Sunday, September 30, 2012




A group of angry residents of a Marseille suburb has forced a group of Roma (Gypsy) families to move on from their temporary camp, before burning everything that they had left behind.


Residents of a housing estate in the southern French city of Marseille forced a group of Roma (Gypsy) families that had installed themselves nearby to move on, before burning all that remained of their encampment, local press reported on Thursday.

According to La Provence newspaper, police were called to separate dozens of the residents from the Roma families, who left the site in Marseille’s 15th arrondissement (district) “without violence”, police said.

Everything that was left behind was gathered up and burned. Police said no arrests were made and that there had been no violence.

The locals, according to La Provence, had forewarned the authorities that they would be taking action against the estimated 35 Roma who had installed themselves there a few days before.

Samia Ghali, who is mayor of the city’s northern 15th and 16th arrondissements, told AFP a delegation had gone to see her on Thursday morning, complaining of burglaries and that the Roma “had tried to enter buildings and made everything dirty”.

The direct action by locals in Marseille comes as France’s newly-elected Socialist government is under fire for continuing the much-criticised policy of former rightwing President Nicolas Sarkozy of dismantling Gypsy camps and “repatriating” Roma travellers to Romania and Bulgaria.

An estimated 15,000 ethnic Roma, mostly originating from Bulgaria and Romania, currently live in makeshift camps across France.

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

But it said the dismantling of camps would continue, despite calls from some ministers and human rights groups for them to be stopped unless alternative accommodation was arranged first.



Advocates for Roma in France called Saturday for international protests to support the ethnic minority, two days after a group of residents in the southern city of Marseille expelled about 50 Roma from their camp and burned the site.

The residents blamed the Roma for a series of local burglaries. There is widespread political debate about France's treatment of the Roma, who are also known as Gypsies and who face discrimination across Europe. The French government dismantled dozens of camps over the summer, but vigilante acts such as the expulsion in Marseille are rare.

A French association representing Roma wants protests already planned in 15 countries on Oct. 7 to give a voice to the minority, saying they want to "reclaim the right to be legitimately heard."

Another group, called The Voice of the Roma, wrote an open letter Saturday to the mayor and Samia Ghali, another local official who got involved in the dispute, accusing them of pandering to the far-right. "Since you can't weigh the gravity of your words, can't you at least be quiet?" the letter said.
Ghali, who drew attention this summer by asking the federal government to send troops to Marseille to combat crime and violence there, has said she doesn't agree with the decision of residents to take matters into their own hands against the Roma.

"But I understand their exasperation. I met with them Thursday morning. They told me they'd had it with the thefts and the excrement everywhere," she said in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.

On Thursday night, the residents forced the Roma out.

A French association representing Roma wants protests already planned in 15 countries on Oct. 7 to give a voice to the minority, saying Saturday they want to "reclaim the right to be legitimately heard."
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who was instrumental in the summer campaign to dismantle the Roma camps, released a statement late Friday calling on local and national officials not to exploit the situation. He also offered the reminder that "only police can resort to force, and only under the law, to carry out legal decisions or protect populations in potential danger."

Saturday, September 29, 2012


PHOTO Charred remains of belongings could be seen at the site on Friday
A group of vigilantes have evicted a group of Roma (Gypsies) from a Marseille housing estate and burnt down their camp, French media report.

There were no reports of violence when the 35 Roma people were forced out of the city's Creneaux estate.

Furniture and other items were set on fire at the camp, which was erected on wasteland at the beginning of the week.

Residents had reportedly complained to their mayor, blaming the Roma for burglaries in the area.

Caroline Godard, a member of a Roma rights group called Rencontres Tsiganes, said she was "horrified" by news of the expulsion, Le Monde newspaper reports.

It appears that residents went to the authorities on Thursday morning, before the vigilantes took the law into their own hands.

Marseille has a recent history of tension between residents and Roma who have set up camps there, often just tents erected on patches of bare ground.

The 15th arrondissement of the southern port city, where the Creneaux estate is located, is one of its poorest districts, with a large immigrant population.
'Fouling everything'
At 19:30 (17:30 GMT) on Thursday, a group of about 30 vigilantes ordered the Roma to leave.

By the time police arrived in Creneaux, they found the Roma leaving and no evidence of any violence, a source close to the inquiry told Le Monde.

Officers were only able to record the incident without reporting any crime, according to La Provence newspaper. However, images from the scene clearly show property being burnt.

Mayor Samia Ghali told AFP news agency that angry residents of Marseille's 15th and 16th arrondissements had come to see her on Thursday morning, accusing the Roma of carrying out burglaries.

Some of the residents accused the Roma of "fouling everything and entering buildings", she said.

One resident, whose name was given only as Sabrina, told La Provence that people had appealed to the authorities only to be told they had to wait several months before they would step in.

"We were given to understand that we had to sort out the matter ourselves," she said.

"So fine, that's what we did. In the afternoon we phoned each other and turned up at the camp. We all know each other here. It happened very fast."

The new Socialist government has been breaking up illegal Roma camps and deporting their inhabitants back to Eastern Europe, resuming a controversial policy followed by the previous conservative government.

An estimated 15,000 foreign Roma were living in illegal camps across France this summer.

Coming mainly from Bulgaria and Romania, they have the right to enter France without a visa but, under special rules, they must have work or residency permits if they wish to stay longer than three months.

From January 2014, or seven years after the two countries' accession to the EU, Romanians and Bulgarians will enjoy full freedom of movement anywhere in the EU.

Ah, how words matter.  What is violence ? What is a crime?.   Ah really, words do matter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Coquitlam Roma family faces deportation


By Brent Richter, Coquitlam Now


Canada's Hungarian Roma community is on edge as changes in federal laws may make it much harder for them to successfully claim refugee status in Canada.

With the passage of Bill C-31 in the spring, the government is set to produce a list of countries thought to be safe and unlikely to produce refugees.

Refugee applications from those countries will be processed more quickly, but there will be no opportunity for rejected claimants to appeal. The changes were designed to weed out bogus refugee claims.

But if Immigration Minister Jason Kenney adds Hungary to its list of so-called safe countries, as activists fear he will, it could mean deportation for local Romas, who face rampant discrimination in Hungary.

A Romani man and his family in Coquitlam have already been scheduled for deportation in the coming weeks.

"They don't believe my story. that I was persecuted in Hungary," said the man who would not have his name published for fear of reprisal when he arrives in Budapest.

"I got a threat. I was in a racist neighbourhood. They always told me that I am a Gypsy and that I have to leave the country . They want a clean Hungary, which means no ethnicities like the Gypsies and Jews."

Roma-Hungarians from Coquitlam, Burnaby and New Westminster protested potential deportations outside the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in Vancouver office last Tuesday.
The Coquitlam man had been working in a warehouse and leading a bible study group in New Westminster.

For the first time, they felt safe and had a future to plan for, he said. He had hoped to start his own painting business, but he now faces an uncertain future in Budapest, where there is high unemployment, especially for Roma.

He and his wife were both attacked by racist gangs before they came to Canada in 2009, and things have only gotten worse, as hatred of Roma is on the rise, he claims.

"I really don't understand why [the government] doesn't see what's happening now in Hungary. The country is not a safe country," he said. The decision to screen out Roma refugees is likely based on old racist stereotypes, he added.

"Not all Gypsies are criminals, as the say. Those people are my friends and my family members here in Canada. They are working very hard."

The Coquitlam deportee's fears are justified, according to Shayna Plaut, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia studying Roma issues.

"There's an increasing xenophobia in Hungary," Plaut said. "Hungary [was] an almost model country in transition going from socialism to democracy. It is now singled out as a country that is sliding back into fascism at an alarming rate."

In Hungary, Roma are systematically denied work and often forced onto government assistance, which often means being sent to government labour camps, Plaut said.

Gypsies, as they are known in Hungary, are also targeted for violence by paramilitary groups that are offshoots of right-wing political parties, and local police are often complicit in their investigations, Plaut added. In 2008 and 2009, 48 Roma were killed in more rural areas of Hungary.

"If you look, in 2008 and 2009, there's a rise in refugee claimants in Canada," Plaut said.

As for why things are getting worse, Plaut said it is tied to a bad economy that has yet to recover from the 2008 crash.

"When you have economic problems, society will tend to look for the enemy, and look for the enemy within. We've seen a long history of that," she said.

Kenney’s office released a statement to the NOW after press deadline:

“We are concerned by the rising number of asylum claims being made in Canada by citizens of European Union (EU) Member States. It is difficult to comprehend that EU countries – which are such strong advocates for human rights – should represent a top source region for asylum claims made in Canada,” said Rejean Cantlon, Kenney’s spokesperson. “The vast majority of all asylum claims from the EU are abandoned, withdrawn or rejected. Canada receives more asylum claims from the EU than from Africa or Asia. Canada’s top source country for asylum claims is Hungary.”

She added that Hungary has not been pre-emptively added to the list.

“No decisions have been made concerning which countries will appear on the Designated Country of Origin (DCO) list. The determination of DCOs will be based on objective quantitative and qualitative criteria. This includes the number of claims that are abandoned and withdrawn by the claimants themselves. The designations will facilitate faster processing of asylum claims from countries that respect human rights and offer state protection,” she said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012



Pitt’s music department held its first Symposium on Romani studies in the William Pitt Union from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. During the conference, 12 students, mostly from Pitt, presented their final projects from the maiden voyage of the Romani Music, Culture and Human Rights study abroad program.

The program took students on a tour through the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia to learn about the current state of Roma affairs in Eastern Europe. Students attended Khamoro, a Roma music festival in Poland, to learn about the culture and then visited Lunik IX, a Roma ghetto in Slovakia, to witness Roma human rights violations.

Adriana Helbig, the mastermind behind the trip, planned the symposium as a bookend to the study abroad excursion.

“It’s important that we’re not only doing a study abroad program, but also following up with all these presentations,” Helbig said.

Although the program was organized by the music department, it was open to students of all majors and interests. The variety of attendees was evidenced by the variety of final project topics, ranging from social networking to fabric art, all contextualized by the students’ interactions with Roma culture, people and human rights issues.

“I think that’s the only way to really study. Everyone always brings the framework they already have, and then all the classes expand. The reason that it’s music-based is because music plays a central role in how Roma are perceived — negatively, positively, politically,” Helbig said.

She said Romani people, commonly known by the sometimes-pejorative term gypsy, are often accused by some right-wing political parties in Eastern Europe of burdening national economies and increasing crime. Such governmental affirmation of negative stereotypes promotes negative perceptions, racial violence and discrimination against Romani people by non-Roma.

Instead, Helbig said that systemic discrimination against Roma individuals has deprived generation after generation of proper education and skills needed to achieve gainful employment. In Slovakia, Roma children are often wrongly placed in special needs classrooms due to disadvantaged preschooling. Issues like these are common points of political debate in Eastern Europe, but not in the United States.

Dylan Crossen, a senior music and anthropology major, titled his presentation “Perceptions of Roma and Their Music.” Crossen took classes in Roma music with Helbig, which gave him extensive, yet secondhand knowledge of Romani issues.

“People definitely need to be made aware of Romani problems, especially now, with reality television creating more misconceptions,” Crossen said, referring to recent TV shows, including TLC’s “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding,” that depict a dramatized version of Westernized Romani culture.

Christine Lim, an undeclared sophomore, joined the program to pursue her interest in music but had no prior knowledge of the human rights issues.

“It wasn’t something I had ever thought about before. I didn’t know they had so many struggles going on for them, and I think it’s good that we’re spreading awareness of that,“ Lim said.
Lim, who was considering pharmacology, titled her final project “Reducing Tuberculosis Transmission in Europe by Minimizing Romani Homelessness, Discrimination and Other Stress Factors.”

Kristen Fox, a 37-year-old Pittsburgh native from Centre Township who recently received her master’s degree in Romani studies from Carlow University, was also in attendance.

“Not very many schools have Romani Studies, and they’re the biggest minority in Europe,” she said. “The unemployment, the health and the housing is already a crisis.”

Fox also runs, a website that promotes commentary and discussion on international Romani issues. She often attends other events concerning Romani human rights.

“I’ve been to other conferences, and they’ve said, ‘Please, we need Americans. We need Americans because you can influence things, and you can bring change,’” she said.




TRAVELLERS in Scotland are often turned away from GP surgeries without being given an explanation, a group of MSPs has claimed.

The Scottish Parliament’s equal opportunities committee has highlighted what it says are gaps in access in health and social care services provided to Travellers.

A committee report has found that Travellers are subject to racial discrimination that would not be tolerated if it was directed towards any other ethnic minority group.

The committee quoted a survey that suggested over two-thirds of people would be unhappy if a relative formed a relationship with a Traveller, compared with under 10 per cent who feel the same about a relationship with a black or Asian person.

Reports that individuals have been turned away from what is supposed to be a free and universal National Health Service system.

The report said: “GP surgeries are able to refuse people as patients without giving a reason.

“This often happens to gypsy travellers. Sometimes, reasons are given, such as the applicant living on a site that straddles two practice catchment areas or not being able to prove when registering that they will remain in the area for long enough.

“Many gypsy traveller families regularly travel 200-300 miles to see a GP or dentist whom they trust and know will see them.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There should be no barriers to Travellers accessing or receiving health services and the GP registration regulations apply equally to members of the travelling and settled populations.”

In Scotland a patient does not need to be resident in a practice area to be accepted for treatment.

Monday, September 24, 2012


MSU Student's Mouth Stapled Shut In Horrific Hate Crime.
PHOTO: Zachary Tennen, a Michigan State University student is recovering ...

Zachary Tennen, a 19-year-old sophomore at Michigan State University, was at an off-campus party when two college-aged men approached him and demanded to know if he was Jewish.

When Zachary said he was, the men made a Hitler salute, said they were part of the Ku Klux Klan, and beat him unconscious, breaking his jaw in the process.

While he was knocked out, one of them stapled the boy’s mouth shut while guests at the party watched. No one intervened or called the police – instead, the other guests kicked Zachary out of the house the moment the 19-year-old came to.

Zachary is scheduled for surgery this week, but his trials are far from over. As East Lansing police try to find the men who assaulted him, department spokesmen claim they don’t believe the attack was a hate crime, and are refusing to investigate it as such.

Zachary’s father Bruce is trying to contact the Anti-Defamation League and the FBI regarding the attack, to see if their intervention can make East Lansing take the assault seriously. Please, join us in calling on ADL Director Abraham Foxman and the Bureau’s Civil Rights Division to look into this case, now.

ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE AND FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: We urge you to investigate the anti-Semitic attack on Zachary Tennen, and to determine why East Lansing police refuse to view the assault as a hate crime.

Please, click here to sign now!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Flamenco a way of life for Los Farruco


PHOTO La Farruca is part of the middle generation of a famous flamenco family. Photo: Esteban Abion, Bay Area Flamenco Festival / SF

Stormy, soulful, inspired, extemporaneous and often temperamental, flamenco gitano or gypsy flamenco is considered by some to be the highest form of the art. To see flamenco puro is to experience more than just a performance - it is an entree into a conversation in which the singers, the musicians and the dancers have myriad sentiments and convictions to share - with each other, with us and with a higher power.

"Gypsy flamenco is very much a real transmission of emotion and the culture that they live and breathe," says Nina Menendez, the organizer of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival, which begins Monday.

Slowly vanishing

Menendez says that Romany artists explained to her a worry that as flamenco became popular in mainstream Spanish culture, the gitano heritage and ethnic traditions that distinguished the art were slowly vanishing. She envisioned a version of her festival that would focus on flamenco gitano. This year the festival, which travels to Los Angeles as well as New York, features such flamenco luminaries as guitarist Diego del Morao, as well as a film series that highlights contemporary flamenco stars. The culmination, though, will be a one-night-only performance by the Farruco family at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater next Sunday.

Los Farruco - whose patriarch, Antonio Montoya Flores "El Farruco," died in 1997 - are descended from the iconic flamenco guitarist Ramón Montoya and constitute a kind of royalty in flamenco puro circles. Farruco's daughter Rosario Montoya Manzano, "La Farruca," is mother to the tempestuous Farruquito, whose appearance in the Bay Area in 2003 electrified audiences. In 2009 his brother, the ebullient El Farru, appeared with La Farruca and her sister La Faraona and his cousin El Barullo. This time, it is the youngest of the brothers, the 14-year old El Carpeta, who makes his West Coast debut with his mother.

El Carpeta, or Manuel Fernández Montoya, has been dancing since he could stand, it seems. Of the many remarkable personalities in his family, he says, speaking by Skype from Seville with Menendez translating, he feels a special affinity for his grandfather, El Farruco, who passed away when Carpeta was only 4 months old.

It was Farruco who bestowed the curious moniker "Carpeta" on him when he was still an infant. In Spanish, a carpeta is a file folder, or an archive.

'Imitating what I saw'

"I'm very proud of the name," he says. "When I was a baby, my grandfather noticed that whenever my brothers were dancing, I would make movements imitating what I saw. My grandfather thought I was able to remember every detail I was exposed to even at a young age."

"I am the keeper of the history of my family," he says, "I remember the details of the oral tradition of my family, the things that have been passed down from my brothers, my grandfather, my mother. I hold on to all of that like an archive."

To his family, it's a birthright that lives in their blood, says his mother. Though flamenco is a living art to them, and while Carpeta might admire pop stars like Michael Jackson, flamenco gitano is not merely a piece of culture, but a lifestyle for the Farrucos. It's a point emphasized by their shows, which retain a certain intimacy even in large theatrical venues. The final jaleo of their performances might find the singers, dancers and musicians sitting casually on the edge of the stage urging each other on in free-wheeling impromptu solo turns that have the feeling of family members hitting the dance floor at a wedding or fiesta.

As a theatrical performer, La Farruca was not much older than Carpeta when she first stepped onstage.

"I began dancing onstage when I was 11," she says, "but really when you grow up in a flamenco family, you dance from the time you're in your mother's womb."

"When I was young, flamenco was such a rich environment, there were so many incredible artists," observes Farruca. "When my father would say let's do a show, I'd be inspired and motivated.

"Now I'm discouraged, because looking at dance scene, there's so much going on that people call flamenco that's really something else. They use the name to market it and because there's a big audience for it, but really it has nothing to do with flamenco.

"Nowadays, people do anything, they could do a 'carrot dance' and call it flamenco," she says, the rough gravel of her voice rising. "No. No. They don't have any cultural connection or understand the spiritual significance. It is a heritage and culture passed down through family. It's all out of context."
Farruca's family has suffered its share of tribulations. After the death of her husband, flamenco singer Juan Fernandez, in 2000, she quit the stage. In 2003 her eldest son was involved in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian. When La Farruca returned to performing shortly thereafter, her soleas conveyed a deep sorrow.

"When I dance, it's as if I were allowing people read the book of my life," she says, "The solea is the perfect vessel to express what I've been through in my life."

From the heart

When speaking with Farruca, even through an interpreter, the word one hears repeated often is corazón. To speak from the heart is the commandment of flamenco gitano, which is why improvisation and responding in the moment to the music and singers is central to any performance by the family Farruco.

"This is an expression of who you really are," Farruca declares. "It's not an act that you put on, but an expression of where you're coming from, your whole life, how you've lived, your culture. This is not something you just learn and put on as a show, it's what you're really feeling. You're not acting out an emotion, but expressing feelings you actually have."
For a real treat, go visit to watch La Farruco and family.






JERUSALEM — While it is a community that has lived in the city for centuries, not many have heard of the Dom in Jerusalem.
“Few people know there is a community called Dom and that we are the Gypsies of the Middle East,” says Amoun Sleem, director of the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem.
The cultural center she runs was founded as an NGO in 1999 and is located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shu’fat, on the road to Ramallah.
With straight black hair and dark eyes, Sleem’s origins are based in India.
“The Gypsy communities migrated from India in the seventh century. They consequently separated into two migration waves. One resulted in the Dom, which settled in the Middle East; the other is the Rom community, known to most people as the Gypsies of Eastern Europe,” she says.
Today, struggling to survive in the shadow of the political tensions of the region, both the Gypsy cultural heritage and the Dom identity are threatened. The Dom people are non-Arabs, mostly Muslims, living in predominantly Arab communities.
“The word ‘dom’ means ‘man’ in Domari, the language of the Gypsies of this area,” explains Sleem.
Contrary to mainstream belief, not all Gypsy communities are nomadic. A sedentary lifestyle has characterized the life of the Dom for many centuries. The Gypsies of Jerusalem make a living working as drivers, nurses, street cleaners and cooks, and are employed in the textile industry as workers.
Despite counting few members, the Gypsies of Jerusalem are an integral part of the city’s heritage; no less than Muslim, Jewish or Christian people.
“The Dom people who settled in Jerusalem have been residing in the Old City for over 400 years,” Sleem points out.
Other Gypsy communities can be found in the Palestinian refugee camps of Jordan, in the Kurdish region of Turkey, in Syria, Iraq and Daqahlia in Egypt. The Dom communities residing in these countries have more members than the ones found in Palestine.
The Dom community of Jerusalem finds itself caught in the crossfire of the Arab-Israeli conflict, partaking with neither side but being influenced by both.
Khamis, a man in his mid-40s, supports a family of seven children; both he and his wife are of Dom origin. He explains how the conflict and political tensions affect his daily life.
“There is no justice for non-Jewish communities. Discrimination at work is directed toward all Arabs, and the Dom, even if ethnically different, are considered part of them,” he says.
Khamis points out that the awareness of being a Dom is not so important for him.
“What matters are the values you follow, not where they come from. We merge with the Arab community so we don’t stand out and spark hatred. We keep a low profile,” he explains.
The situation of the Dom people worsened after Israel’s construction of the separation barrier. Many families found themselves living “on the other side of the wall,” without being able to reach family members. They cannot move freely to seek work.
Making a living became more and more difficult, creating a new obstacle in the struggle of the Dom people.
“The conflict became intricate. Inflation is very high, and we must rely on our own resources and motivation to preserve our heritage and survive,” says Sleem, raising a worrisome smile.
She is aware of the importance of the cultural center she runs and the responsibility she bears.
“When we receive donations of clothes and food, we sometimes cross the checkpoints to bring them to the isolated Dom communities in the West Bank,” Sleem says.
The Gypsies who reside in Jerusalem are educated in the system of the municipality under Israeli administration. At Khamis’ home in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shu’fat, located behind the wall in East Jerusalem, no one speaks Domari. The Domari language is of Indo-Aryan origin, it is not written and it is threatened with extinction. Dom children study Hebrew and Arabic starting in primary school, a useful tool to compete in the challenging job market.
Poverty and marginalization often lead to a very high school dropout rate. The Domari Center offers educational support to children and adults, especially women.
Sleem prepares sage tea. The color of the leaves is light green; the taste is strong and penetrating. Its perfume inebriates the environment and is soaked into the fabrics of the Gypsy-style embroidered bags sold at the Domari Center.
“Women come here four times a week and sit in front of their sewing machines to create handmade items. They can bring their children with them, and this is very helpful. Our women feel very fulfilled when visitors come to the center and buy their handicrafts,” Sleem says.
The economic and social benefit these projects bring to the Dom families made handicraft and teaching a priority.
The presence of the Dom Gypsies in Jerusalem is unknown to most people. They seem to merge with local communities, embracing their cultural features but remaining detached.
“I have never heard of the Gypsies of Jerusalem. Are there Gypsies here?” asks a shopkeeper whose business is located just opposite the Domari Center.
This is the predominant reaction of the local population when asked about the Dom people.
“Gypsies of Jerusalem? Ah, you mean the nawar! No one knows where they came from; some say they are from the south,” a bakery owner says. Nawar is a word used in Palestinian Arabic to describe someone who is not too brilliant and, also, to define the Gypsies.
“I never tell people I am Gypsy. Palestinians don’t know what it means and I don’t want to always explain it,” confesses Heba, one of the students at the Domari Center.
Tensions in the region and divisions rooted in decades of conflict have not spared the Dom community. Corruption and power struggles led to hostilities between Gypsy families, pushing them to abandon the core of Dom life, based on their common ethnic background, to seek integration elsewhere.
Under Sleem’s management, the Domari Center aims to rebuild the sense of belonging. This is being recreated through education, as well as sharing knowledge and experiences.
“We believe in fate. It is all maktoub, written in the traces of history left by our predecessors. We will survive and teach our descendents about our heritage,” Sleem says.
Outside, in the courtyard, young girls and boys paint colorful Gypsy dancers. Here they learn to be proud of their identity as part of a city full of challenges, which Jerusalem has always been.
The children who come to the center do not yet know they are considered different or what is so special about their culture. All they are aware of is that here at the center, they can learn many skills — they feel empowered.
The Dom have strong feelings of belonging to Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem is my home, I want to stay here. Where can I go? I like it here, all my family photographs have been taken here,” Heba explains.
This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Open Letter from Roma Community Centre (RCC), Toronto, Canada.

PHOTO  Prof. Margalit - Haifa's Roma Expert Keeps Quiet

Dear Professor Margalit:

I am writing to you on behalf of Roma Community Centre (RCC), based in Toronto, Canada. Ours is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping newly arrived and Canadian Roma. Part of our mandate is to raise awareness about the ongoing abuses of human rights of the Romani people and Europe’s rapidly growing neo-Nazi movements that promote anti-Roma racism, persecution and hate.

You may be aware that University of Haifa is about to confer an honorary doctorate upon the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, and this is our reason for writing you this letter. We feel that you, as a scholar of Roma and the Holocaust, should know that this is taking place, and we wish to convey to you pertinent information about this matter.

Of particular concern to us is the strong stance currently taken against Roma by Mr. Kenney, particularly in light of the nationalist, extreme right and neo-Nazi paramilitary movements currently sweeping Hungary. The anti-Roma, anti-Semitic Jobbik Party now has 47 members (12.2%) in the current Hungarian Parliament (more parliamentary seats than any other far-right party since the Nazi era), as well as three MPs in the European Parliament.

In 2011, Jobbik’s paramilitary wing, Civil Guard, occupied a Romani neighbourhood in Gyöngyöspata, where the Roma residents were threatened with dogs, their children followed to and from school, their houses surrounded, and vigilante checkpoints set up, all as police stood by. Sixty-seven families fled Gyöngyöspata to seek safety in Canada. We fear that they were not granted refuge here, because Mr. Kenney has stated publicly that Roma refugee claims are ‘bogus’ – despite Canada’s own immigration law requiring refugee claimants to be assessed case by case. He maintains that Hungary is a safe place for Roma. However, Athena Institute (and other human rights organisations) provide evidence that the truth is far different; furthermore, they show that what is happening to Roma in Hungary is also happening to Jews.
The Gyöngyöspata incident is not an isolated one. Pogroms and neo-Nazi demonstrations are now taking place across Hungary. Roma are targeted, threatened, beaten and even murdered. A recent survey revealed that sixty percent of Hungarians believe that Roma have “criminality in their blood”. Footage of the Gyöngyöspata occupation includes a neo-Nazi proudly announcing that he is urinating on the ground in the shape of a swastika, and a woman reporting that a member of the Civil Patrol threatened her that “I will build my house with your blood”. Chillingly, right after the occupation, a far-right Jobbik mayor was elected in Gyöngyöspata. And Jobbik has called for Roma families to be rounded up and placed in special “public order protection” camps.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kenney’s statements have encouraged expressions of outright racism against our people. On a recent broadcast of “The Source with Ezra Levant”, titled “The Jew vs. the Gypsies”, Mr. Levant delivered an incendiary diatribe against Roma in which he referred to us as a “scourge”, “deviant”; a “Gypsy crime wave” who “gypped their way into Canada”. In his broadcast Ezra Levant invoked the hate speech of the third Reich: some of his epithets echo Nazi descriptors of Roma: “asocials”; “racial inferiors”; aliens” (having “alien” blood); and, along with Jews, “Untermenschen” or “non-persons”. Further, we were alarmed to discover that on his website, Ezra Levant refers to Mr. Kenney as “my favourite MP” (Member of Parliament), and that he is on the Tribute Committee of Canadian Friends of Haifa University to honour Mr. Kenney.

Mr. Kenney’s insistence that Roma refugee claims are “bogus’, Mr. Levant’s frightening and malignant diatribe, and the notable silence of both men about the growing neo-Nazi movement in Hungary, lend implicit support to the anti-Semitic, anti-Roma Jobbik Party.

Nor has Mr. Kenney spoken out against Jobbik’s developing relationship with Iran. In January, 2011, the Jobbik leadership and an invited Iranian delegation discussed economic, trade and cultural relations in Tiszavasvári, Hungary, which Jobbik leader Gabor Vona calls “the capital of our movement.” After the Jobbik candidate won Tiszavasvári’s mayoral election, “he created a uniformed …. ‘gendarmerie’ to patrol Roma neighborhoods to combat what he called “Gypsy crime.”

Documentation of the above information I have provided will be made available to you at your request.
We have communicated our dismay to the University of Haifa. Nevertheless, on November 4, in Toronto, Jason Kenney is to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University.

Roma Community Centre is not along in voicing our concern. On behalf of a group of eighteen Toronto Jewish doctors, Dr. Philip Berger wrote to Dr. Aharon Ben-Ze’ev, President of University of Haifa that “The (Canadian government) immigration policy changes have also provoked outrage in the Jewish community…. Notably the Toronto Board of Rabbis supported by Elie Weisel oppose the changes.”

Mitchell Goldberg of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, in a letter to Dr. Ben-Ze’ev, wrote:

“We remind you that Canada was one of several countries that, in 1939, turned away over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. At the time, a Canadian official was asked how many Jews Canada should accept. His reply was ‘none is too many’. Here is what the present law, drafted by Minister Kenney, would say and do about those Jewish refugees were they to arrive today:

“The SS St. Louis was piloted by human smugglers intent on abusing Canadian immigration system. The passengers are part of a ‘human smuggling event’ and will be automatically detained. If their refugee claims are rejected, they will be deported back to Germany with no chance to appeal the negative decision. If their refugee claims are accepted, these German Jews may or may not be released from detention before a year has passed. It will be important to detain them for as long as possible in order to send a message to other German Jews not to try the same thing, lest Canada be flooded with Jewish refugees. In any case, the Jews aboard the SS St. Louis cannot rescue family members left behind in Germany, because ‘irregular arrivals’ must be punished for using smugglers: Even if they are accepted as refugees, they are ineligible to sponsor family members for five years. By that time, it will be 1943. The Nazi’s Final Solution will be in full operation.”

Professor Margalit, we hope that you share our deep concern. If you wish, we can forward you our correspondence to the University of Haifa administration. We have requested that University reconsider granting an honorary doctorate to Jason Kenney. Mr. Kenney insults not only the memory of Roma murdered along with Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, but the present-day Roma being targeted by those intent upon continuing the work of the third Reich.


Lynn Hutchinson Lee
Chair, Social Justice Committee
Roma Community Centre
2340 Dundas St. W., Suite G20
Toronto, ON
M6P 4A9
facebook group: Toronto Roma Community Centre

The Roma Community Centre is committed to Celebrating Romani Culture, Successful Settlement, Promoting Human Rights, Community Developing Initiatives, and Cultivating Community Partnerships.

Canada set to automatically reject Hungarian Roma asylum claims

Veröffentlicht am 5. September 2012
by Lynn Hutchinson Lee

Here is a letter RCC has just sent to the governors & administrators of Haifa University, Israel, who are conferring an honorary doctorate on Jason Kenney. Letter is v. long – see below:

Dear Mr. Charney, Mr. Ayalon, Mr. Shapira, Professor Faraggi and Mr. Gaver: Roma Community Centre is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping newly arrived and Canadian Roma. Part of our mandate is to raise awareness about the ongoing abuses of human rights of the Romani people and Europe’s rapidly growing neo-Nazi movements that promote anti-Roma racism, persecution and hate.

It is with great dismay that our organisation has learned that Haifa University intends to confer an honorary doctorate, in Toronto on November 4, upon Canadian Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney. According to the Canadian Friends of Haifa University website, among several reasons cited, this award is being granted “in recognition of his steadfast position against antisemitism, racism and intolerance”. We feel it is imperative to share with you our concerns about Mr. Kenney’s position on Hungarian Roma refugees now seeking safety in Canada, particularly in light of the nationalist, extreme right and neo-Nazi
paramilitary movements in Hungary. Please refer to:

‘Meet Europe’s New Fascists – Hungary’s far-right activists used to rally in the streets. Now they’re in parliament, where their party, Jobbik, is stoking hatred of Jews and Roma’

Disturbing information about Mr. Kenney, which may not be known to you, is that he was honoured at a Croatian event in Canada, during which he said that “I have in my office a prayer card with a picture of Cardinal Stepinac….he was one of the great heroes of the 20th century”. As you may know, Cardinal Stepinac was a pro-Nazi war criminal and supporter of the Nazi satellite regime (Ustasha) in Croatia ). In 1943, Stepinac was found guilty of Nazi collaboration.

HUNGARY: SAFE FOR ROMA?Mr. Kenney has publicly stated that Roma refugee claims are ‘bogus’, and that Hungary is a safe place for Roma. On December 2, 2011, he insisted on Hungarian television that Roma suffer ‘occasional acts of discrimination.’

The truth is far different – a web of well-documented, systemic racism and persecution:

• entry into Parliament and increasing influence of a far-right, anti-Roma, anti-Jewish party called Jobbik;
• illegal segregated and substandard schooling for Roma children;
• grossly inequitable access to adequate housing, employment and health care (see “Poor, abused and second-class: the Roma living in fear in Hungarian villageat
• Jobbik leader Gabor Vona’s proposal to remove Roma children from their families, and place them in residential schools;
Jobbik MEP Csanad Szegedi’s advocacy of ‘public order protection camps’ for Roma
• the introduction of labour camps, under police supervision, for Roma
Torchlit marches, school segregation and talk of labour camps has Roma fearing for their lives after far-right party Jobbik came to power in Gyöngyöspata’).
ongoing threats and acts of violence by neo-Nazi vigilantes now increasing. Please refer to:
Hungary: Murders of Roma people were planned’;


We urge you to take a few minutes of your time to look at video documentation shot during the 2011 neo-Nazi Civil Guard occupation of the Romani neighbourhood of Gyongyospata, a village in Hungary. Please go to:
You will see:
• a Romani woman quoting a neo-Nazi threat: “I will build my house with your blood” (0:28);
• neo-Nazi Jobbik rally in Gyöngyöspata (0:45 – 1:28);
• a Romani man stating that “we will move out of Gyöngyöspata, take our children and family because we have been terrorized for two months” (4:38);
• neo-Nazi Alex proudly announcing that he is urinating on the ground in the shape of a swastika (4:57 – 5:04);
• election of far-right Jobbik mayor in Gyöngyöspata (7:34 – 8:01);
• concluding text: “67 Roma villagers have left to claim asylum in Canada” (8:06 – 8:10).
Administrators and Governors, this brings us back to Jason Kenney: did Canada grant asylum to those villagers from Gyöngyöspata fleeing neo-Nazism? Or did we send them back to Hungary, as we sent Jews back to Nazi Germany in 1939?


• A June 15, 2012, Globe and Mail newspaper article by Canadians Bernie Farber, Philip Berger and Clayton Ruby (respectively a prominent Jewish advocate, doctor and lawyer) states that “… with resurgence of neo-Nazism in parts of Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, Roma face violent attacks. Many have tried to flee to Canada, where doors have once again become hard to pry open … Today, we go on record as Jews and descendants of immigrants to say that we oppose cuts to refugee health care and the designation of so-called ‘safe’ countries …. As Jews and human rights activists, we know well that countries deemed safe for the majority can be deadly for some minorities.”

• On July 16, Bernie Farber wrote of Mr. Kenney’s legislative proposal in Huffington Post, “One of the more pernicious elements of the new Immigration and Refugee Bill C-31 is the so-called ‘Designated Safe Country’ (DSO) rule.” He continues, “I am proud of my own community for standing shoulder to shoulder with the Roma over many decades of persecution. Historically both our communities understood the ultimate expression of hatred; for us it was the Holocaust or in Hebrew the Shoah; for the Roma, the only other group targeted by the Nazis for extermination, it was called the ‘Porajmos’ or the ‘Devouring.’”

• A March 5, 2009, letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to Hungarian President László Sólyom stated that “in ‘Judenrein’ (ethnically cleansed of Jews) Eastern Europe where the Holocaust succeeded, antisemitism persists as a phantom pain syndrome – the body still seeks to scratch the missing limb.” A press statement (“Solidarity with Roma after pogrom in Hungary”) said the letter identified “today’s target of hate” as “the Roma community – over 700,000 people in Hungary alone. Also marked for extermination by the Nazis, scapegoated for the current economic crisis by neo-Nazis, Gypsophobia must not become acceptable to the mainstream in Eastern Europe in the way that antisemitism has become an epidemic in the West.


On August 18 the Globe and Mail reported that Canada is now taking steps to detain Roma refugee claimants while awaiting more aggressive immigration policies to shut off the flow of Roma admitted to Canada. Volunteers at Roma Community Centre have heard that perhaps 75 Roma are already in detention.
In an August 25 open letter to Mr. Kenney and Canadian Prime minster Stephen Harper, RCC Executive Director Gina Csanyi-Robah outlined the current political climate in Hungary: “Jobbik, an extreme right-wing ultra-nationalist political part, 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”

The RCC continues: “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 (August 25), 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.”

Nazi Germany – 1930’s; Neo-Nazis, Hungary – 2000’s

In the Nazi era, up to 1.5 million Roma were murdered (International Organisation for Migration, November 2001). Simon Wiesenthal, in a 1984 letter to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, wrote: “The Gypsies had been murdered in a proportion similar to the Jews, about 80% of them in the area of the countries which were occupied by the Nazis.”

In 2010 Jobbik took more parliamentary seats in Hungary than any other far-right party since the Nazi era. The following year, on March 1, 2011, the Hungarian neo-Nazi vigilante group Civil Guard took control of a Romani neighbourhood in the village of Gyöngyöspata, where they set up checkpoints at the entrance to the neighbourhood and formed a human chain around the houses of Romani residents. On March 17, the European Roma Rights Centre wrote to Hungarian authorities, reporting that the Civil Guard patrols “threaten (Romani residents) with weapons and dogs, and follow them every time they leave their houses, unimpeded by local police … The patrols have been supported by the far-right political party Jobbik, which organized a march of thousands through the village in black military uniform on March 6th. Finally, the (Civil Guard) indicated that … they will also set up chapters in other towns to expand their patrols.”

Richard Field writes that on July 25 2102, “the Bekes county court rejected the public prosecutor’s request that the so-called Civil Guard….the paramilitary organization behind last year’s anti-Roma disturbances be disbanded”. Two anti-Roma demonstrations followed.


In addition to the open letter mentioned above, since June RCC members have sent Mr. Kenney the following information:

• June 18, 2012: the Washington Post reported that Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (himself a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Haifa University) repudiated the Grand Cross Order of Merit he received from Hungary in 2004, after learning that Budapest officials had attended a recent ceremony for Jozef Nyiro, a WW II Hungarian parliamentarian and Nazi sympathizer. In a letter to Hungarian Parliamentary Speaker Lazlo Kover, Mr. Wiesel expressed his dismay at the presence of the Speaker, along with Hungarian Secretary of State for Culture Geza Szocs, and leader of the far-right Jobbik party Gabor Vona, at the ceremony. (In 2007 Vona founded Magyar Garda, the paramilitary organization that in March 2011 terrorized the Roma community in Gyongyospata, Hungary.) ;

• August 6, 2012: a press statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre was issued on the 68th anniversary of the Porrajmos (‘Devouring’), the Nazi genocide of Roma and Sinti. In the press statement, a letter from Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, stated that “the common fate of Jews and Gypsies determined by the Nazi race theorists led the late Simon Wiesenthal to work closely with Roma and Sinti survivors.” Concerning Hungary, the press statement says: “The Centre pointed to ‘its particular focus on Hungary, due to the infiltration of hate into the mainstream politics of that country and even its representatives at the European Parliament.’ Sadly, we have yet to receive an adequate response regarding our appeals to the Hungarian authorities for effective counter-action.”


Administrators and Governors of Haifa University, you may know that in 1939, Canada turned back a ship carrying 900 Jews to face the Nazi Holocaust. A Canadian immigration official at the time said of Jewish asylum seekers fleeing Nazi Germany that “None is too many.”

Given the well-documented growth of ultra-right violence against Jews and Roma in Hungary, we believe that the Roma deserve a better reception from Canada than that given to Jews in 1939. Distressingly, “None is too many” seems to inform the current federal government’s policy on Roma refugees.

In spite of the information presented above (and more), Jason Kenney continues to malign Roma as making ‘bogus’ refugee claims with designs on Canada’s social services, and still upholds Hungary as a safe place for this vulnerable and persecuted minority.

In conclusion, we invite you to contrast Mr. Kenney’s approach with that of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, in her press statement commemorating International Roma Day, April 8, 2012:

“They are segregated, beaten, and systematically discriminated against. They are denied access to an education and to jobs. Despite a decade of progress, during this global economic downturn incidents of anti-Roma rhetoric and violence are on the rise……. We believe governments have a special responsibility to ensure that members of the Roma community – and all minority communities – have the tools to succeed as productive members of society.”

(The full text is attached to this message.) As well, please find attached an image: ‘Germany 1932; Hungary 2012’, as well as a list of documented neo-Nazi hate groups in Hungary

In light of Mr. Kenney’s continued refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of the clear and growing neo-Nazi threat in Hungary, and in light of the documented information we have provided, we respectfully ask: is this a person upon whom Haifa University wishes to confer an Honorary Doctorate?

Friday, September 21, 2012




UPDATE September 21: Nils Muižnieks has just released a report criticising the lengthy procedures and human rights abuses in Italy’s treatment of Roma and migrants, the conclusion of his visit as the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner.

Nils Muižnieks, who took office as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in April, chose Italy as one of the first countries to visit after assuming his new position. During a four-day trip this month to review human rights issues in the country, he focused on Roma and Sinti, as well as migrants, asylum seekers, and the issue of judicial delays.

He didn’t like what he found. Muižnieks was outspoken in his assessment that Italy’s repressive state policies—many of them holdovers from the Berlusconi era—continue to take a toll under the new government of prime minister Mario Monti.

“I saw a window of opportunity in this government to push for a more complete break with past practices,” Muižnieks told a Financial Times journalist. While visiting a woefully inadequate building illegally occupied by refugees outside Rome, he observed, “Italy is relatively generous in giving refugee status but very little after that.”

In a strongly worded statement issued following the visit, the commissioner referred to recent positive signals from the current government, but stressed that more needs to be done. He stated “what Italy needs now is for these signs to be transformed into concrete, unambiguous policies and actions.”

Muižniek’s major concerns align with issues raised in the litigation and advocacy efforts of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which began working in Italy in 2009. These include the plight of Roma in Italy, migrant rights, the controversial “push back” policy which prevents migrants—predominantly asylum seekers—from landing on Italian shores.

On Roma, despite committing to the development of a “National Roma Integration Strategy”—a European Union initiative signed up to by member states—Italy continues its forceful and public crackdown on Roma. During the commissioner’s visit to Italy, the Municipality of Rome evicted without prior notification 200 Roma from an informal but well integrated settlement in the peripheral neighbourhood of Rome known as “Tor di Quinto.”

On July 5, the city municipality invited the evicted Roma families to transfer to a newly constructed camp recently opened on the outskirts of the city. The camp, La Barbuta, is miles away from the usual schools, facilities and jobs and is a product of the “Nomad Emergency”, a state of emergency declared in five Italian regions that gave local authorities special powers with respect to Roma and Roma settlements. Under the terms of the decree, the presence of Roma was defined as a threat to public security. The Nomad Emergency measures, which included an ethnic census, were adopted by the Berlusconi government between 2008 and 2011. La Barbuta, which is surrounded by high fences and monitored by video-surveillance, enforces a specific code of conduct for its Roma population, including admission checks and a 10pm curfew.

In his official statement, Muižnieks joins the Open Society Justice Initiative, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and local NGOs in their criticism of the Italian government’s recent attempt to overturn a November 2011 ruling by the Council of State, the highest administrative court in Italy, which found the Nomad Emergency unlawful.

Looking at the issue of migration, Muižnieks visited Rome’s migrant detention centre, Ponte Galeria, the largest of Italy’s thirteen Centres for the Identification and Expulsion of Foreigners (CIE), where migrants are held while procedures for their identification or expulsion are carried out. The previous government, under Berlusconi, instigated a series of measures that prolonged the maximum length of detention in migrant centres—from two up to eighteen months. Muižnieks expressed deep concern about the conditions of detention in such institutions and stressed that “many arrive in these facilities after serving a prison sentence. It must be possible to proceed with their identification while they are still in prison.”

In addition to delays, there are the conditions of such centers. A recent NGO report on Ponte Galeria shows that conditions in CIEs are often worse than in prison. The law exerts little influence on conditions of detention and everything from access to healthcare or visitors rests on the goodwill of center managers, who are usually employees of the private company contracted to run the establishment.

Another aspect of Muižniek’s visit, undertaken in conjunction with the Open Society Justice Initiative, was a visit to Rome’s Salaam Palace. Ambitiously named, the “palace” is in fact a neglected ex-university building in the southeastern periphery of the city, illegally occupied by 800 refugees from Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

Having been granted asylum or subsidiary protection by the Italian authorities, the inhabitants of the Salaam Palace are effectively abandoned by the state. Italy lacks any comprehensive law on asylum. Although the system for granting asylum or international protection has proven technically effective—provided refugees manage to land on Italian shores and avoid the push back policy enacted by the past government—asylum seekers benefit from little to no integration measures once they obtain permission to stay.

The inhabitants of the Salaam Palace face difficulties in securing a legal domicile, accessing healthcare, and can wait up to 18 months to have their permits of stay renewed. All these conditions severely restrict their job prospects and any real integration into Italy society. For most asylum seekers, their sole hope lies in cheating the Dublin system, which states that only the member state of arrival is responsible for examining an asylum application. This encourages asylees to head to northern European countries where they see better integration opportunities.

Finally, Muižniek’s visit focused on judicial delays in Italy, a 40-year-old problem with an enormous impact on the budgets of both the Italian courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Despite successive attempts by the Italian government to reform the administration of the country’s justice system, about 15 million Italians still await judgments. Many Italians have turned to the ECHR in Strasbourg for redress due to these protracted delays. In 1,155 cases, the ECHR found that Italy had violated Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the excessive length of proceedings. The ECHR also found that the 2009 Italian law enabling victims to claim compensation for these delays was not effective. As a result of these numerous claims, Italy is among the biggest contributors to the ECHR backlog of 150,000 cases.

In working towards a solution, Muižnieks considered particularly promising the approach favouring active case management by judges, as promoted by Council of Europe bodies. “The effectiveness of this practice was proven by the very positive results obtained in certain courts, such as the First Instance Court of Turin. At a time of economic crisis, this approach has the undeniable advantage of not requiring additional resources” he stated.

The visit to Italy by Muižniek and his follow-up statement are a welcome addition to ongoing efforts to implement the European Convention on Human Rights in a country home to the world’s eight biggest economy. Continuing this national and international engagement and pressure, alongside the ongoing activities of civil society organizations on the ground, will be key to bringing lasting change.



The Italian authorities will be urged to end systematic housing discrimination against Roma across the country on Saturday 22 September, when thousands of Amnesty International supporters across the world take part in a Global Day of Action.

Activists from Bermuda to Poland, from Iceland to Mali, will demand that Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, acts swiftly to stop the ongoing human rights violations suffered by Roma, including forced evictions and segregation.

"Back in February Mario Monti’s government promised the European Union that it would stop segregation and promote access to adequate housing for Roma. More than six months have passed and nothing has been done to fulfil such promises," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Programme.

Published earlier this month, the Amnesty International briefing On the edge: Roma, forced evictions and segregation in Italy highlights the fact that, despite Italy’s highest administrative court ruling 10 months ago that emergency laws known as the “Nomad Emergency” were unlawful, thousands of Roma continue to suffer violations of their right to adequate housing.

Having to live in squalid camps with little or no access to services such as water, sanitation and electricity is a reality for many Roma. Yet, instead of supporting the individuals and families who have a right to decent living conditions, Italian authorities are forcibly evicting them, without any proper consultation and often at such short notice that they are unable to collect their belongings.

Families are often evicted without any offer of adequate alternative accommodation, leaving many of them at risk of homelessness.

In other cases, Romani families are moved into ethnically segregated camps for Roma only built by authorities. Isolated from everyone else, surrounded by fences and cameras, these families experience great difficulty accessing a range of essential services such as schools, shops and health care.

Amnesty International has launched a petition calling on Prime Minister Monti to stop and prohibit forced evictions and to promote desegregation in Italy. Activists have already started collecting signatures both online and at public events. At a recent festival in Ireland 7,000 signatures were collected. Sign the petition here.

The Global Day of Action on Italy is part of a wider, long-term campaign of activities to promote the right to adequate housing of people living in poverty across the globe.

On 6 September, Jeremiah Makori, an activist who lives in the informal settlement of Deep Sea in Nairobi, Kenya, visited the Tor de' Cenci camp, on the outskirts of Rome, where Roma are at risk of imminent forced eviction.

“I had never known that there could be slums in Europe, or in any 'developed' country", he said after the visit.
"There were many similarities between my community and theirs: we have no security of tenure, and they lack it too. They lack access to services, like sanitation and piped water, as we do.”

The visit has been captured in a videoclip published today.

An estimated billion people live in informal settlements or slums. The multiple and widespread human rights violations, including forced evictions, that many of them experience in all regions of the world are one of the starkest representations of the link between poverty and human rights.

Every year in cities around the world, hundreds of thousands of families are thrown out of their homes without human rights safeguards. Forced evictions are unlawful under international and regional human rights law and no one should be subject to them no matter who they are or where they live.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Fanfare Ciocarlia: Legends Of Gypsy Brass

—by , September 20, 2012



Romanian 12-piece brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia are coming back to the States for the first time in nine years. After their introduction in 2001 on a Gypsy Caravan Tour, they’ve built their fanbase. Back in 2006, their cover of “Born To Be Wild” captivated fans everywhere. Their upbeat tempos and catchy rhythms make them the fastest brass orchestra around. After a long break from the U.S., they are returning for an eight-city tour. On Sept. 22 they are kicking off the Michael Schimmel Center For The Arts season of Pace Presents in New York.
If you haven't heard them before, please check them out on this website and on youtube.
You'll be glad you did

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Roma refugee families rally in Vancouver

PHOTO    Image of Roma boy courtesy of Elaine Pura
Roma-Hungarian refugee families from Burnaby, New Westminster and Coquitlam are gathering for a rally today outside of the federal immigration offices on Georgia Street in Vancouver.

"Roma people, Roma families have a big fear to go back to Hungary. Their life is in great danger there," said Florian Botos, a Burnaby resident who's helping organize the rally. Botos is expecting 50 or 60 people, mostly Roma refugee families from Hungary.

According to Botos, Roma people in Hungary face widespread discrimination and attacks from neo-Nazis, some of which have resulted in death.

The families are planning a peaceful protest, said Botos.

"We heard that the government claimed that Hungarian-Roma refugees are bogus refugees," Botos said. "It's not true. These people who are with me today, they own businesses, they come here (to Canada) ... as refugees. Those are hardworking people, they came here, not to be on welfare, they came here for protection."

This fall, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is expected to come up with a list of countries that are considered safe and don't produce refugees.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Close the Romanian 'Death Plant'


Update: The situation is unchanged and the mayor received no political sanctions so far but managed with his discriminatory action to score the biggest share of the vote in local elections, more than any other mayor in the country! This is outrageous! Please help us further by signing and sharing!

A local Romanian mayor has just forcibly evicted over 38 Roma families from their accommodation -- and is now forcing them to live in a toxic, decommissioned chemicals factory. Small children are already in hospital after chemical exposure, and the situation is so horrifying a respected Romanian newspaper is comparing this to Auschwitz. But the Romanian Prime Minister can stop this shocking treatment.

This factory 'accommodation' is still filled toxic remnants of the factory, shut down in 2005 and known locally as "The Death Plant". Outrageously, Mayor Cătălin Cherecheș has joked that Roma are falling ill from the "cleanliness" of the factory. He's hoping to win votes by appearing 'tough' on Roma ahead of an election on Sunday, but we can turn these horrible acts against him. The local Mayor is a member of the Prime Minister's Social-Liberal Union, and if we pressure the PM Victor Ponta to speak out against this abuse, we can force the Mayor to close this death factory and re-house the victims.

As a Romanian, I'm deeply shocked by the way these people have been treated. But the new Romanian PM is looking to establish his credibility in Romania and Europe -- so let's make sure he does the right thing. Sign my petition to call on the PM to demand the Mayor apologize and re-accommodate these innocent Roma!

Sent by Avaaz on behalf of Doina's petition