Wednesday, August 31, 2011



Josef Banom: When "patriots" sing the Czech national anthem, I go cold
Prague, 31.8.2011 04:34, (ROMEA)
"Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", German soldiers sang as they invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. They were patriots singing their national anthem, and they weren't afraid to lay down their lives for their homeland. It didn't matter that others died as well - they weren't Germans, after all…

History teaches us that the worst, most violent crimes are those in which the perpetrators do their best to excuse themselves as serving a higher principle. In the case of Christian and Muslim extremists, that higher principle is religion. In the case of neo-Nazis and racists, it's patriotism. Racists exploit an otherwise praiseworthy characteristic - love for one's home country - to play on their one well-known xenophobic note and promote the fear of those considered the enemy.

In the case of the Czechs, the enemy has been the "inadaptable Roma" - and now it is starting to look like not only "inadaptable" ones, but all Roma.

The evidence of how effective the racists' manipulative media campaign has been was Friday's demonstration against "inadaptables" in Rumburk. Careerists and racists exploited the presence of one-quarter of the town's residents; their calls for a "solution" to the question of "inadaptables" played on the "patriotic" feelings of the 1 500 otherwise probably respectable people who had been brainwashed by an anti-Roma media campaign. They even sang the national anthem, degrading it to the level of a song by the neo-Nazi band Orlík. Does no one care that the anthem has been abused?

Friday's demonstration had nothing to do with any sort of legitimate protest against crime.

Instead, it targeted all Roma generally. How else can we explain the shouts of “Gypsies get to work”, which spit in the face of all respectable Romani people? What is my father, who worked very hard all of his life in Bohemia, to think of this? What about my father-in-law, who paved the streets in Ústí nad Labem and the surrounding area for more than 40 years? What about that other relative of mine who is a policeman in Ústí nad Labem, or an acquaintance who works at a nursery school as a tutor? Or my other acquaintance, who works as the boss of a travel agency - or my niece, who is a manager in a telecommunications company?

What about all the other Romani people working in the Black and Decker factory in Trmice?

Those people, even though their ethnicity is an almost insurmountable barrier in the Czech environment, are doing the best they can nevertheless. Are they also just "Gypsies"?
Shouting “Gypsies get to work” is not only a a mockery of them and the thousands of other Romani people who do work, it is also a mockery of those who would like to work but can't because there are not enough job opportunities - and because of the racist approach of Czech employers. Respectable people - and it's all the same what your skin color is - you must understand that you are becoming the tools of those whose ideology is that of interpersonal hatred and whose aim is to establish a fascist dictatorship, which is extremely similar to the dictatorship of communism. Czechs have experienced more than enough of both kinds already.

Friday's demonstration ended with no physical injuries, even though some people tried to attack a Romani residence. Thanks to the presence of the police, no one was injured. However, people are now asking themselves: What will happen once the police are no longer there? Will Judge Lynch be presiding in the Bohemia of the 21st century?
Josef Banom, translated by Gwendolyn Albert


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A last ditch effort to stop the eviction at the High Courts has just been turned down. This means that anytime after midnight tonight, Dale Farm could face the bulldozers. Dale Farm residents are defiant, refusing to leave their homes, and supporters from the UK and across Europe are standing with them.

An eviction attempt is expected anytime in September.

Please come to Camp Constant at Dale Farm to spend some nights here and sign up to the sms eviction alert system at .

Dale Farm is only 30 minutes by train from London Liverpool Street Station. The atmosphere at Dale Farm is inspiring -- for some video of residents and supporters celebrating and learning together, see

This weekend at Dale Farm:

On Saturday, Sept 3rd, noon: Jewish Solidarity visit --

it's important that cultures with a shared history of oppression support each other when our fundamental human rights face being breached. That is why this Saturday, Jewish rabbis, citizens and activists will be on a special blockade in support of residents at Dale Farm.

There is a workshop, on Sunday Sept. 4th, 2pm: Freedom of Movement and the Right to Stay!

This is the rallying cry for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers and of migrants throughout the world. A common thread of persecution, of forbidden lands, eviction and deportation connect the struggles for migrant rights and the rights of Gypsies and Travellers. These realities have met dramatically in the crack-down and deportations of Roma people from France and Italy. Come to the Workshop organised by No One Is Illegal and London No Borders including a speaker who is an activist in Amnesty International's campaign against the persecution of Roma in Europe.

TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THE DEMO: Sat, 10th Sept, 1pm, see here for more information and email: to add your group’s support to the list…

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


There is an very good petition by Amnesty International which anyone can sign at
The petition goes to the relevant people on Basildon Council plus Bob Neil MP, Dept for Communities and local govt.

Monday, August 29, 2011



PHOTO: Czech fascists harass and attack Roma people

Ethnic Czechs in Rumburk planning more anti-Romani actions, Roma are arming themselves because police are inactive

Rumburk, 27.8.2011 11:39, (ROMEA)

Tensions between ethnic Czechs and Romani people in Rumburk have increased after yesterday's assembly and the subsequent unannounced march through the town. Police stood by and watched as a group of ethnic Czechs marched through the town chanting anti-Romani slogans and looking for Romani people to attack.

The mob eventually attacked a building where Romani people live. Only then did police push the aggressors back.

The nearby town of Varnsdorf experienced a much calmer assembly, but according to information directly from the scene, ethnic Czechs want to take to the streets today as well. Local Roma are responding to the police inaction by starting to arm themselves.

Two incidents this month served to spark the current crisis in North Bohemia. The first, which took place 7 August, involved Romani customers of a gaming room in Nový Bor attacking the other customers and staff with machetes. Two weeks later, a group of 18 Romani people beat up six ethnic Czechs. As payback, four ethnic Czechs then brutally beat up an innocent Romani man with baseball bats in front of his pregnant girlfriend. Prior to all of these incidents, in July and early August, ethnic Czechs committed two arson attacks against Romani people living in Býchory and Krty.

Czech Television reports that protests can be expected on Saturday and in the days to come. According to local people, radical demonstrators in Rumburk are organizing and allegedly preparing revenge for the violence. They may be supported by extremists from other parts of the republic.

Czech Television reports that right-wing radicals were sending SMS messages to one another arguing over how to organize even more extreme unrest. They allegedly want to revenge the attacks committed by Romani perpetrators against local non-Romani residents. For the time being, a proper "kickoff" is being prevented by the large media attention given to the region during the past few days. "Cars are driving past and yelling to me that journalists should leave so 'it can properly start'," an editor reported directly from the scene on Friday.



Czech Republic: Romani residents protest in Rumburk against yesterday's pogromRumburk, 27.8.2011 18:05, (ROMEA)

Approximately 30 Romani people in Rumburk have met on the square to protest against yesterday's unprecedented behavior by a mob of ethnic Czechs who marched through the town and did their best to attack local Roma without police intervening. The mob attacked a Roma-occupied home and destroyed a fence surrounding it.
"We are protesting against what happened here yesterday," a demonstrator on the square told Czech Television. The man also said many families had fled Rumburk prior to the mob's spree yesterday.




29/08/2011 -

Dale Farm residents are going to attend a high court hearing on Wednesday (31 August) in a final bid to stop the bulldozing of their homes.

They are calling on supporters join them outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in the Strand, London, at 12 noon.

"This is our last chance to appeal to a judge to stop the eviction", said Kathleen McCarthy.

"We hope British justice will see fit to save us from this act of ethnic-cleansing."

Final notice to quit their land at Dale Farm, Basildon,Essex, expires at midnight on Wednesday.



This is a last-minute, urgent plea from a fellow councillor, urging Basildon Council to stop all shameful plans to evict travellers from Dale Farm.

As you know, some 96 families have lived there since the '70s, having been advised by John Major to buy land. This was done, but sadly some planning permission refused. No other possible provision has been suggested for alternative sites and Travellers' own applications ignored. Yet their site was a former scrap-yard in industrial use- not green belt, as argued.
After 31st August I gather that some 400 will lose their homes and the council proposes to cut off water and electricity- a very serious violation of human rights, as Amnesty International has argued.

What will happen to the sick, small children and elderly residents?

As a diabetic, former teacher, I understand how difficult it would be without a permanent address to gain essential, life-saving medical facilities or a place for children in school. 

Travellers are already hugely disadvantaged in terms of health and education at the 'best of times'.
While aware that many local authorities have failed to meet their legal obligations or even recommended targets for sites, the fact remains that this would be a brutal eviction of a very vulnerable minority group, already discriminated against, at the enormous cost of £18m. I urge you, even at this late stage, to halt the plans to evict, renegotiate and come to a mutually agreeable solution for culturally appropriate sites. 

Otherwise, it will be a shameful blot on Basildon Council's reputation.
Jean Clark (Harlow councillor)


There is very interesting history to the caravan sites situation in England. 

In 1968, The Caravan Sites Act required the establishment of 400 sites for Romani and Travellers throughout England.

This seemed positive until it was realized that the act made it ILLEGAL for Romani and Travellers to stop anywhere BUT
designated sites.

Over time Romani and Travellers began to purchase land because it was apparent that the number of available sites was totally inadequate.

As the situation at Dale Farm, and all through England show, the majority community will not respect the rights of the Romani/Traveller community, neither the rights to travel, nor to settle.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't........


Sunday, August 28, 2011



Lynch mob besets Romani neighborhood, Czech Police let them

Rumburk, 26.8.2011 20:40, (ROMEA)

Rumburk has been the scene of unrest today despite the supposed efforts of authorities to keep the peace. The "Civic Resistance" (Občanský odpor) association, which is linked to someone who has previously organized neo-Nazi events in the town, convened a demonstration for today which the town hall banned. However, the Czech Social Democratic party has held its own public meeting at the same time and same place (17:00 CET) on the topic of security in the Šluknov foothills.

Approximately 800 people attended the officially permitted gathering. The crowd was cool toward Czech MP Foldyna (ČSSD), with some even whistling their disapproval of him. Czech Senator Sykáček (ČSSD), who is also mayor, was whistled away from the podium almost immediately. Josef Mašín, a representative of "Civic Resistance", then took the microphone. The crowd responded to him enthusiastically, with thunderous applause at moments. His speech was a copy of the speeches previously given by members of the Workers' Social Justice Party (Demokratická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) in the towns of Krupka and Nový Bydžov earlier this year. He repeated the ubiquitous lie that the law is not being applied to everyone equally and that police are "minimizing the criminal activity of minorities". He also said local police do not investigate crime because they fear Romani people. His speech lasted eight minutes.

An unidentified demonstrator then plowed through the crowd, reached the microphone, and called for the lynching of the Roma. People set out into the streets as police stood by. When the demonstration was officially over, part of the crowd started marching to the locality where local Romani people live. This provocative march had not been announced to authorities in advance and had not been permitted as part of the demonstration, but that evidently did not bother the police, who did not even bother to accompany the crowd as it proceeded.


19:42 Police have completely underestimated the situation and are calling for reinforcements to come to Rumburk, reports news server Dení An aggressive crowd is assembling near the Roma homes.

19:33 Police officers are preventing news server correspondents from doing their job. "We were photographing police officers arresting someone and officers wearing numbers 231340 and 318031 started preventing us from doing so even though we showed them our press passes. They are preventing us from reporting on what is going on here," our correspondent reports.

19:12 The crowd is back on the town square.

19:06 Aggressive ethnic Czechs have thrown tree branches at the Roma home. Czech Television reports that stones were thrown. Police have not intervened. The crowd is again on the move.

18:59 Ethnic Czechs have begun destroying public property. News server Dení reports they have trampled a fence on the property of a Roma home.

18:50 - News server Dení says police have finally intervened and started to disperse the ethnic Czechs.

18:48 - Our correspondent on the scene reports that one of the neo-Nazi marchers is wearing a firearm. Neo-Nazi marchers are now surrounding a Roma home. They are violating the law and restricting the Romani residents in their movements. Police are not intervening. The Romani residents are not responding to the provocation.

18:35 - News server Dení reports someone has thrown a shoe out of a building where Romani people live.

18:31 - The unauthorized march is still proceeding through Rumburk chanting anti-Romani slogans. One member of the police anti-conflict team has told our correspondent on the scene that police officers will not intervene

18:24 - Local daily Děčínský deník reports that the gathering in Varnsdorf is now over. About 250 people were there. Organizer Lukáš Kohout is promising a march through the town on Wednesday 31 August.

18:15 - Our correspondent reports that several hundred demonstrators have returned to the Roma locality and are shouting anti-Roma, generalizing slogans. "There is not a single police officer in the crowd or on the horizon, not even a traffic cop, to say nothing of riot officers," he reports.

18.05 - Our correspondent reports that some of the demonstrators set out for the Roma locality, but that most of them soon returned, because the residents of the apartment buildings were holed up inside and no one was on the street. Police allowed those people, fired up by the call to lynching, to get all the way to the Roma homes without any police presence on hand.

17:41 - Demonstrators have set off into the streets as police watch.

17:33 - The daily Děčín deník reports that a demonstrator has jumped onto the podium and started screaming into the microphone that people should take up pickaxes and pitchforks and take to the streets to address the situation themselves. The microphone was taken away from him.

17:30 - Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna has ended the assembly and called on people to disperse. They first whistled at him, now they are singing the national anthem.

17:22 - Our correspondent from Rumburk reports that half of the town square has whistled down Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna. Josef Zoser (Hnutí nezávislých za harmonický rozvoj měst a obcí - the Movement of Independents for the Harmonious Development of Towns and Cities), who is the Mayor of Jiřetín pod Jedlovou and chair of the Šluknov Municipal Association, told the crowd: "We want the perpetrators to be published as soon as possible. We don't want our wires cut and holes everywhere from missing sewer hatches." People booed Mayor of Rumburk Jaroslav Sykáček and wouldn't let him speak. Organizers then permitted a member of the extremist "Civic Resistance" (Občanský odpor) organization to speak, who was applauded for repeating the usual lie that there is a double standard in place that favors the Roma.

17:21 - According to the daily Děčín deník, more than 200 people are also out in the town of Varnsdorf for an unauthorized demonstration. After half an hour they were angered by a speech given by a Romani activist and started to make their disagreement with him known loudly. Riot police officers barricaded the entrance to the town hall and there has not been any violence there yet. Most of the crowd is comprised of local people who emphasized at the start of the rally that they do not hate Romani people but that they want crime addressed.

17:01 - The daily Děčín deník reports that people are turning up on the square in Rumburk who were present during the attempted pogrom on a Romani-occupied housing estate in Janov in 2008. Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna (ČSSD) and Mayor Jaroslav Sykáček (ČSSD) are on the scene. People have torn down one of the police tapes lining the square. The number of demonstrators is growing.

16:58 - About 300 people have gathered on the square. Our correspondent doesn't see any larger group of right-wing extremists, just individual extremists.

16:22 - Police President Petr Lessy, who has been visiting Šluknov district, is convinced the police will succeed. "We'll see how many demonstrators come, but we'll handle the situation," Lessy said. He is aware that many demonstrations are planned for today in the foothills, both announced ones and unannounced ones.

16:09 - Riot police are preparing for a possible intervention.

15:19 - Police have brought in a special Tatra 815 truck with a water cannon.

15:19 - Traffic police are monitoring the situation, including the trains. A police helicopter is also monitoring.

15:08 - More than 200 police officers will be on patrol today, according to police spokesperson Petra Trypesová.

15:01 - There are barricades on the square. Some shopkeepers are boarding up their display windows. Only a few people are here so far.

14:58 - Police are patrolling the border with Germany and searching cars driving into Rumburk from Děčín.

14:42 - Instead of "Civic Resistance" (Občanský odpor), which is linked to right-wing extremists, today's gathering in Rumburk is being organized by the Czech Social Democrats
14:30 - For the time being, concerns that Rumburk might be invaded by racists have not been confirmed. At around 13:00 it was still calm in the town. Local Romani people, however, are afraid, and there are rumors in town that neo-Nazis from Germany will attend. Local Roma prevented the staff of news server from filming them because they do not want to become the targets of attack. Czech Police are patrolling the town and police vans are arriving on the main streets.

Local people in Rumburk reported earlier today that right-wing, ethnic Czech extremists were allegedly organizing and planning further attacks there with the support of others from around the republic. A public meeting was supposed to take place there at 21:00 CET this evening.

Fortunately, no attacks on any Romani people have occurred yet. Shortly after 21:00 CET the meeting location was occupied only by riot police and about 15 ethnic Czechs who were there out of curiosity.

Police officers escorted them away from the scene.
The streets of Rumburk are calm for the time being.

A reporter for news server says small groups of unsatisfied locals are moving through the streets and some are cruising the town in cars.

"However, there are no Romani people on the streets at all because they are afraid of additional attacks and threats," news server reports.
ROMEA, Czech Television, Mediafax,, translated by Gwendolyn AlbertROMEA

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Yoshka Pundrik on the pending eviction of traveller families at Dale Farm


PHOTO Dale Farm resident Barbara Sheridan cooking in her caravan. Credit: Mary Turner

When David Cameron was asked at Prime Ministers' Questions in March by Tory MP John Baron about the threatened eviction of 86 Traveller families from Dale Farm in Essex - now scheduled to take place at the end of August - the Prime Minister remarked that many feel ‘there is one law that applies to everybody else and, on too many occasions, another law that applies to Travellers’.

Indeed there is, but not in the way Cameron sees it. According to the Commission for Racial Equality, more than 90 per cent of Traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20 per cent overall. In fact, many Gypsies and Travellers in the UK are trapped in a web of overlapping, systemic failures to respect their customs and preferences. This is compounded by lingering racism (a 2004 Mori poll revealed that one third of the public admit to being personally prejudiced against Gypsies and Travellers) and the legacy of years of exclusion. The Prime Minister’s comments betray a failure to acknowledge, and comprehend, the challenges facing this community.

Government legislation, planning restrictions and sale of public land have decimated the number of safe and legal stopping places for Gypsies and Travellers. The estimated 20 per cent of Gypsy and Traveller families without a legal place to stop often have to prioritise finding appropriate sites over health and education concerns, resulting in higher child mortality rates and lowered life expectancy.

Attempts to purchase land for themselves, such as that made by the Dale Farm residents, face insurmountable obstacles: applications are opposed by local residents, sometimes vociferously.

We’ve seen this at Meriden in Warwickshire and expect to see the same as Dale Farm residents continue to try to find a legal place to live.

Dale Farm itself is officially greenbelt land, but was a scrapyard when a group of residents bought it and turned it into a home for their families. Half the site has planning permission, the other half, home to about 500 people, does not. It is this half of the site that faces demolition by bailiffs Constant & Co. If recent evictions at other local sites are any indication, the operation is likely to be brutal and executed without regard for people’s possessions, safety or human rights under the law. The Council of Europe has already expressed concern about the UK’s approach in this case - and about Constant & Co in particular.

So determined are Basildon District Council to go through with the eviction that they haven't been put off by the costs, which stand at an estimated £18 million including £10 million for policing. They've asked the Home Office for £6 million towards this policing bill: the Home Secretary, Theresa May, might actually make UK taxpayers foot the bill for this unnecessary eviction. Furthermore, as Rita Izsák, UN Independent Expert on minority issues, said to the UN News Centre: ‘The irony of this case is that these costs do not appear to include the provision of adequate alternative accommodation for the evicted families, which are soon to be rendered homeless.’

Against the backdrop of austerity Britain, the expense is even harder to comprehend. We've been asked to pay for the financial crisis caused by the banks, and now we're being asked to pay in order to deliberately make people homeless. And pay dearly - 100 Basildon Council jobs are likely to be axed to help the local authority cope with budget cuts which will leave it £2.3 million short. Playing fields are being sold off to developers. The green belt is being destroyed in order to supposedly protect it from Travellers. They are also cutting £505,000 to disabled services. The Council wants vulnerable people in the settled community to suffer in order to make Travelling people suffer. When we can find £18 million to evict families from land they own, but can't find the funds to keep nurseries, libraries and youth centres open, something has gone terribly wrong.

The most ridiculous part? Dale Farm Travellers have offered to leave at no cost to the Council, they just need somewhere to go. John Baron and David Cameron say the evictions are upholding the law, but the law isn't being applied equally. The Council demands that Travellers move to authorised pitches, whilst refusing to make any available... It’s almost like it’s one rule for the rest, and another rule for the Travellers.

Yoshka Pundrik is a member of Basildon Uncut and Dale Farm Solidarity. For more information see

Thursday, August 25, 2011


The Letter of Support from European Romani Union (ERU)
25/08/2011 - As the representatives of the European Romani Union (ERU) we are writing this letter of support to our brothers who are strugling nowdays for their basic rights to choose the living place for themselves and their children.
Given that the inhabitants of Dale Farm are legal owners of land where they settled their camp and that the environment in which they reside has been improved and beautified by their own efforts, we simply cannot see one single reasonable reason for the pressure that the authorities in England carry out nowdays toward Roma and Travelers community, denying them water and electricity and keeping them under terrible siege.
The whole story recolls on the worst time of lower races ghettoization by the Aryans who felt unpleasantness having Gypsies in their neighborhood who have been spoiling their nice view from the balconies.
The arrogance with which the government treats the residents of Dale Farm is reelly shocking and disturbing, especially when it comes to the sick and elderly among this vulnerable population.
In conclusion, as the ERU we raise our voice against any violation especially when it comes from the part of the state and aims to endanger vital interest of the minor groups, in this case Roma and Traveler group in England, and also we strongly support the idea of organizing protest camp planned for the 27th of August as the legitimate right of Dale Farm inhabitants who have no other possibility to protect their homes.
Dear brothers as we are not able to be with you at the same place during your protest, we want you to know that we support you with all our hearts and that we are with you in the same spirit.
Dr. Rajko Djuric, President of ERU
Dragoljub Ackovic, General Secretary of ERU

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This story is part of an AlertNet special report on statelessness

By Megan Rowling

LONDON (AlertNet) - European governments should grant citizenship to stateless Roma who have resided in their countries for several years or more, beginning with children who were born there, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights said in an interview.

Thomas Hammarberg said Roma who have no nationality, or lack papers to prove it, are even more vulnerable to the social and economic exclusion that affects the wider Roma community, Europe's largest minority group.

"All Roma in Europe are discriminated against, and the average (Roma) is much behind the average population when it comes to a lot of social indicators – education, employment and housing," the commissioner told AlertNet. Their life expectancy is 10 years lower than other European Union citizens, he added.

"If they are either not registered at all with the authorities or are stateless, they are disabled further," said Hammarberg, who is mandated by the Council of Europe to advocate for human rights in its 47 states. The council promotes rights and democracy within Europe.

Without personal identity documents, stateless Roma may be refused hospital treatment, and in some countries, their children cannot gain entry to schools, Hammarberg said.

The break-up of the former Czechoslovakia in 1993 and the former Yugoslavia in 1995 left some Roma without nationality because the successor states regarded them as belonging elsewhere, and introduced legislation that denied them citizenship.

In other cases, Roma did not register in the newly created countries because they missed deadlines or had fled to other parts of the region.

The Kosovo conflict at the end of the 1990s also drove many to leave without official proof of their nationality, making them de facto stateless.

There are no reliable data on the number of stateless Roma, but Hammarberg estimates they could make up at least 70,000-80,000 of a total Roma population of 11.3 million in Europe. Many live in Italy and southeastern Europe, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Macedonia.

Roma, a widely dispersed group originally from India, are often denied basic human rights and are made victims of flagrant racism.


Often when stateless Roma who have migrated to another country have children, they are not registered at birth despite being entitled to citizenship under international rights agreements.

"I think there are real hidden statistics there," Hammarberg said.

The commissioner said stateless Roma who have settled in a host country for seven to eight years or more should be granted citizenship there, starting with their children.

"I think the new country should recognise them and take responsibility – they have no chance to go back without real problems," he said.

Many of those who fled upheaval in the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo have been living in their adopted nations for at least 10 years.

For Roma without proof of identity in their states of origin like Kosovo, where some have tried and failed to obtain copies of lost documents from municipalities, the system should be simplified, Hammarberg said.

It should allow them to declare who they are and their situation, corroborated by two or three witnesses, and then to receive official papers, he proposed.

Few states have taken concrete steps to address the issue. In 1999, the Czech Republic amended a citizenship law that had made tens of thousands of Roma stateless, helping alleviate the problem there.

The commissioner also cautioned politicians against whipping up public enmity towards the Roma - sometimes called gypsies - ahead of elections, as in Italy this May, and making them scapegoats in anti-immigration policies, as in France.

In July 2010, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the dismantling of 300 illegal camps of travellers and Roma across France, and the immediate expulsion of Roma from Bulgaria and Romania who had committed public order offences.

Hammarberg urged European politicians to promote deeper understanding of the Roma plight by explaining their troubled history, but acknowledged this was a challenge in tough economic circumstances.

"It is a very bad time now," he said. "If we could at least ask the politicians not to exploit the latent prejudices against the Roma.”


PHOTO  Roma girl looks out of her home window as members and supporters of the Hungarian radical right-wing party Jobbik march to demonstrate against what they call "gypsy crime" in Hejoszalonta, 170 km (106 miles) east of Budapest, April 2, 2011. REUTERS. Laszlo Balogh




24 August 2011
Prague, Aug 23 (CTK) - Czech university students of Romany ethnicity met experts from the Together to School NGO in the American Centre in Prague yesterday to discuss problems and obstacles they face as students and also changes in the school system.

This was the first meeting of this kind ever held in the Czech Republic.

The participants want to formulate the meeting's conclusions in an appeal to be addressed to Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) and Education Minister Josef Dobes (Public Affairs, VV), Anna Pechova, from Together to School, told reporters.

She would not elaborate on the planned appeal.

Renata Berkyova a student of Romany studies, who participated in the meeting yesterday, said Romany students choose mainly social and humanity branches and those focusing on social work from among university programmes.

Only very few of them choose natural sciences, technical branches or chemistry, she said.
Tomas Scuka, a Police Academy student, said study environment is the most important for Romany students.

Branches such as Romany studies mean a "safe environment" while other branches raise Romany students' fears of factors such as discrimination and other people's reactions, Scuka said.

Berkyova said Romanies also prefer study branches focused on social affairs within their efforts to help their community.

She said she has never been a target of discrimination as a Romany studies student.

At the elementary and secondary schools they approached me as an exotic creature, but at the university I'm an object the others have an opportunity to research," she said.

She said some 12 to 15 people study the branch at Prague's Charles University in each of the four grades. About a third of them are Romanies.

Statistics do not monitor the number of Romanies studying at universities.

It is estimated that some 2 percent of Czech Romanies are university graduates, which is several times less than in the majority population.

The organisers of yesterday's meeting said the problem rests mainly in the education of Romany kids at their pre-school age, and in the fact that a number of Romany first graders end up unjustifiedly in special schools for children with learning difficulties.

"It is impossible to advance to a university from a special school," said another participant, Daniel Stano.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011



We look forward to seeing everyone August 27th at Dale Farm for a long weekend of workshops, skillsharing, and celebration!

This marks the start of Camp Constant, our human rights monitoring center that residents of Dale Farm have encouraged us to set up --

They have been given until midnight, August 31st to abandon their homes or face the bulldozers, and we will be maintaining a constant presence at Dale Farm in solidarity with them.

See for more details.

The eviction is expected sometime in September, and keeping a constant presence there does cost money.
If you or anyone you know can make a donation, please do so here:

Even small amounts help, and please forward this request to your friends or any lists you are on. And most importantly, come down to Dale Farm for the Solidarity Weekend Aug. 27-29th, or sign up to spend some nights there in September

There is more background information on Dale Farm in older blogs on this site.

Sunday, August 21, 2011



Exactly one year after France expelled thousand of Roma back to Bulgaria and Romania, Press TV came to this much symbolic street called “New life” to see if anything's changed.

Georgiev, a gypsy himself, says he's sick and tired of politicians who intentionally keep Roma in ghettos to absorb EU funds, use money for other purposes, and eventually blame failed integration on Roma's alleged laziness and criminal behavior.

To set an example, he's established a foundation in this Roma neighborhood in Sofia, and is now hosting a Roma summer school.

This teacher tells us that if everyone leaves prejudice aside, they will see there's absolutely no difference between Bulgarian and Roma kids. Moreover, while Bulgarian kids are enjoying a long summer break, this Roma girl tells us she prefers the classroom to the playground.

That's splendid, Brussels officials say, seeing these, however, as isolated cases.

But mere recognition won't solve the problem.

A few months ago the European Commission gave all members a deadline until the end of 2011 to draw effective inclusion strategies for the 12 million Roma living in Europe. But time is running out, and what actions do they take?

By “curb them” the minister means “expel more Roma”, as he cites data that 80% of all crimes in Paris are committed by East European Roma. “We had planned 28,000 repatriations in 2011, but after recent evaluations of the problem's magnitude we'll raise the number," he said.

In its latest report on Europe's largest ethnic minority, the UN slams EU countries, saying that “in such key areas as housing, employment, education and health care, all the evidence demonstrates that Roma remain in desperate circumstances at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder."

Taking all of these into account, EU states are conducting what some call a “modern-day genocide”. Experts say because of governmental reluctance and inaction Roma are doomed to survive through staggering poverty, starvation, social isolation and criminal environment. That's why they are often referred to as “The Forgotten People of Europe”.



Esma and Ensemble Teodosievski
On a rare tour to North America, their only Northwest stop will be in Seattle.

Esma at the Crocodile

Dear friends, It is with great excitement I write to you about this fantastic event that will be happening in Seattle on September 25th, 2011. Esma Redzepova and Ensemble Teodisoievski will be on a rare tour of North America, and we have managed to convince them to come to Seattle and play at the Crocodile cafe. For many of you The "Queen of Gypsy music" needs no introduction, but on the off chance that you are not familiar with Esma, here is an article from NPR which will give you somebackground.

The Crocodile is a 21+ venue, and tickets are 20$ adv, available here. Because their music is so special, we have programmed this evening to begin not with an opening band, but with a short talk by Morgan Ahern and Shon Paramush who are part of the organization Lolo Diklo : Rromani Against Racism. We hope we'll see you at the show.


Untempered Productions

Zina Pozen and Marchette DuBois have begun a joint venture into producing music concerts in Seattle. Our goal is to bring world-class musicians from around the globe here, and to foster a feeling of community and well-being in the process. We are calling this new adventure "Untempered Productions".


Friday, August 19, 2011




Czech Republic: Victimized Romani family still living in fear

The small village of Krty near Jesenice (Rakovník district) is pretty and neat. You can tell the locals and their political representatives take care of the environment in which they live. The town hall is open until 6:30 PM, since the mayor works at another job during the day. The pub next door doesn't open on weekdays until 5 PM, with the exception of Fridays. A pretty little chapel stands across the street from the town hall.

Until 10 August, when a Molotov cocktail attack was committed against one of the local Romani families, this little village was unknown to the media. The attack was the third on a Romani family in the country in the past month, two of which used arson. The Molotov cocktail landed on a cot in the bedroom where the family's daughter, aged one year and six months, normally sleeps. On the night in question, she was fortunately sleeping with her parents in the adjoining bed. A total of 12 people, including children and a pregnant woman, were in the house at the time.

Local people, led by the mayor, have condemned the attack and are asking who is behind it. Was it a local person? Someone from a neighboring village or from Jesenice? Are extremist groups coming all the way to Rakovník district now?

"Naturally we can't know who did this, but I firmly believe police will investigate. We are all like family here, so I would rule out anyone local having done this.

The family who were attacked have lived here 20 years and there has never been any conflict with them," said Vice-Mayor Jan Brda.

"Hello - could you please tell us where the people live who recently got that bottle thrown through their window?“ we ask an older man, who willingly shows us how to get there. The single-family home was built on railway property just a few meters away from the tracks as part of Krty's train station.

"The problem may be," says the father of the victimized family, "that at the time the perpetrators attacked there was a fair taking place in the next village. Many outsiders rode through here that day on the train to go to the fair, and any of them could have seen our children playing in the garden and realized Romani people live here. Maybe one of them tracked us down. The bottle couldn't have been thrown from a train though, because the last train runs at 11:30 PM and the attack happened at 1 AM."

The father went on to say that almost anyone could have committed the attack. "The investigators haven't told us anything, they came on the day it happened and returned shortly afterward, maybe twice. They haven't been here since. At least uniformed police officers have been on patrol here ever since, they drive or walk by several times a day, including during the evening. They had no reason to come here before the attack."

Street lights are once again staying on all night in the vicinity of the single-family home, which was previously not the case. In order to save money, the lights had been turned off between 1 and 4 AM.

The father of the family is still walking with an enormous limp and using crutches. A bandage extends from the sole of his right foot up to the ankle. All of his toes and his entire instep were singed as a result of the Molotov cocktail being thrown into the bedroom and his putting out the fire.

Physical injuries are far from the only result of the attack, however. The family has mainly been affected psychologically. All of its members are now living in great fear and sleeping poorly. "The little one keeps waking up and crying, she saw the flames from up close and our response while we were putting the fire out definitely scared her," says the grandmother of the little girl.

When we ask a young woman in the advanced stages of pregnancy whether her child will be a boy or a girl, she tells us it will be a boy. She was not sleeping in the bedroom where the Molotov cocktail landed, but is understandably also afraid. "During the day I saw a man standing near our fence. When I went outside, he turned around and quickly disappeared. We have no idea who did this. We're afraid it might happen again, so we're taking turns standing guard at night. I'm sleeping poorly. I go to bed at 9 but I wake up again after three hours and can't get back to sleep," the expectant mother said.

Even though the single-family home belongs to Czech Railways, the village has showed its goodwill by paying for new window panes and securing the windows with protective sheeting. "We want them to feel safer," Mayor Rambousek said.

Until the new panes are ready, the family has taken provisional measures, placing a blanket beneath the window. Should someone decide to repeat the attack, they will be able to respond quickly and put the fire out with it.

Police are investigating the case as attempted grievous bodily harm for now. If convicted, the perpetrator would face between five and 12 years in prison. "We are working intensively on the case. We have not arrested anyone yet," said Soňa Budská, spokesperson for the Central Bohemian Police, without giving further details.

The family does not want to move. "Where would we go?" asks another resident of the home, a younger man. "My girlfriend and I left town once, but after a while we returned. It's not better anywhere else - rather the opposite.“

We take leave of the family, who warmly wish us well. Džesina, their young German shepherd, makes the most noise when we go, her barking accompanying us as we head for the square.
František Kostlán, Jitka Votavová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert ROMEA

Wednesday, August 17, 2011





By Kimmo Oksanen

Again I had to close my eyes, because I couldn’t bear the sight of what I was seeing.
“Roma and trash to be sent away from Kalasatama”, the headline in a free-distribution newspaper declared.
“City uses skip to speed up departure of beggars”, was another headline that hit me in the face.

Don’t these editors and journalists think at all? For decades, the media in Finland has not had anything to say about Finnish Roma unless a crime has been involved. “Roma = crime” the headlines proclaim.
Now it seems that Roma equals trash – waste.

Hidden racism, the unquestioned point of view of officials, and the familiar, unchecked clichés of Roma beggars build an increasingly robust space for racism, pillar by pillar, and story by story.
In a survey of journalism students these young do-gooders stated almost unanimously that uncovering wrongdoing and fighting injustice were reasons why they went into their chosen profession.
Once at work they do not seem to be interested in any deeper story than whether or not the Roma left Kalasatama, or if they came back, and to wonder what will be seen the following week.

Events at Kalasatama are followed in a detatched manner – quite superficially, without going into causes or effects, and without questioning the writer’s own pen.
One can imagine that a reason that might be given for this would be a lack of time and resources – there isn’t enough time and there aren’t enough journalists. So then, don’t publish anything?
Social porn is distributed in buses, the metro, and at transport hubs. One instalment follows another, and the papers do not bother to put a single question to themselves, or to their readers.

The fate of the poorest people in Europe is offered to the readers as if it were a soap opera. The misery of the Roma has only entertainment value.

Racism is spreading its mycelium and Europe remains silent without blinking an eye.
One word would be enough: Stop!
Let’s put that in our minds, and in the headlines.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.8.2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011



Interview with Slovak sociologist about Romani unemployment

This fall, the long-term unemployed in Slovakia may lose half of their family allowance benefits. The change is being proposed by Ludvík Kanika and other MPs from the SDKÚ-DS party (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union - Democratic Party). The Slovak Parliament will decide whether to pass their amendment in the fall. The MPs are defending the move by arguing that the "breeding" of children should not be a money-making activity. However, many critics object that the new legislation would primarily discriminate against the Romani people whom it would most affect.

Sociologist Zuzana Kusá (54) of the Slovak Academy of Sciences claims Slovakia's problem lies in a lack of jobs, not in high welfare benefits. The following interview with her was first published by Slovak news server

Q: Why are you objecting to reductions in the family allowance benefits for the long-term unemployed?

A: I am basing my objection on international studies which show that when household income is too low, it paralyzes people, depriving them of the capacity to lead a normal life. It is absurd to presume such a step would motivate people to work. Exactly the opposite will happen - they will fall into even greater lethargy. The Slovak reformers refuse to recognize this. Welfare benefits in Slovakia today are so low that those receiving them are unable to live decently no matter what they do. A further reduction to their support will just intensify their misery and completely deprive them of the ability to take advantage of any opportunities life might present them.

Q: Ludvík Kaníka claims these people will do anything to work once their benefits are lower. Is that not the case?

A: That is simply a mistaken vision without any basis in actual experience. Kaníka proposed this already in 2004, when his radical reductions in the per-child benefit for households in material distress prompted a mass uprising among Romani people. Did you see all of the long-term unemployed start working then? Probably not, because there were no jobs to be had. The problem is the lack of jobs. You can take away all of their benefits, but if there are no jobs to be had, the result will be zero - or downright tragic.

Q: Is it possible that reducing welfare would strengthen the mobility of the labor force and motivate them to seek work in large cities or abroad?

A: It doesn't work that way. You can only leave your home to work if you have some money. Even if a long-term unemployed person finds work, let's say, in Bratislava, where will he or she live? The majority of these people are unqualified, they will only make the minimum wage, and with that kind of income they can't afford even a residential hotel, to say nothing of the other costs of living. If someone wants to commute to a larger town in the region for work, he or she needs money for transportation, which is not cheap. Moreover, there is a lack of day care and nursery schools, so for mothers it is almost impossible to commute 70 or 80 kilometers to a job, which is customary in the east.

Q: There are, however, factories facing labor shortages, like in Trnava.

A: Here we are discussing eastern Slovakia in particular. I believe that even in Trnava you wouldn't find rents for a family below EUR 200 a month, and municipal social housing is only for local residents.

Q: If they can't commute, they they could get involved in starter jobs ...

A: When that system started, almost 200 000 people passed through starter jobs in the course of a year - but then investments were reduced and it became a problem. Starter jobs are not a permanent solution, they are only supposed to serve as a temporary halfway step, to renew work habits, and when people finish they should move into a normal work life - but there are no jobs for these people to move into, so the entire system is having no effect.

Q: Is that why mayors are complaining they can't provide starter jobs for everyone?

A: Exactly. In 2008 an amendment was adopted restricting access to starter jobs - each person can only try the program once. The long-term unemployed thus lost an opportunity to increase their incomes, and it was at that time that petty crime committed by Romani people began to increase.

Q: So starter jobs are an artificial solution?

A: Under the current design of the system, where the material distress benefit is partially tied to a starter job, it is the only way for the long-term unemployed to increase their incomes. It is very important that starter jobs be organized by state enterprises also, such as Lesy SR (the Slovak Forest Service) and the agencies managing the rivers, the watershed, because that would expand the circle of options available to the unemployed. The state should be more active as is customary in Western Europe. In Rotterdam, for example, they employ bus ticket sellers. Even though it is cheaper to set up machines dispensing tickets, it takes someone's job away to do that.

Q: Kaník is proposing that at least one parent work a minimum of 270 days during the course of four years in order to receive their family allowance benefit in full. Are there regions where this requirement really could not be met?

A: In the research we conducted in one "valley of starvation", I met many 15-year-old children whose parents had never worked - or if they had, it had been in the Czech Republic. Romani people are not the only ones in such straits. In south central and eastern Slovakia you have districts where unemployment is 30 %, you'll find villages there with practically no men or young people, because everyone has gone abroad for work. However, you can't expect everyone to do that. It would be a super-human task for a person with low qualifications or for someone with no income or the necessary contacts.

Q: Do you believe there are many people living in Slovakia who simply wouldn't work even if they had the opportunity?

A: You obviously can find extremely poor, isolated communities where no one has the strength to leave and where the majority of people have no other choice. It is "known" that these people don't work, that they live off of crime and welfare. However, not all of the long-term unemployed in Slovakia function that way. Most Romani people also do not behave that way, and it is a great error, a prejudice, to assume they do. Believe me, most Romani people think about life the same way we do. They would like to work and lead dignified lives, but what prevents them from doing so in the regions where they live is their low levels of education and their skin color. The Slovak economy does not offer employment options for low-qualified people. Only 4 % of those employed are people with only a primary-school education. More than half of those employed have college educations or high school diplomas.

Q: That is the natural course of development for an economy in an information society.

A: Why, then, are Romani people managing to find work in Great Britain? Why are there jobs there even for people without high qualifications - and none in this country? Part of the explanation is Slovaks' low incomes overall. Logically there is not such a great demand for the services provided by less educated people. Slovaks don't go out to eat in restaurants as much, they repair their own cars and electrical appliances, they build their own homes, they don't travel much ... so there are not as many jobs for chambermaids, dish-washers, janitors, manual laborers, or security guards.

Q: Isn't it also because many people don't want to work because they would make less working than they can get on welfare?

A: That is the problem of the minimum wage, which is too low. Try to live on EUR 317 gross per month, which after deductions is about EUR 285! That is very hard to do. Even the poor benefits paid to larger families look good compared to that - but they only seem good, because in this country the system functions such that people whose incomes are below the poverty line, and whose households qualify for welfare, can only receive benefits equivalent to their employment income. However, since one-fourth of their employment income is not included in those calculations, it is impossible for someone to have a higher income through welfare than through working.

Q: So they would make just a little more and it doesn't motivate them to work.

A: People go to work because it is part of normal life. I know many Romani people for whom it is a question of being respected by society and a question of self-respect. There are definitely many people who have given up, who do not believe they will find work, but hardly anyone freely decides that he or she would prefer to sit at home and draw welfare. I have worked with many Romani people who were proud to be employed, it mattered greatly to them that other people perceived them as different from the Roma "from the settlements".

Q: Most of society believes Romani people spend their welfare on alcohol and don't want to work. Why?

A: Most of those people have never lived among Romani people, they don't know them, and they base their opinions only on the sensationalist cases selected for them by the media. Take the example of homeless people - you form an opinion of them if all you see is that they are sitting on benches drinking wine. However, what you don't see is that many of them spent the entire rest of the day collecting old paper and scrap metal and pushing their hand-carts to recycling centers to make money. They work at very demanding jobs. The same applies to Romani people in the settlements. They live without electricity or running water, and despite this you will always see freshly-washed laundry hanging outside their shanties. They have to cook somehow, which is hard work in their catastrophic conditions. When a municipality, or the state, builds social housing for them, that immediately launches a hateful discussion of why we are giving them something.

Q: People wouldn't be outraged if the Roma didn't destroy the apartments so often.

A: Marek Hojsík and the Terezín Initiative Institute recently followed the state of social housing units built as part of a program to erect constructions that meet the lowest possible standard. They found that only 2 -3 % of all the apartments had been damaged or destroyed. Often these were dwellings made out of cheap, inappropriate materials. Here a few negative examples are being misused in order to ignore these people's right to housing, to completely refuse to help them. In Great Britain, for example, it is normal that families with children in material distress are able to live for free in municipal apartments.

Q: So all those reports of destroyed buildings and torn-up parquet floors are just exceptional extremes?

A: Please, when is the last time housing units in Slovakia were outfitted with parquet floors? That is an urban myth about Romani people building fires in their living rooms, I don't know where it came from but it started from an isolated case and is now spoken of as a standard practice. Romani people do not live in new buildings with parquet floors. They are in apartments in old tower blocks or lower-standard apartments that don't even have linoleum! If we want to be objective, let's compare the expenditure on social affairs generally, in this country, with the expenditure in the rest of Europe. Our share is 16 % of GDP, while in the other EU countries the average is more than 26 %. Of that total package, aid to those in material distress comprises not quite 3 %. That really does not seem like overkill to me or like something we need to cut even further.

Q: What do you say to the argument that if someone does not contribute to the system, in the form of work and tax deductions, that he or she should take as little from that system as possible?

A: I understand that people like Ludvík Kaníka perceive everything in terms of "earning". Evidently in their view if someone is born with a disability, they should just go hang themselves, since they will never be capable of "contributing" to the system, just "taking" from it.

Q: He obviously wouldn't say that - we're talking about healthy people who can work.

A: Then that argument only makes sense in an ideal society where it never rains, everyone loves one another, and there is enough work to be had. However, in Slovakia, in May, there were roughly 340 000 unemployed people ready to go to work at the drop of a hat, and only 9 000 jobs available. Moreover, those jobs were located in places where unemployment is already low. Some welfare benefits, in short, should be universal, not "earned". In Slovakia the children of low-income families receive free lunch at school. In Sweden, all children have that option regardless of their parents' income. That's how you get rid of rich people's feelings of aggravation when the poor receive something they don't.

Q: The fact is that many Romani people make their living by having children. How should the state proceed if it wants to prevent that?

A: We can turn that question around: How is the state to proceed so that having children is not the only way for some people to make a living? It is often the case that a mother will have a second child so she can provide more food for her first.

Q: There is a great deal of debate over whether the proposed amendment targets Romani people in a discriminatory way. Does it?

A: In our official standpoint on this legislation we did not use that term, and we did not refer to any particular ethnicity. In my personal opinion, this law discriminates against all unemployed people in regions where there is no work, as well as against all people who are unable to find a job because of their low level of education or the state of their health.

The entire interview (in Slovak only) is available at

fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert