people whose parents or grandparents have more or less no educational background."

Study reveals size of problem

Backed by the national Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future", Strauss commissioned a study on the current educational situation of German Sinti and Roma.

In order to keep the project from failing from the start due to prejudices among the participants, a group of Sinti and Roma were trained and then sent out with a questionnaire. At the end of the project, 261 interviews had been conducted spanning three generations.

Educational researcher Jane Schuch from the Humboldt-University in Berlin evaluated the interviews, and was struck by the number of Sinti and Roma who never went to school: thirteen percent of those surveyed. The number drops by generation - 9.4 percent of the current generation has never attended school - but of those who do go, 44 percent don't graduate.

Only 15 percent received some kind of vocational training, and "we didn't even talk about university graduation," Schuch said.

Classroom cruelty

The numbers - and the nearly complete lack of university graduates - are in stark contrast to the majority of German society. Members of the Association of German Sinti and Roma and researchers agree that the poor educational representation is a result of the persecution of Sinti and Roma in Nazi Germany and the ensuing ostracism from German society after World War II. Parents today don't have a good feeling about sending their kids to school, says Schuch. They know what kind of reception they're likely to get.

"It ranges from open hostility - 'gypsies stink, gypsies steal,' the whole row of stereotypes that these kids are confronted with at school - to teachers who go so far as to say things like 'actually, Hitler had the right idea with you guys.' That's happened twice in two different places," Schuch said.

Schuch believes the education system lacks structures that would make integrating Sinti and Roma in schools easier and help stop discrimination.

Atmosphere of change

In order for that to happen, says Daniel Strauss of the Association for Sinti and Roma, there needs to be more activity at the political level. In his community, there's an unmistakeable mood for change.

"One thing is clear: there is complete agreement that things can't continue the way they are," Strauss said. "Education is a human right and we are demanding access to this right. The government needs to take note of this responsibility at the national level as well."

Strauss's next step will be to present his study to the parliamentary commission for children. He says it's time for equal access to education for all and would like to see doctors, lawyers, and business leaders with a Sinti and Roma background. To make that possible, Strauss is calling for a national action plan to open up educational opportunities for Sinti and Roma.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011




Another wall separating Roma from non-Roma planned in Slovakia


Yet another wall is evidently being planned in Slovakia to separate the Roma community from other nearby residents. The town of Vrútky in the north of the country wants to resolve tension between local Roma and non-Roma living in neighboring housing units. Similar constructions have grown up in many towns and villages, particularly in the east of the country.

"We will build a new concrete fence between the nursery school and the Roma community and another near the housing units to eliminate noise and reduce the nervousness of the people living there," the Slovak daily Pravda quoted Milan Mazúr, chief magistrate of the town, as saying. He is not concerned about criticism over separating citizens from one another. "This is not segregation. The citizens demanded this for their own security," he said.

The daily reports that more Roma people started residing on one of the town's streets after housing units once used for railway workers near the local railway station were torn down. In the new locality more than 200 people are now cooped up in about five cottages and three one-room temporary construction shelters. "It's a problematic place where Roma from other parts of the republic are grouped together, particularly from the east," Mazúr noted.

Other housing units, the nursery school, and the retirement home are all located adjacent to the locality. Many retirees have complained that the Roma foul up the street beneath their windows or spit and swear at them. The Roma community has criticized the prepared construction of the two-meter high wall.

Similar walls, which Roma organizations have previously labeled a manifestation of segregation, have grown up in the villages of Ostrovany, Lomnička, Šečovce, Trebišov, and Michalovec. Several hundred thousand Roma people are estimated to live in Slovakia, but only some of them have officially registered their ethnicity. Slovakia has not yet managed to cope with settlements where many Roma people live in disadvantageous hygienic conditions.

In the Czech Republic the most famous case of a wall being erected with the aim of separating Roma people from other residents occurred in 1999 with the construction of a concrete fence in a quarter of Ústí nad Labem. The construction was removed after six weeks under pressure from the Government and after protests by Czech and foreign international human rights defenders.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Breaking the Silence: Trafficking in Romani Communities

19 May 2011

Breaking the Silence: Trafficking in Romani Communities



Estimates provided during research by the ERRC and PiN about the perceived representation of Roma among trafficked persons in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia are several times higher than the proportion of Roma among the general population, indicating a disproportionate impact of this practice on Romani communities.

Romani women and children were found to be particularly vulnerable to trafficking, which brings Roma to other countries and to other locations within their home countries.
Roma are trafficked for various purposes, including sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, domestic servitude, organ trafficking, illegal adoption and forced begging.

The vulnerability factors identified in this study are closely linked to those commonly associated with non-Romani trafficked persons and include structural forms of ethnic and gender discrimination, poverty and social exclusion which result in low educational achievement, high levels of unemployment, usury, growing up in State care, domestic violence and substance abuse.

Gaps in law, policy and practice in the field of anti-trafficking constitute barriers to the fight against trafficking in Romani communities. Few Roma are identified by police as trafficked persons and many are reluctant to report themselves to law enforcement agencies for fear of reprisal from their traffickers or of prosecution for the conduct of criminal acts as a trafficked person. Similarly low numbers of Romani trafficked persons access victim prevention and protection services and general social protection systems are failing to reduce the extreme vulnerability of Roma to trafficking. The overwhelming lack of support available to Romani trafficked persons negatively impacts the ability of many to re-integrate, leaving them highly vulnerable to re-trafficking.




Silvio Berlusconi attacks Italy's 'gypsy-loving' left-wing

Silvio Berlusconi has accused Italy's left-wing opposition of wanting to turn his hometown of Milan into a "gypsy camp" as the country geared up for a second round of local elections.

Mr Berlusconi told voters in the city where he was born and made his fortune that they should support Ms Moratti in the second round scheduled for Sunday and Monday.

"Milan cannot turn into an Islamic city, a 'gypsyopolis' full of Roma camps besieged by foreigners to whom the left wants to give the right to vote," Mr Berlusconi said on his People of Freedom party website.

In the first round of elections last week the centre-left candidate in Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, defied expectations to win 48 per cent, leaving the centre-right mayor Letizia Moratti facing a run-off with only 41.6 per cent.

Mr Berlusconi told voters in the city where he was born and made his fortune that they should support Ms Moratti in the second round scheduled for Sunday and Monday.

"Milan is ... one of the most important capitals in Europe in terms of intelligence, creativity and entrepreneurialism," he said.

"A city like this will surely not want to hand itself over to the extreme left with the risk of becoming a disorderly, chaotic and unsafe city."

Monday, May 23, 2011



Tomorrow is the annual festival to Sarah la Kali, the Gypsy Patron Saint.
Someday I hope to attend the festival near Arles in Southern France.
Please check out the posting on this blog for information on Sara

March 27, 2011


"SPOOF" ?????????????


William and Kate 'Gypsy' spoof withdrawn from Tesco shelves

Will Kate's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding pulled following complaints from Romany Women's Union



Monday 23 May 2011

Tesco has removed all copies of a spoof book which imagines Prince William and Kate Middleton's "Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" from its shelves, following complaints that its humour is offensive to the Roma.

Will & Kate's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding plays with photos of the royals to show the new Duchess of Cambridge in a garish pink wedding dress, Prince Philip baring a tattoo and the Queen driving a horse and trap away from a crowd brandishing placards reading "Windsor Gypsies out!". "Hot to trot: Poor old Gran just wanted to sell them some lucky heather," reads the caption.

"This unique photo album tells: How Wills first 'grabbed' Kate at an Edinburgh fashion show: 'I had to get my hands on that see-through dress!'. Why Kate believes a Princess belongs in the caravan: 'It's not like Wills is going to be working either...' Of Prince Harry's love of bare-knuckle boxing: 'It's just rahlly traditional, like.' And what the Queen thinks of anti-royal/Gypsy prejudice: 'One is actually starting to get pi**ed off!'" says publisher Simon & Schuster in its description of the book, subtitled "Photos from our big day, like".

Published on 14 April, Will & Kate's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding has sold 3,244 copies to date, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan.

Josephine Smith, president of the Romany Women's Union, said she contacted Tesco to "make them aware of how offensive this book is to us". Tesco said that it pulled the book from all its stores following the complaint. "We never want to cause any offence to our customers, so we removed it," said a spokesperson.

Simon & Schuster today released a statement in defence of the book. "Will & Kate's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is a fun and gently humorous book that was published to coincide with the success of the Gypsy TV series and excitement and goodwill surrounding the royal Wedding."

But Smith, who is also planning to ask Amazon and Waterstone's to stop selling the title, which she believes "incites racial stereotyping and labelling", said this morning that "the stereotyping and labelling within this book is vile and distasteful".

"We are a community that love humour but where do we draw the line?" she said.Why would they think we will take this lying down?"

Sunday, May 22, 2011



Karel Holomek resigns from Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs

Prague, 20.5.2011 20:37, (ROMEA)


Karel Holomek, a former MP in the post-1989 Czech National Council and chair of the Society of Roma in Moravia (Společenství Romů na Moravě - SRNM) has resigned his membership in the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs. Holomek follows Anna Šabatová, who recently resigned from the Czech Government Human Rights Council, as the latest figure to resign in protest over the current Government ignoring domestic human rights. Holomek announced his resignation this week in an open letter, which news server Romea.cz publishes below in full.

To the Prime Minister of the Government of the Czech Republic in his capacity as chair of the Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, Petr Nečas

Brno, 10 May 2011

Esteemed Prime Minister,

It is with regret that I must announced to you that I am resigning from office as a member of the Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs. The expectations I had for this position have not been met. Those expectations were as follows:

I expected the Commission to become a real advisory body to you on the human rights matters closely related to the issue of the coexistence of the Roma minority and the majority in this society. I know of no better-prepared body for this purpose than the Commission, which is comprised of the highest officials from the government and the ministries, augmented by an equal number of Roma members. Under the current circumstances I consider it to be the best-placed institution meeting all the prerequisites for being able to effectively and functionally advise the Government and, through that critique, to prevent the taking of decisions which would not generally contribute to improving the position of the minority in this society that is worst off, the Roma minority.

After getting to know the Commission during the last half-year of its operations, I have come to these conclusions. You certainly remember the first session of the Commission last November, when I personally formulated a question directly addressed to you and you responded that the Commission was your advisory body on Roma affairs. Today I can report that this is not the case.

I have come to the understanding that completely different people are providing you with advice on these matters. I was able to follow this from up close, as I was an adviser to Michael Kocáb when he was Human Rights Commissioner and formerly Human Rights Minister. I do not intend to comment on the quality of your advisers. I am only mentioning the most basic things here that have substantiated my disappointment and that clearly define the legitimacy of my arguments.

The outcome of the Roma Holocaust Training and Information Center project at Hodonín by Kunštát was a great disappointment to me. This project was not entrusted to the Museum of Roma Culture, which is prepared both morally and professionally for it and has been working in this field for all of 20 years, but completely against any logic was entrusted to the Jan A. Comenius Pedagogical Museum in Prague, which is ignorant in this matter and unprepared. The project was conceived from the beginning as a government project so it could end up, for irrelevant reasons, on the agenda of the Education Ministry. I elaborated the details to you in a letter on 10 February 2010. I never received your reply.

The first letter I sent to you before the Commission was put together concerned the restrictions on the work of the Human Rights Section caused by the long-term absence of an appointment to the Human Rights Commissioner position and the effort to hold down and limit that section to the greatest possible degree. The argument I made in that letter was that if human rights are effectively well-respected, this can prevent worse social outcomes for minorities in particular, the Roma minority included. The tendency prevailed to declare that the best protection is the Constitution and the laws and that nothing else is needed. It is no secret who advocated for that advice in government circles. True, thanks to cooler heads prevailing, a compromise was achieved and things are now in the state they are in. I never received a response from you to that letter either, even though you promised the media you would send me an answer.

A further disappointment - form a long line of others that I will not discuss - is the Government's performance on the inclusive education of Roma pupils in Czech education, which Education Minister Dobeš promised to implement at the first session of the Commission last November. Part of that was supposed to be the Czech state's response to the lawsuit it lost at the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, a complaint filed by 18 Roma pupils. The response was supposed to be amendments to Decrees 72 and 73 from 2005. It is clear today that the Education Ministry is interested in a different stance on the inclusive education program than that originally established by the previous government, a stance which happened to have resulted from broad public discussion. It is certainly the legitimate right of the ministry to subject the plan to broader expert discussion, of course, but the staffing policy of the minister more than confirmed my concerns. There is no need to repeat here what is already an open secret. Minister Dobeš did not attend the last session of the Commission. The explanation of his absence given by his substitute was simply insufficient and, I would even say, misleading.

All of these steps were discussed at the Commission and more or less rejected. Our recommendations were the opposite of what the Government eventually adopted.

Esteemed Prime Minister, you are vested with the right to take the decisions you recognize as being correct. I, however, may also express my criticism or if necessary, my protest against them.

Since I have exhausted all of the options available to me to prevent such decisions, I have the right to express my protest by resigning. That is what I am doing now.

One more explanation: I am the only Roma member of the Commission who is not officially employed by the Government or any other administrative body. My loyalty is constrained only by the correctness of my approach, and that is a line I have not crossed.

Esteemed Prime Minister, since you have not answered any of my letters, I am not expecting an answer to this one either. Permit me, therefore, to entrust it to the media as an open letter. I believe it will also be a good response to the recent findings of the polls on the opinions of the Czech public and their bias against Roma people.

I continue to perform my work in the NGO sector full-time. I have learned that the time is not yet ripe for me to be able to devote myself effectively to the position of Commission member.

I wish you much luck with your difficult job.

With respect,

Karel Holomek



Saturday, May 21, 2011





All the fun of the fair

England’s gypsies try to forget their troubles


CANDY SHERIDAN, vice-chairwoman of the Gypsy Council, a representative body, smiles as she surveys the familiar, teeming scene at the gypsy horse fair at Stow-on-the-Wold. England’s gypsies (of Romany extraction) and travellers (mainly from Irish Catholic backgrounds) come to Stow in their thousands twice a year, in May and October, as they have done for over 500 years. The fairs, Ms Sheridan says, are crucial for “putting ourselves on show, trading with each other and having a sense of pride”.

It seems a contented scene. Gypsies and travellers come to deal their trademark horses, piebald or skewbald cobs—highly prized beasts said to have calm temperaments. Ted Chaney, a horse-dealer, says buyers are looking for a glossy mane, a nice size and (the main attraction) finely feathered feet. Loretta Rawlings, another dealer, says that around ten gypsy families, including her husband’s, now sell cobs to Australia, Brazil, American and eastern Europe: “They have become luxury items.”

Gypsy women do a brisk trade in trinkets, elaborately embroidered clothing, bedding, pots and pans. Younger folk have another reason to come: much wooing takes place in and around the fair. Most gypsy visitors are decked out in their best outfits. Men wear natty suits and Panama hats. Long-haired girls clad in bright Lycra outfits eye up likely lads riding cobs bareback across the fields, or scattering the crowds as they canter their horses and carts among them.

But not everybody in Stow, a prosperous market town in the Cotswolds, welcomes the fair. Edward IV granted it a royal charter in 1476, giving the event legal protection from closure that is still in force—which, for the fair-goers, is just as well. In 1995 the district council took out an injunction that restricts the number of nights that gypsies and travellers can stay before and after the gathering. Many local shopkeepers close their doors during it. Robin Jones, Stow’s mayor, is distinctly chilly about the fair, claiming that petty crime is commonplace—though the police say the event is usually peaceful. Vera Norwood, a former mayor, is far more sympathetic, blaming wealthy newcomers to Stow for “nastiness” towards the gypsies.

In any case, many of the gypsies and travellers at the fair have bigger worries than such sniffiness. Government funding for new, permanent campsites has been cut. Some who have bought their own land, but failed to get planning permission for their dwellings, now face eviction. The biggest encampment, at Dale Farm in Essex, is expected to be ordered to leave within a month. Many complain that a recent television series, “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”, fed anti-gypsy feeling by confirming negative stereotypes. “It’s so nice to switch off, dress up and have a chat, rather than be fighting for our rights,” Ms Sheridan says. But, she adds, “most people don’t really understand us at all.”

Friday, May 20, 2011




MP Šulc pulls ‘racist’ Facebook photo

20 MAY 2011

ODS deputy Jiří Šulc — accused of exploiting anti-Roma sentiments in his 2008 reelection campaign — claimed not to have posted the photo

Šulc has publicly accused the Roma of shunning work and abusing the social welfare system

A former Czech regional governor called to task in 2008 for racist campaign posters targeting the local Romani population has removed a photo from his Facebook page calling for the expulsion of 200,000 Roma people to Haiti, after being confronted about it by local media.

Civic Democrat (ODS) parliamentary deputy Jiří Šulc claimed not to have posted the photo on his private social media site, which showed a group of poorly dressed Roma (also known as Gypsies), including an obese shirtless man, with the mock headline, “Help for Haiti: We’ll send them 200,000 new Haitian citizens.”

That’s roughly the number of Haitians who died in the devastating earthquake in January 2010, and ČT24 reported that the photo had been on Šulc’s site for more than a year. “I don’t know anything about it. If there is something like that, I’ll have it removed,” he told the station; the photo disappeared from his Facebook page on Thursday.

Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities, told ČT24 that such a photograph — on a politician’s website — could exacerbate racial tensions in already problematic areas, and could be a criminal act.

‘It is a racial attack on the Roma population in the Czech Republic, and it is also inadmissible in view of what happened in Haiti.’

“It is a racial attack on the Roma population in the Czech Republic, and it is also inadmissible in view of what happened in Haiti,” Šimáček added, referring to the earthquake.

Back in 2008, when seeking reelection as governor of the Ústí Region in Northern Bohemia, Šulc was accused of playing the race card in his campaign ahead of the local elections by putting up billboards saying, “Work hard, Gadjos, so that we are better off,” the word Gadjo being the Romany expression for white people.

In an interview with the regional daily Ústecký Deník, Šulc said at the time he had wanted to express his “disagreement with the abuse of social welfare in the Ústí region by a group of people who have not wanted to work for a long time and who abuse our too-generous social system,” adding that he paid to make those banners from his own pocket

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The report by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops blamed the "social revolution of the 60's and 70's" for the sexual abuse of children by priests and the coverup by the hierarchy..

Oh please, give me a break.

This is the second best excuse I've ever heard.  I guess they don't feel safe blaming the victims so they'll blame the times.

Do they think for one moment that the sexual abuse of children by Cathollic priests ONLY occurred in the 1960's.  Please check history.  What went on in early missionary schools?  Junipero Serra comes to mind.
I have my own experiences with Catholic institutional life and that happened in the 1950's.  Native American children have been subjected to abuse of all kinds in Catholic boarding schools.
The beat goes on.....

And that's just this continent.

Reporting sexual abuse rose in the 1960's-1970's due to many factors, including a growing demand to recognize and listen to victims.  Thank you feminists.  And thank you also for raising awareness of the inherent dangers in the power from the top structure of patriarchal institutions. 

A man rapes a child and it's the child's fault. 
If that's no longer acceptable then it's because of the social conditions.
Or maybe the devil made me do it.

The issue of sexual violence is about power and control.  It always has been. 
Why aren't these issues being addressed by John Jay and the Catholic bishops and everyone else for that matter.  Check out the numbers of inmates in mental prisons who have been abused.  They've always been ideal victims cause who would believe them anyway.  They're crazy.  And prisoners.  Who'd believe them ? They're bad.
And then comes incarcerated kids.  Kids have been raped while incarcerated FOR AS LONG AS KIDS HAVE BEEN INCARCERATED.

How many African women held in slavery in this country had been raped by their "owners" ?

The report also said that pedophilia was not a factor.  This is a hard statement to grasp.
What is pedophilia?  Just another psychiatric term to be manipulated at will?

The John Jay researchers define pedophile as an adult with an intense sexual attraction to prepubescent children. However, victim advocates have disputed that classification by age, since boys ages 11 to 14 were the largest group of known victims, which could include children who had not yet gone through adolescence. The American Psychiatric Association defines pedophilia as attraction to children, usually age 13 or younger.

What a convenient distinction for the catholic church eh.


PS.  I have to admit that I have some uneasy feelings about John Jay to begin with.  How they sway with the times.  In 1971, less then two years after the Stonewall riots in New York, I went with several other gay activists to speak at John Jay police academy AND WE NEEDED AN ARMED UNIFORMED ESCORT TO EXIT THE BUILDING.  We really did think they'd blame those "homosexuals".

Wednesday, May 18, 2011



2 MAY 2011





LIVE TESTIMONIES: 1–3 JUNE 2011, 13.00–18.00 HRS

Open Society Foundations and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht proudly present the project Call the Witness, the Roma Pavilion, which takes place as a Collateral Event in the framework of the 54th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2011. A makeshift exhibition evolving over the course of the Venice Biennale preview days through the flux of live “testimonies” — works of art, performances, talks, and conversations by and with artists, thinkers, and politicians — Call the Witness considers the situation of the Roma and Roma art as emblematic for the world today, and in solidarity speculates about more hopeful futures.

The project calls on Roma artists to bear witness, through works of art, to their communities’ struggles as they are caught in the paradox of being at once assigned to the edges of mainstream society and at the center of this society’s discriminatory order of control. One needs only to think of recent political events that have specifically targeted the Roma, such as deportations, forcible repatriation, and ethnic registration in many nations in Europe. Recognizing that this very condition is emblematic of the state of the world we all find ourselves in, over the course of the preview days of the Venice Biennale other artists, thinkers, and activists of Roma and non-Roma origin contribute to the accumulation of testimonies (performances, lectures, readings, and dialogues). Works of art, filmed testimonies, and material ephemera are “left behind” in a spatial intervention, itself an interpretation of a proposal by the artist Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920–2005) for a site to accommodate the nomadic Roma community. This constellation forms a makeshift exhibition on view till 9 October 2011, merging with the daily activities and conferences of the host UNESCO Venice Office.

As an extra-national Pavilion in the context of the national representations at the Venice Biennale, Call the Witness comes to life through contributions by remarkable artists, thinkers, and activists from various parts of the world:

All testimonies become available as they evolve during the Venice Biennale preview days, and can be accessed via the project’s digital platform


Call the Witness builds upon the legacy of Paradise Lost, the First Roma Pavilion (Collateral Event, 52nd Venice Biennale, 2007), which was commissioned by the Open Society Foundations, and recognizes the growing dynamics in discussing and presenting Roma art in relation to the cultural and political urgencies in Europe, not only in regards to its Roma communities, but also in view of the larger issues of the nation and the national, mobility and migration, majority and minority, hospitality and solidarity.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Pack your stuff and get out: "Voluntary" returns of Roma people to Kosovo

Prishtina, Kosovo, 16.5.2011 11:19, (ROMEA)

PHOTO  Deported 23 year old Amir in his social flat in Plementina - with no work and electricity

Visit any Roma mahala or social housing complex in Kosovo and you can be sure to meet several young people who will start speaking fluent German with you - or English, or Swedish. Whether their clothes are clean and ironed, or so dirty and neglected that they themselves are ashamed of it, their conversations reveal their life experiences and the perspective they have gained, a perspective somehow out of sync with the environment and world in which you are meeting them. They all share the same view of life in Kosovo: "This is not life! I cannot remain here." Each of them says this with the same bitter, determined, proud expression on his or her face. Kosovo is not their homeland.

The German-Kosovan agreement

In April 2010, Germany and Kosovo signed an agreement to repatriate 14 000 refugees from Germany to Kosovo, which pledged to take back people who had traveled to Germany during the wars of the 1990s and had never managed to acquire residency there. The vast majority of refugees whom the deportation or displacement from Germany concerned were Roma people (10 000 of them).

This agreement allegedly meets all of the international standards for the treatment of refugees and takes all humanitarian aspects into account, but despite such claims, international organizations concerned with the issues of human rights, migration and refugees (including the Council of Europe) have labeled the current situation unbearable. They base that evaluation on the personal testimonies of the deportees, whether they be several cases of the German authorities committing brutality against refugees during their displacement or the living standards of the refugees after their return to Kosovo. The country is absolutely unprepared to receive and subsequently integrate them, it lacks financial and organizational capacity. The majority of deported Roma people do not enjoy basic rights in Kosovo such as access to education, employment or health care.

Seven months after these agreements were concluded with Kosovo, the Conference of State-Level Interior Ministers in Germany issued a recommendation that the repatriations be restricted to a minimum number of deportees and approved the option for providing these families with residence permits for humanitarian reasons. However, it is up to state-level authorities and local authorities to decide to take advantage of this option. In reality, only a negligible percentage of Roma refugees have succeeded in acquiring residency.

An estimated one-third of the Roma people who were deported from various countries back to Kosovo were returned on a basis of violent, forced deportation. International organizations recommend supporting only voluntary returns.

Residence permits - to be "tolerated" is no victory

During the 1990s, many EU Member States introduced various forms of short-term protection for refugees from the Balkan wars. This protection insured their entitlement to a range of fundamental rights in the host countries. Various national governments then adopted various tools for awarding this protection, establishing various standards for providing such protection and various kinds of access to the fundamental rights.

In Germany, most Roma from Kosovo were living there with the long-term status of a "tolerated individual", which does not ensure the right to legal residency. This is simply a form of suspended deportation, a permit that says "you can remain here for the time being". The "tolerated" are not full members of society and face many restrictions in access to employment, freedom of movement, and social care.

For those who are living in Germany long-term, there is the option of legalizing their residency under certain conditions. A person can acquire a residence permit who has lived in the country for a minimum of eight years, or six if he or she has children. At the same time the person must be able to take care of him or herself and his or her family without depending on social benefits, may not have a criminal record (with a few exceptions), must speak German sufficiently well, and must live in accommodation that conforms to certain standards. His or her children must fulfill their mandatory school attendance.

Only a negligible percentage of Roma people from Kosovo have managed to meet these conditions. The smallest "sin" disqualifies one from a competition in which the main prize is permanent residency in Germany. Even if this concerns temporary dependency on the German social welfare system or losing work through no fault of your own, everything counts.

The nightmare of the "tolerated" Roma person from Kosovo

"Voluntary returns should occur on the basis of truly free and informed decisions." - United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Local authorities are the ones in Germany who decide whom to deport. Deportation should only concern refugees who are unable to prove they have sufficiently integrated. Unfortunately, sometimes even the greatest efforts at integration will not satisfy these authorities.

How does it all work? First you receive a letter calling you to submit proof of your sufficient effort to integrate into Germany society. This starts the phase of "stamp collecting" – even if your are studying, working, or intensively looking for work, the stamps are never enough, or they aren't the right ones. If the proof of integration does not seem sufficient to the local administration, they announce that you are in the country without a legal basis and call on you to leave. During negotiations in person with the authorities, this call also happens to be a warning of the possibility that police will forcibly deport you without notice if you don't leave the country on your own. This admonition has evidently convinced many people to "voluntarily" leave the country.

No small amount of Roma returnees claim to have never received a letter calling on them to leave the country. In short, one morning the police unexpectedly broke into their apartment and took them to the airport. Forced deportations usually occur during the night and early morning hours so police can be sure the entire family is home. Detainees get only a few minutes to pack the most necessary items. Moreover, many of these forced deportations can become "voluntary" if people sign the documents given them before they are taken to the airport. Their signatures confirm they are leaving the country voluntarily.

Many such "voluntary" returns occur under pressure. This can result in the distortion of statistics on the numbers of forcibly deported refugees, which seem rather low compared to the multiple testimonies of forced deportation from those who have been repatriated. Official statistics claim that during the first six months after the signing of the agreement between Germany and the Republic of Kosovo (roughly from April - October 2010), only 87 refugees from all of Germany were forcibly displaced. However, the sheer numbers of deported Roma people contradict these statistics.

Kosovo: Under construction!

It is often claimed that these agreements to repatriate refugees to Kosovo were signed under political pressure from the host countries and that Kosovo is actually not capable of fulfilling such international treaties. In these repatriation cases it is clear the country does not have sufficient financial or organizational capacity, and very often there is no political will on the part of either municipalities or national bodies to ensure the reintegration of refugees into society. The county is not even capable of providing them sufficient living conditions.

One of the obstacles to improving the situation is the very weak connection between the government and the municipalities. Even though the Government of the Republic of Kosovo has adopted a strategy for reintegration refugees that sets forth the responsibilities and roles played by the local authorities and various ministries, the government has taken no further steps to inform the relevant institutions of those responsibilities. Municipalities, on the other hand, keep records of all the refugees living on their territories but do not share this data with the relevant ministries or other higher bodies. The situation remains stuck in place. Returnees are therefore subjected to an economic and social decline which is hard to manage.

Financial aid to the deported? That depends!

There are programs through which Western European countries are providing refugees with a certain form of aid after their return to Kosovo. However, according to the findings of Amnesty International, assistance is often provided randomly. Most refugees received either little or no assistance after returning to Kosovo. On the other hand, four German states (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia) provide their deportees with financial and other practical assistance ( with housing, seeking work, and sometimes aid in start their own businesses) for a period of six months after they have returned. However, according to Amnesty International, this project only covers a few cases and is not providing a permanent solution.


"If something doesn't change, I'll kill myself." Amir, 23, was deported from Bavaria about a year ago. All of his family members, including his girlfriend and their infant daughter, are still there. He announces the likelihood of suicide with such resignation and truthfulness that all one can do in response is to nod with concern. "I cannot return to Germany for a minimum of five years. I have been banned!" Each of his words seems so irreversibly absolute as to be overwhelming. "These guys don't have the slightest idea what life is. This is not life. The children loiter around the building all day because they can't go to school. The men don't have work and will evidently never find any. This is not life!" he says of the friends who live with him in social housing on the outskirts of Plemetina. Unlike Amir, his friends have never known what it is like to live in a Western European country. Until now they have spent almost their entire lives in refugee camps or recently in social housing. They cannot overcome the obstacles around them. It doesn't matter whether a person is capable or not. It doesn't matter how much he or she wants to overcome the obstacles. Here in the country of "Out of Service", only a handful of people escape the lethargy.

The majority of Roma people from Kosovo in Germany have lived there for more than 10 years. They consider it their homeland, they established a foothold there through hard work, overcoming discrimination. It was not easy to integrate there. Children who grew up in Germany or were born there know no other home. Suddenly they are faced the obligation of leaving the country. There are currently approximately 5 000 Roma children and young people who could be deported from Germany next.

Zdenka Kainarová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert