Friday, August 31, 2012


Patricia Carroll, CNN Camerawoman, On Racist Attack At Republican National Convention:
'I'm Not Surprised'



Patricia Carroll — the CNN camerawoman who was hit with nuts and called an animal at the Republican national convention — spoke out about the incident for the first time Thursday.

Carroll was on the convention floor Tuesday afternoon when two attendees threw nuts at her and said, "this is how we feed the animals."

She addressed the incident in interviews with Witches Brew and Journal-isms.
"I hate that it happened, but I'm not surprised at all," she told Journal-isms' Richard Prince. Carroll added that she did not want the situation to become political and that it could have happened at the Democratic convention. "This should be a wake-up call to black people," she said, describing racism as a "global issue."

She also thanked CNN, which she said "has been behind me 100 percent." The network confirmed the incident shortly after it happened, and addressed it on-air for the first time  on Wednesday.

Wolf Blitzer said that the incident was "truly shocking" and "hit home" for everyone at the network.
The interviews were the first time that Carroll agreed to be named. She said that she was not planning to do others.

Read the full articles and at Journal-isms.


PRESS RELEASE from the Roma Community Centre


Hero's Square - Budapest, Hungary

Saturday August 25, 2012


On August 25, 2012, the Hungarian Guards, paramilitary arm of the Jobbik political party, celebrated their five year anniversary with a march through downtown Budapest, and a rally at the infamous Hero's Square. Jobbik, an extreme right wing ultra nationalist political party, which openly expresses hatred and promotes violence toward the Roma and Jewish minorities in Hungary, is currently the second largest political party operating in Hungary.

Many of the small cities, towns, and villages in Hungary, especially where there is a significant concentration of Roma living, now have mayors and city councillors that are members of the Jobbik party. In 2009, when the Hungarian government made a move to ban the Hungarian Guards, Jobbik political party leader, Mr. Gabor Vona, taunted Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the ruling Fidez party by wearing the banned Hungarian Guards uniform to the Hungarian National Assembly the very next day. He was applauded by the 47 Jobbik (21%) Members of Parliament.

This past Saturday, thousands of uniformed Hungarian Guards carrying the Arrow Cross flag of the WWII Hungarian Nazis marched up Andrassy Utca, the street famous for its international embassies, toward the landmark Hero’s Square in central Budapest. Roma Community Centre’s executive director, Gina Csanyi-Robah, said, “this was comparable to 10,000 Klu Klux Klan members carrying the Confederation Flag up University Avenue in downtown Toronto to a mass gathering at Queen’s Park. How could you be an African Canadian and not feel that your personal safety was being threatened, especially when the country does nothing to intervene? Thankfully, in Canada, this would be considered enticing hate and dealt with as overt hate crime rather than an expression of freedom of speech or freedom to assembly.”

“Quite interestingly, in Hungary the human rights of groups that promote hatred are protected more than the victims of hatred, said Csanyi-Robah. She went on to say that she was astonished that “the largest gathering of neo-Nazi’s since World War II took place in Budapest, Hungary and it was not addressed at all by the Canadian government who are staunch supporters of the Canadian Jewish Community.” In fact, on November 4, 2012, at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will be conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy Degree by Haifa University in Israel for his tremendous work in Holocaust commemorations and education initiatives.

So, why then is the Canadian government remaining boldly silent about a group of 10,000 neo-Nazi’s who call themselves the Hungarian Guards, whom happen to be the paramilitary arm of the Jobbik political party? Are Hungarian Jews not as important to advocate for as Israeli Jews? According to Csanyi-Robah, she is certain that the government’s three years of silence is a “censorship of the truth so that Canadians will continue believing that Hungary is a safe and democratic European country for the Roma minority”.

Unfortunately, for the four years that Romani refugees have sought asylum in Canada, there has yet to be an accurate glimpse into the reality of what is taking place in Hungary, Czech Republic, or Slovakia. As a result, “many Canadians have been led to falsely believe that a visit to the dentist or doctor, or a $550.00 welfare cheque is more important than raising your child in safety without the constant sense of shame, endemic racism and discrimination, and the ominous threat of violence with no one to turn to for help in countries where the state has oppressed them for centuries, or participated in their annihilation” said Csanyi-Robah.

Perhaps, one day Prime Minister Stephan Harper and Minister Jason Kenney will remember to include the estimated 1,500,000 Roma who were murdered during the Holocaust in their commemoration speeches. As for today, you can rest assured that the Hungarian government is breathing a hugh sigh of relief that the Canadian government continues to ignore the growing threat that they are unable to control in their country. Will the Canadian media pay attention?

For more information, please contact Gina Csanyi-Robah, at (416) 561-0770 or

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Anti-Roma Measures in Italy

BY  EveryOne Group

Rome, August 30, 2012.

Hundreds of local authorities in Italy have adopted anti-Roma measures which explicitly prohibit the parking and unloading of waste by camper vans, caravans and vehicles equipped with living quarters on municipal land.

In the case of violation, the regulations foresee the forced removal of vehicles at the expense of the owners, as well as heavy fines.

Anti-Roma measures are forcing many families to live a perpetual odyssey, always in search of place to stop. These discriminatory measures go against the legislation of the United Nations and the European Union, who have adopted resolutions and recommendations to ensure travelling families a right to social protection and permission to settle in a municipality.

Several sentences issued by the European Court of Human Rights sanction the right of travelling communities (both by their own choice or due to reasons beyond their control, it makes no difference) to settle for a certain period of the year in order to allow their children to attend school.

It is very important, also, to remember that all people evicted from their makeshift shelters have an inalienable right to a home, social protection and health care, a right that a sudden eviction cancels out in violation of national laws and the international charters on human rights.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Roma Women pay tribute to Maud De Boer Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

On the occasion of the end of term in office of the Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer Buquicchio, the International Roma Women’s Network wishes to express its gratitude for the continuous support of Ms de Boer Buquicchio in the struggle of all European Roma Women to make their voices heard, notably through their International Conference, and for promoting the mainstreaming of issues concerning Roma women into general policies.

Ms de Boer Buquicchio was the first person in the international field to sound the alarm over the forced and uninformed sterilisation of Roma women and in 2003 received in her office a group of Roma women who had been victims of forced sterilisation. She has been relentlessly advocating measures by governments and within the Roma community itself for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and harmful practices and for the welfare of the new generation of Roma girls.

We shall dearly miss her.

International Roma Women’s Network (IRWN)




Roma evictions / expulsions: “France must comply with international non-discrimination standards”

PHOTO  An estimated 15 000 Roma, mainly from Bulgaria and Romania, live in illegal camps across France. Photo by BGNE.  appeared in NOINVITE.COM

GENEVA (29 August 2012) – United Nations human rights experts urged the French Government to ensure that its policies and practices regarding the dismantling of Roma settlements and the expulsion of migrant Roma conform in all respects to European and international human rights law relating to non-discrimination.

“Evictions continue and threaten to place families in highly vulnerable situations,” stressed the Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, migrants, housing and racism.

“Forced eviction is not an appropriate response and alternative solutions should be sought that conform with human rights standards,” said Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. “Legal safeguards must be in place including the provision of adequate housing alternatives to ensure that individuals, particularly children, women and those with illnesses or disability, are not left homeless or vulnerable.”

The UN housing expert also noted that ‘though these acts are being justified on the basis of unsanitary conditions, few if any visible efforts are being developed to find alternative solutions for these communities, such as improving housing conditions.”

A number of evictions and expulsions in August including in the cities of Lille, Lyon and Paris, have been documented by non-governmental organizations and the media, and seem set to continue. The UN experts recalled that similar actions against the Roma were undertaken in August 2010 and met with widespread European and international criticism.

“These reports are disturbing, especially because it is not the first time that Roma are collectively expelled from France,” said Rita Izsák, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues. “The Roma are European Union citizens and Europe’s most marginalized minority. Regrettably, these acts demonstrate that they do not always enjoy the same right of free movement and settlement, and continue to experience discriminatory treatment.”

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, noted that “the ultimate objective seems to be the expulsion of migrant Roma communities from France.” He highlighted that “collective expulsion is banned under international law and any repatriation should be voluntary, in compliance with international standards, and based on individual assessment and independent monitoring.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, warned that “these evictions and expulsions are inevitably fuelling the already worrying climate of hostility against Roma in France,” and highlighted the importance of enhancing the efforts to tackle marginalization of Roma in the sphere of housing and employment and facilitating their social inclusion.

The UN experts also expressed concern over a practice of financial incentives to Roma to return to their countries of origin, which –in their view- may allow the Government to claim that Roma are returning voluntarily and protect it from legal challenges regarding forced expulsion. However, they noted, having been evicted from their homes, those affected may have little choice and face significant pressure to leave.


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Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Ah what a day it was.

28 August 1955---Emmitt Till, a black teenager from Chicago, was abducted from his uncle's home in Money, Miss. by two white men after he had supposedly whistled at a white woman.

He was found murdered three days later.

28 August 1963---The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

28 August 1968---Police and anti-war demonstrators clashed in the streets of Chicago as the Democratic National Convention nominated Hubert H. Humphrey for president.

And the beat goes on..........






At first glance, you wouldn’t think a music group with a rumba flamenco style would have all that much in common with a new wave pop rock band. However, had you seen the Gipsy Kings Thursday and the B-52s Sunday at the Palladium for their Pop Series concerts, you would have noticed that what both groups shared was the ability to not only keep their audiences on their feet, but also have them dancing in the aisles.

The Gipsy Kings, who are of Spanish Gypsy descent but live in France, consist of two bands of brothers: the Reyes (Nicolas, Paul, Patchai, Andre) and the Baliardos (Tonino, Paco). Their music is derived from flamenco and rumba, with a pop-oriented salsa flavor.

Performing and speaking in Spanish during song introductions, members of the group also occasionally spoke French (their families fled into France to escape the Spanish Civil War) to a crowd that appeared to have — based on audience response — a significant Latino representation and obvious fans.

Performing and speaking in Spanish during song introductions, members of the group also occasionally spoke French (their families fled into France to escape the Spanish Civil War) to a crowd that appeared to have — based on audience response — a significant Latino representation and obvious fans.

No doubt, it was the Latinos present who were most pleased when Cuban-born Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, the new president and CEO of the Center for the Performing Arts, spoke partly in Spanish during introductory remarks made prior to the concert.

Backed by a band consisting of a conga player, drummer and keyboardist, the brothers all played acoustic guitars as the entire ensemble maintained a driving rhythm and beat that compelled audience members to dance in place and in the aisles. They played songs with titles such as “Rumba Tec,” “Caramelo,” “Samba Samba” and “Pena Penita.”

During Act 2, an unexpected moment occurred when Nicolas performed his Spanish language version of “My Way,” made famous by Frank Sinatra, but delivered here with a passion that far exceeded that of Ol’ Blue Eyes in his.

Closing the set, Nicolas also performed “Volare,” the Gipsy Kings’ Spanish version of the Italian hit “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu,” and encouraged the audience to participate, causing many to erupt in a joyous sing-along to the classic tune made famous by Dean Martin.

And what would a Gipsy King concert be without its most well-known song, “Bamboleo,” from the 1988 self-titled album? Choosing the song as their encore, the group, known for music that has been described as “a place where Spanish flamenco and Romani rhapsody meet salsa funk,” ended their concert with a fiery flourish and an emotional release like only they can.
I felt the need to do an upbeat entry.  There is so much going on in Europe, particularly France at this moment.  More camps demolished and children (including newborns) left homeless in the middle of the night.  Today even National Public Radio reported on the evictions.
I should be happy but instead I wonder what took them so very long to realize that something bad is happening to the Romani in France.

Monday, August 27, 2012





French police dismantled a Roma camp near Paris, sweeping 70 people, including 19 children, onto the streets just days after the government promised a fresh approach in its controversial handling of the ethnic minority migrants.

Police in the suburb of Evry moved in at dawn to clear the camp following an expulsion order issued by local mayor Francis Chouat on safety and public health grounds, AFP reports.

The move pre-empted by 24 hours a court hearing scheduled to review the mayor's decision. The government pledged last week that it would seek court orders for clearances but that requirement was over-ridden by the mayor's ruling that the camp's proximity to a commuter rail line made it dangerous.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who has sanctioned the clearance of several Roma camps since the new Socialist government came to power, backed the move, describing sanitary conditions in the Evry settlement as “unbearable.''

An estimated 15,000 ethnic Roma currently live in similar camps across France and their presence, almost invariably the subject of hostility from local residents, has become a major political headache for the Socialists.

Valls has continued the previous administration's approach of periodically dismantling camps and offering free flights and financial incentives for Roma to return to their countries of origin.

But the policy, decried as reminiscent of Nazi-era persecution when it was launched by former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, has had little impact on overall numbers and Valls has come under fire from some of his own colleagues, human rights groups and the European Commission.

The government moved last week to appease its critics by announcing that it would ease restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants' access to the jobs market.

It also said clearances would only be carried out on the basis of court orders and ideally with a plan for alternative accommodation having been established first.

That was not the case in Evry, where the expelled Roma trudged wearily from a site that has been their home for several months, their possessions stuffed into cases and plastic bags or piled up on prams.

“The police arrived at 5am,'' said Lakatos, a 22-year-old who has been in France for three years and had lived in the camp for the last three months. ''I've no idea where we are going to go.''

Serge Guichard, who works for a Roma support group, said the expulsion had taken place without any involvement from social services.

“The only people that have come to see them are the police,'' Guichard said.
``There were 19 kids in this camp, all of them were going to school. Now they risk ending up on the streets.''

Even the mayor's own deputy, Herve Perard, questioned whether the expulsion was really necessary.
“I don't understand why we did not wait for the court hearing. I don't understand why it was so urgent,'' said Perard, a member of the Greens, the Socialists' minority partners in government.

Valls meanwhile announced that he and European Affairs minister Bernard Cazeneuve would be visiting Romania in September for talks on the Roma issue.

The interior minister believes France is paying the price for Romania's failure to address centuries of discrimination against the Roma.

``I want to understand why strong integration policies are not being implement in the countries of origin,'' Valls said

Sunday, August 26, 2012


“Misrepresented and exploited….”

In an earlier post, that’s how Dr. Ian Hancock characterized the National Geographic Channel’s new “reality” series American Gypsies.

Which prompted the following exchange (from the comments):

Bill The Thumb •  
Ian, Frankly, you seem to be a bit of a blowhard and a tool. I would suggest you a) Relax. You will live longer. And b) Reserve judgment until you have seen the show. You can’t judge a show by a trailer. And I don’t know much about Hollywood, but it seems to me the producers of this show are pretty darn reputable, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise.
Ciuin Ferrin, Educational Director, O Porrajmos Educational Society • 
Bill the Thumb, I would have to question your education at this point. You judged Dr. Hancock without understanding what he knows and proved yourself when you resorted to name calling. The reason why he and other Romanies were offended is because we recognize that our culture, something you know nothing about, is being misrepresented and exploited by Nat Geo. It is obvious in the trailer. We’ve now seen the show. Dr. Hancock is correct.

As for Ralph “The Karate Kid” Maccio being a reputable producer of a show about a culture he knows nothing about, I again question your logical thought. One would think someone with his background would be slightly more sensitive to the complex issues other cultures face. It seems not. We have listened to Ralph explain how he knows us because he knows the Mafia. He and Nat Geo are using a dysfunctional family (personal friends of Maccio’s) to gain ratings. Nat Geo has tarnished its good name by stooping to such levels. Both are now less than reputable. 
From their own website, Nat Geo claims the high ground: “Since 1888, National Geographic has supported exploration and discovery, bringing gems like Machu Picchu, undersea wonders, and new species to light. Inspiring people to care about the planet—and every living creature on it—is our mission. We promote and fund natural and cultural conservation projects. National Geographic supports groundbreaking scientific fieldwork and critical expeditions through grant programs and public projects.”
How does a Facebook page designed to mock the Romani kris by “take your friends to Gypsy Court” fit the above mandate?

For the sake of ratings, Nat Geo would rather join the ranks of tripe reality TV than to do what it should: educate the masses about what is really going on in Romani reality. In reality our children are kept out of the public school system in the Czech Republic. The CR lost its case in the Court of Human Rights some five years ago, but they refuse to incorporate Romani children in to the system.  
How can the cycle of poverty be broken without an education? (D.H. and Others v Czech Republic).Since 1980, 90,000 Romani women were sterilized in the Czech Republic (Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights for the Council of Europe). While the CR has apologized, it refuses to make reparations to the women in question. Neo-nazis are burning Romani homes in the CR and getting away with murder (Prague Daily paper). What is frightening? The Czech Republic is responsible for writing human rights policy for the UN! Slovakia also has sterilized Romani women and allowed the neo-nazis to attack and murder Romanies. The list goes on and on, but I think even you, Bill the thumb, can see the pattern. 
Our reality is one of discrimination. Our reality is one of poverty. Our reality is one of fear. And Nat Geo is thriving on it. I think that makes Nat Geo and you, Bill, the tools.
Ciuin Ferrin
Educational Director, O Porrajmos Educational Society
For Dr. Hancock’s detailed critique of American Gypsies,
please see our Roma resource page.


Slovak TV: British authorities taking Czech and Slovak Romani children from their families

Starting on Monday of this week, an investigative reporting series on the Slovak television channel Joj has been mapping the completely scandalous behavior of social workers in Great Britain who have been taking children away from Romani families living there. The families are originally from either the Czech Republic or Slovakia. One social worker took three children away from a Romani family originally from the Czech Republic when their youngest son was only six weeks old. British authorities have not given any reason as to why the children were taken away. The family is said to have taken exemplary care of them.

To view the episodes online (in Slovak only):

“It’s a terrible feeling. No one has been able to help us – the powerlessness,” father Štefan David says in the news report. After the children were taken away he reportedly attempted suicide out of desperation.

“Three social workers stormed into our apartment with about six police officers,” mother Lucie Matejová said. The children’s father was put in handcuffs and their three children were stolen from them before their very eyes. “It’s very hard to look at their empty beds and pram,” the mother said.
The video footage clearly shows that the family is living very well and that their home is in exemplary order. “I still don’t know why they took them,” the desperate mother told TV Joj reporters.

Local Romani people have already protested the situation in front of the court. They all say the family took good care of their children and lived an orderly life. “These parents are excellent, they took care of them,” one protester said. “We will fight for them,” says another as the crowd chants “Give us back our children!”

A court hearing on the removal of the children was supposed to be held yesterday but was postponed.
Authorities have also removed five children from a Romani family originally from Slovakia. “We would like to return home, but we’re not going anywhere without our children,” says mother Veronika Č.

TV Joj attempted to determine the reason the children were removed from their families, but no British officials would comment on the case. Children can only be removed from the custody of their biological parents under the supervision of social workers.

The parents are also complaining that the rooms in which they are officially allowed to visit their children are completely empty, without beds, tables or toys. They are permitted to visit them for 90 minutes only, during which time social workers monitor and record everything. The parents say the children are often hungry and ask them for food, but they are forbidden to bring them home-cooked meals.

Witnesses say the situation is one of psychological terror.

ryz, TV Joj,
translated by Gwendolyn Albert


Federal government mulls detaining Roma refugee claimants


Internal paper suggests mandatory visa requirement for Hungary

PHOTO Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has power to designate refugee claimants as "irregular arrivals" and detain them upon entry to Canada. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press) 

The federal government is prepared to consider detaining Roma refugee claimants unless recent amendments to the refugee system are successful in reducing the number who apply for asylum, newly obtained documents suggest.

A tougher approach may be necessary if a plan to speed up the screening process and block illegitimate claims isn't "aggressive enough" in reducing the number of Roma applicants from Europe, an internal Canada Border Services Agency report says.

"Other deterrent measures being examined include detention for mass arrivals of individuals seeking refugee protection," says the report, which was drafted before before the Conservative government introduced a crackdown in June on bogus refugee claims.

The newly revised refugee law gives Public Safety Minister Vic Toews the power to designate refugee claimants as "irregular arrivals" and detain them upon entry to Canada. The amendments are to take effect by the end of the year.

Asylum applicants falling under that designation would be held by CBSA pending investigations into their admissibility.

Such an approach would "require significant resources from the CBSA, and will have significant legal implications," warns the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under federal Access to Information laws.

Toews's office did not directly respond when asked whether the minister is considering applying the designation to Roma refugee claimants.

In an email, spokeswoman Julie Carmichael said only that any decision to use the designation "would be made in accordance with Canadian law."

Hungary was Canada's biggest source of refugee applicants last year with 4,442 claimants — the majority of which are believed to be Roma, a stateless ethnic group. Almost all of the claims were rejected or abandoned.

A mandatory visa requirement for Hungary would be the "most effective" way to reduce the number of Hungarian applicants in the short term, the report says.

It also says speeding up the processing of claims and placing restrictions on claimants from countries unlikely to produce legitimate refugees was a better solution in the long run — changes that are now being put in place.

Safe country list under review

Though Ottawa has yet to decide which countries will be on the so-called "safe country" list, it's expected to include European Union nations.

Some applicants from Hungary come to Canada solely for the purpose of "exploiting" social assistance and health benefits, but not all Roma claims are illegitimate, the report notes.

The number of Hungarian claims started to skyrocket after June 2009, when Ottawa imposed a visa requirement on the Czech Republic — another country that has been a departure point for Roma refugee claims.

Immigration Canada spokesman Bill Brown said in an email that immigration officials review a "wide range" of factors when considering imposing travel visa requirements, adding the department is currently "monitoring the situation in Hungary."

A move to detain Hungarian claimants could result in children being locked up with their parents, the report indicates.

It notes that more than three-quarters of the nearly 3,000 Hungarian applicants arriving at Toronto's Pearson International Airport over a 10-month period last year came as a family.

Court challenge

A decision to detain Roma claimants would likely face a legal challenge under provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights that protect against arbitrary detention, said Lorne Waldman, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Confining all refugees from a certain country or geographic area would also likely result in legitimate applicants being detained alongside questionable ones, he added.

"Genuine refugees will be thrown into detention for lengthy periods of time while their case is being processed, and they're going to be subjected to the psychological trauma that often accompanies detention," Waldman said.

Though he expects confining specific refugee groups would reduce the number of applicants over time, the human cost and potential rights violations would outweigh the possible benefits of easing pressure on the refugee system, Waldman argued.

The CBSA report was prepared in the wake of the Conservative government's public frustration with the challenge of reducing refugee claims from Europe.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has singled out Hungarian refugee applicants, accusing them of targeting Canada with bogus claims of persecution in order to collect financial support and tap into government resources intended for well-founded claims.
Please read other blog postings for upgrades on the situation Roma face in Hungary.

Saturday, August 25, 2012





Petr Srkal of Louny has been brought to trial there on charges of using wooden shovel handles to pound on the door of a residential hotel occupied by Romani people and threaten them last September.  

Srkal explained his actions by saying he had been the victim of a mugging and had visited the residential hotel because the people living there had stolen his bicycle and mobile phone.   

The court originally fined Srkal and sentenced him to community service.

That punishment, however, seemed too light to the state prosecutor and Srkal is insisting on his innocence, so a full hearing has now been initiated.   

"Someone was whooping it up out there, shouting 'Gypsies to the gas chambers!', 'Gypsies get to work!' I don't know who it was," a witness told the court, adding that her daughter had been so rattled by the night-time scene that she had not wanted to go to school the next day.

Srkal emphasized that he had been responding to a theft. He was outraged that the lawsuit describes the theft as a mere allegation.

"The mobile phone was on me, I was the victim of a mugging. I went to the residential hotel for one reason only, to get my stuff back," he told the court.  

His girlfriend also confirmed to the court that Srkal had possession of the mobile phone shortly before the incident and used it to call her.

Judge Blanka Šišová has postponed the next hearing in the case until October. She wants to interrogate other witnesses as well, such as the man who fought with the drunken Srkal when he visited the residential hotel.  

Police say Srkal repeatedly broke into the residential hotel, occupied mostly by Romani people, during the night and asked around for his bicycle and mobile phone, blaming the residents for its theft.

He first broke the glass in the entrance doors and then, after brawling with a resident, was found lying in the street by police, who had to call an ambulance.   

When Srkal visited the residential hotel a second time that night, he was armed with wooden shovel handles, a firefighter's helmet, and knee guards.

He used the shovel handles to bang on the locked doors and demand his bicycle and mobile phone.  Srkal also reported the theft of the unlocked bicycle from the vestibule of a restaurant to police, who charged him with rioting and detained him for several hours.  

Srkal, who chairs the Severočeš ("") party in Louny, then threatened to hold an anti-Romani demonstration. He never realized those intentions.  

 "The option of getting carried away on a wave of anti-Romani sentiment is immeasurably tempting," Mayor Kerner of Louny said at the time, adding that such an incident would have categorized Louny as among the country's troubled localities, a reputation it does not deserve, in his view.  

"The level of crime in our town is several orders of magnitude lower than it is in some towns in North Bohemia, and the same goes for what are the rather peaceful mutual relations between ethnic groups here - or at least, that's what it used to be like," the mayor said.   

The tabloid press reported on the whole incident and several other media outlets reprinted their reports. The news was reported with an anti-Romani slant, never mentioning Srkal's repeated attacks on the residential hotel and never actually proving that Romani people were responsible for the theft (or that if the muggers were Romani, that they lived at the residential hotel).  

Instead, the papers reported the opinions of the drunken Srkal as if they were the only truth of the matter.

For example, the tabloid wrote that "the situation in north Bohemia is still very tense. Not only are children, pensioners, and ordinary passers-by being targeted for attack, but now even politicians are. The chair of the Severočeš political party has evidently become the first public official to be attacked by local Romani people."   

Blesk's report was reprinted by news server Eurozprá, which augmented it with the following emotive claims: "Petr Srkal had to walk home on foot from a meeting that had just finished because an unidentified perpetrator stole his bicycle. As he passed down Husova street, he was talking on the phone with his girlfriend when a couple suddenly blocked his way.

Srkal said the Romani man struck the mobile phone from his hand and the Romani woman picked it up.  Undaunted, the politician refused to be scared off. He went to the Romani residential hotel to get his mobile phone back but encountered great resistance there, with local Romani residents throwing him through the glass entrance door.  Srkal had to seek medical attention as a result. By all indications he suffered a concussion and open cuts on various parts of his body. As he himself said in a video statement he recorded for the public, he then walked 25 km on foot from Žatec to the scene of the crime and attempted to get his property back."   

Another tabloid, Parlamentní listy, quoted the well-known racist Czech Senator Jaroslav Doubrava (also a member of Severočeš as saying the following on the basis of this one-sided, unverified information: 

 "This seems almost unbelievable to me. How is it possible that the majority of mainstream citizens are ignoring these incidents and letting things get to the absurd situation of being threatened by a minority?"

 It was only news server Dení that put Strkal's "informace" into a larger context:

"Evidently drunk, wearing a firefighter's uniform and armed with wooden shovel handles, Srka went to settle accounts with the Romani people whom he believed had stolen his bicycle and mobile phone.  He then recorded a video about the whole incident and posted it online.

His version of events, however, has been clarified by police, who have charged Srkal with rioting."

František Kostlán,, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Friday, August 24, 2012




Channel 4 is to draw its popular Big Fat Gypsy Weddings format to its conclusion following a series of controversies surrounding its marketing and alleged ‘racism’.

The decision ends speculation on possible subsequent series of the show but the channel still can’t fully let go of the theme – they will be producing six one-off gypsy specials.

Series 1 of the hit show drew audiences of more than 7 million but became embroiled in controversy when the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit claimed that the shows marketing was racist.

This included a “Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier” tagline for the second series of the show which the ASA cleared of breaking advertising rules – although critical of its lack of taste.

Jay Hunt, the networks chief creative officer, said: “It is important to know when to draw the line, and we are close to drawing the line. I think it will come to a point where it is time to move on."

Ah, drawing the line is BEFORE one engages in racism eh.
Small victories count. 


Roma raids intensify in France as Socialists seek ways to end 'PR disaster'

François Hollande looks for ways to end criticisms as Roma families face eviction from squalid sites across France
PHOTO Roma families expelled by police from their camp near Villeurbanne, outside Lyon. Photograph by: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

France's new Socialist government is to hold emergency talks on the plight of the country's Roma after a wave of evictions of makeshift camps prompted accusations that François Hollande was following Nicolas Sarkozy's lead in persecuting the ethnic minority.

Human rights groups expressed outrage at a recent dawn raids and forced evacuations of caravan sites and squats across France. The police raids left hundreds of Roma, including many children, homeless after caravans were impounded and no arrangements for temporary housing were made. Others were persuaded to board flights home to Romania, activists in Lyon reported.

The raids have reopened a bitter row over Roma in France. In 2010, Sarkozy prompted criticism from the European Commission and the Vatican when he linked immigration to crime and promised to expel Roma migrants and destroy illegal camps. More than 70% of illegal Roma encampments were bulldozed and families were offered a financial incentive to leave the country. Sarkozy's government was accused of discrimination in expelling Roma Gypsies to Bulgaria and Romania. Critics alluded to uncomfortable memories of deportations during the second world war. Many of the Roma simply returned to France, but, with old camps destroyed, they ended up living in deeper poverty and worse conditions than ever, amid a climate of fear and intimidation towards them.

Hollande had promised during his election campaign that any dismantling of camps would be coupled with the promise of "alternative solutions". But this has not happened with the recent evictions.

Behind a railway siding in Hellemmes, northern Lille, five extended Roma families and their children huddled under tarpaulins on a patch of land near an abandoned building. Flies circled piles of waste, mothers complained of rats and the stench of human excrement rose from a hole in the ground as well as faeces on grass near the edge of the camp.

"We were evicted from our camp two weeks ago, police knocked on my caravan door one morning and told me to leave," said Anita Proda, 27, whose five-year-old son was born in France had been due to start school in September. "They took my caravan, I grabbed a bag of belongings, but had to leave most behind. We've got no water here, we can't wash the children."

Most of the evicted Roma had put a few possessions in shopping trolleys and traipsed to this spot where a makeshift camp of six caravans already existed. They are now living in cramped, donated tents surrounded by rubbish and a burned-out car. Local volunteers had been bringing jerry-cans of water .

"These people are being hunted," said Yann Lafolie of Atelier Solidaire, which had run literacy and education projects and built wooden cabins in the long-standing camp which police dismantled earlier this month. "Our voluntary work used to be about integration, now we're trying to handle a humanitarian crisis. This Socialist president was elected for change but there is no change here."
In the centre of Lille a further 16 evicted families were sheltering temporarily in tents beside a church, where a local priest had said that suddenly seeing boys on bikes carrying jerry-cans of water was like "being in Burkina Faso".

Outside Lille, in Roubaix – known as the poorest town in France – Roma at a makeshift camp in what was once a supermarket car park were nervous, fearing they would soon be evicted too. Families, including a 23-year-old mother of four suffering from cancer, lived in decrepit caravans which leaked in winter, without electricity or proper water supply, although the authorities offer rubblish collection and portable toilets.

"There's a growing anger, a feeling of powerlessness: you can't force people out and leave them without the least sanitary conditions," said Bernadette Defais, a local nursing assistant, and volunteer for a local charity La Solidarite.

On a street nearby, Ramona Ripa, 22, a Roma mother of four from Romania, showed off her spotlessly scrubbed kitchen in a once abandoned terraced house. She and others now await a court ruling on whether they would be evicted from empty houses owned by the local authority which they had squatted for months, with the help of the French charity and activists group, Droit au Logement (Right to Housing). "We just want to settle in one place; put our children in school and work," Ripa said.

Philippe Deltombe, from Droit au Logement, said: "By evicting these people, the government is not addressing the Roma issue, it's just shifting it on to the next location."

Images of the dismantled camps and comparisons to Sarkozy's Roma-crackdown have been a PR disaster for Hollande. Measures under consideration in Wednesday's emergency government talks include the possible lifting of working restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals in an effort to provide legal status for around 15,000 Roma from those two EU countries currently living in France.

Manuel Valls, the Socialist party's tough-talking interior minister, said his government's approach to the Roma question had "nothing in common" with the Sarkozy era, arguing that "unsanitary camps" were "unacceptable" and "a challenge to community life" in poor neighbourhoods. Officials said police had just been honouring orders made by the courts. But there has been friction within government after the Green party housing minister, Cecile Duflot, said "dismantling Roma camps without solutions is putting people in an even more precarious situation".

A recent poll showed 80% approved of dismantling the illegal camps, but 73% thought it was not an effective measure as it merely "displaced" the problem.

Thursday, August 23, 2012





Reuters) - France will make it easier for Roma immigrants from eastern Europe to obtain work and residence rights, the government said on Wednesday, after years of expulsions and more police raids this month on makeshift campsites where they often live in squalor.

Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, under pressure to break with a practice the left condemned when conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy was in charge, announced the policy shift after meetings with leading ministers and representatives of the estimated 15-20,000 Roma people living in France.

Ayrault stopped short of promising to waive EU-approved rules that restrict job market access to citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, the native countries of many Roma, until the end of 2013. He said that was an issue France would now start to examine while more modest measures were undertaken first.

One of the main changes is a pledge to waive a hefty tax French employers must pay to the immigration office if they hire a Romanian or Bulgarian worker - a levy that can run as high as 1,800 euros (1,420 pounds), government figures show.
A government-approved list of jobs that are considered open to Roma people, which now stands at 150 and includes trades such as roofers, will be extended, according to a statement by Ayrault's office.

Two weeks ago, police evicted around 300 people from illegal campsites near the cities of Lille and Lyon and sent 240 of them on a plane back to Romania. The swoops recalled a crackdown two years before for which Sarkozy drew international criticism.

While Romania and Bulgaria have been members of the European Union since 2007, their citizens - Roma included - are subject to curbs on employment elsewhere in the EU until the end of 2013 imposed to slow what some countries at the time feared would be an excessive influx of immigrants looking for work and welfare.

Romanians and Bulgarians must now get work permits to stay legally beyond three months in a host country, meaning that many end up going underground and living in camps near motorway junctions on the edges of major cities, once their time is up.

"The Roma people are EU citizens like anyone else and would like to work like anyone else," Malik Salemkour, a human rights activist who met Ayrault with others to argue for change, told reporters.
The Brussels-based European Commission, which has the job of monitoring respect for EU treaties and clashed with Sarkozy over the immigrant issue, said it was again monitoring the situation in France after the early-August raids.

The Council of Europe, a broader governmental organisation dedicated to ensuring respect for human right, has also urged France to seek a lasting solution for Roma immigrants, most of whom fled poverty and sometimes persecution in their homelands.

Socialist President Francois Hollande promised a solution to the Roma issue during his election campaign.

(Additional reporting by Chine Labbe; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Let us work, send kids to school, say unwanted Roma in Paris
PARIS — The French government may not know what to do with them but Roma migrants living rough on the streets of Paris believe a solution to their plight is straightforward.

"I want to work," said Marcel Stoican, a 24-year-old father who was part of a small group of families camping Wednesday on the Place de la Republique in the centre of the capital.

As government ministers met for emergency talks on the handling of an estimated 15,000 Roma currently living in camps across France, Stoican explained his reasons for leaving his native Romania.

"I'm a stonemason, but I can also do metal work or painting. Back in Romania the most I can expect to earn is five to ten euros a day. We are outcasts there."

For most Roma, if they can find a job in France, the odds are that it will be illegal. In practice many survive through a combination of begging and scavenging from bins.

Yelena, a 31-year-old mother of three, has been living on the tiny bit of grass that separates the two sides of the Boulevard Richard Lenoir for the last six months.

As she proudly showing off her new baby, her other children, Christina, 12, and Andrea, 5, looked on, nibbling at biscuits given to them by a passer-by.

"Here, people are kind to us. They give us things," she said. However precarious her position in France, it seems like a better option than a return to Romania. "My children's life is here."

France has come under fire for dismantling Roma camps and repatriating hundreds of the migrants to Romania -- a strategy deemed futile by many as there is nothing to stop them coming straight back.

That is what Vasile Mitica, 30, did. "I simply want my children to go to school," he said. "They told us there was work in France so I got on the bus and came."

With larger camps now vulnerable to being cleared, many Roma in the Paris region are now opting to gather in smaller groups where they are less obvious, although their presence in the 11th arrondissement has not gone down well with local cafe owners.

"They're everywhere," complained Paulo Goncalves, the owner of the Falstaff bar.

"They never stop hustling and hassling people, they steal tips from the tables. It's not the Place de la Bastille anymore, it's the Place des Roms."

With criticism of their treatment of the Roma mounting, the French government met Wednesday to review its approach to the issue.

Ministers decided to abolish a charge of up to 300 euros (375 dollars) that employers currently have to pay to employ Bulgarian or Romanian nationals and that the list of jobs these nationals can apply for will be enlarged.

But Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's office said that the much-criticised dismantling of illegal Roma camps would continue if these operations are carried out after a court order.

France is one of a number of European Union countries which declined to grant Bulgarian and Romanian workers unrestricted access to their labour markets following the two countries' 2007 accession to the EU.

Critics argue that the policy puts Roma migrants in an invidious position since they can be deported because they cannot demonstrate that they can support themselves but, at the same time, they cannot seek work legally.

One of the EU's founding principles is that citizens should be able to work in any member state, and the transitional arrangements permitted when Bulgaria and Romania joined must be phased out by the end of 2013 in any case.